Last week, I returned to my keyboard for the first time in months (inspired by my inescapable desire to sing selections from the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack). To my great shame, a layer of dust covered the music stand and even its tinny electric sound felt alien to my ears.
Given how long it’s been since I practiced piano in earnest, I almost feel undeserving of this dress – how dare I wear these stylized keys around my neck when I’ve neglected them for so long?
Though all blogs, diaries, and long-lost firsthand personal narratives remain selective in the facets of an individual’s life that they present, I assure you that my love for dresses as expressed through my social media holds a very strong basis in reality. I wear dresses (and occasionally skirts) nearly every day – I can remember with perfect clarity each of the few instances in which I’ve chosen a pair of leggings or pants instead over the past year.
Given that I have become what can be fairly described as a “dress collector,” of course, I now prioritize different qualities in garments than I did in the past. I love dresses that seem to last forever, and can be worn countless times in various situations. Some of this past year’s acquisitions, fortunately, appear able to withstand any challenge – and will ideally remain part of my wardrobe well into 2020 and beyond!
For every book cover printed on this dress, I can assure you that I have a real-world equivalent stacked in the massive monolith of research texts I acquired for the end of this semester.
Sometimes the treasures that fall into my hands through interlibrary loans astound me. A few weeks ago, I went to retrieve a stack of books about the Lindisfarne Gospels and wound up with a resplendent gold-embossed tome from 1908, its covers graced with as much elaborate interlace as the Gospels themselves. I felt almost afraid to touch it, much less page through in search of historiographical significance – it currently sits on a single shelf in my office like an arcane sorceress’ grimoire.
I wore this dress not for an endless day of research (of which I’ve had many of late) but to celebrate my favorite poet’s birthday, an occasion for which I participated in a reading of an eccentrically droll children’s Christmas story from the nineteenth century. I have to confess that the experience of holding that original book up for the audience to see absolutely delighted me.
I wonder how perplexed (or delighted) these various writers from the past century would be to find that the vogue for ornamental Victorian book covers has persisted to the extent that I own a dress covered in their likenesses!
I’m running out of opportunities to coordinate my outfits with local blossom activity! Fortunately, this dress offers a spectacular grand finale. I’m not sure if the embroidered blooms that wind their way around the neckline and sleeves of this gown represent dogwood specifically, but they match well enough, and I feel like a flower fairy whenever I wear it. The moth-pixie profile pin by Hannah Kienzle Illustration, one of my absolute favorites, further affirms my fay attitude.
I’ve searched diligently through my blog archives to determine whether or not I’ve referenced one of my most cherished poems–Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Aengus”–in a post before. As it turns out, I quoted its opening lines two years ago while recounting a flower-gathering walk I’d taken in nearby woods. I suppose that enough time has passed to merit some reminder of its almost-mystical transformation from trout to woman:
When I had laid it on the floor,
I went to blow the fire -a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
– W.B. Yeats
Until such a time that I have access to apple-blossoms for hairstyling purposes, I guess I’ll have to rely on the sun to manufacture glimmer instead! I’m thankful, at least, that my love is not the sort who will disappear into the brightening air (except when we lose connection on a video call).
That one sublime moment when the tree adjacent to my home explodes in a cloud of blossoms always marks the end of my winter sadness–and this year’s bloom coincided with the conclusion of my first year as a graduate student! Though I’ll sorely miss discovering the most eccentric and fascinating aspects of medieval art every two days, I am glad to have some time to recover from a challenging semester. Now begins the season of writing letters, reading novels, admiring flowers, and wearing enormous hats to protect myself from the sun!
Inspired by the keenly methodical botanical activities of my favorite poet, I spent all of my finals week dreaming of acquiring a flower press and creating my own herbarium this summer. Considering that I’ve now survived that demanding cycle of paper-writing and sleep deprivation, I’m making such whimsical activities my top priority!
Other ridiculous goals I have in mind for the upcoming months of relative freedom include:
- finding out absolutely everything I can about nineteenth-century attitudes towards fairies (this is technically for school, but that’s of no consequence if it’s fun!)
- apprenticing myself in the arcane practice of NAIL ART (since I’ve stopped biting my nails for the first time in my entire life!)
- [re]learning Latin (it’s been a long time since I superficially studied it in fourth grade, and I’ve felt a strange desire to return to such ancient speech!)
- carrying out a host of crafting projects for my wedding in August–many of which you might see soon, because my final goal involves…
- actually blogging regularly! (Oh how I’ve missed writing these strange letters to the world. See you again soon!)
This dress reminds me of a more gently colorful and joyous period in my life: that brief stretch of my youth wherein I acquired an admirable collection of pastel-hued, fantasy-themed 90s toys. I wish more than anything that I had kept my Starcastle, which boasts the unique distinction of serving as both protective fortress and enchanting carousel alike. (Not to mention the fact that it apparently turned into a tea set.) Alas, my younger equivalent could never have imagined that her Mainland-dwelling, engaged-and-in-grad-school future self would have genuinely wanted to display a glittery plastic castle—I understand the success of eBay with the nostalgia generation all too well.
What could be a more appropriate distraction from my newfound fear of flying than The Faerie Handbook, a volume dedicated to winged creatures? It was with this logic that I toted this gorgeous, enormous tome in my carry-on luggage to Europe and back this past winter, hoping its lush pages might soothe my anxiety mid-flight. I waited in the terminal clutching it behind my boarding pass, too afraid to leave the book in my backpack and risk loosing access to it after the captain had turned back on the fasten seatbelts sign.
I shouldn’t bury the lede: my air travels are less relevant than my general adoration for this book by the creators of Faerie Magazine. Still, its detailed, whimsical contents did indeed prove a panacea to some of my turbulence terrors…so that’s saying something!