Get this: a man purchases a box of random photo negatives at an auction, inside finds the work of Vivian Maier, an unknown Chicago street photographer. The images turn out to be starkly beautiful, sometimes sensational like Weegee (but quietly, almost accidentally), full of humor and honesty and humanity. The whole story is wonderful, and I simply can’t stop looking at these photographs:
I went home to Virginia last weekend for a dear friend’s wedding and to deliver my mother some Ramps and Sunchokes from the Union Square farmers market (I’ve been obsessed with this pairing for the past three weeks and can’t believe that there are still ramps available- I read this my first spring living in New York and have made the yearly appearance of ramps at the market a New-York-specific-ritual for myself… but I digress).
I was getting ready to go to this wedding with my mama in what, now that I try to put it into words for the first time, is not just a bathroom but a full on dressing room with a chaise lounge (I have not realized the import of this until this second- I have always just called it “Mama’s bathroom”… well it does have a tub). Getting ready and being in here is always awesome, since I was little snooping around in her stuff has always been the best.thing.ever- the only difference is that now, if I am very nice, she will actually let me wear some of her jewelry.
So, my father comes in and we’re just lounging around looking at old photographs and talking about hair-stuff and he hands me a tiny parcel with this inside:
Immediately the stories come out- first thing you need to know: we are from Williamsburg, Virginia, as in Colonial Williamsburg. So, when my father was a small boy he and his two brothers went down to the CW silversmith and picked out this brooch for my grandmother for Mother’s Day. My grandmother is an amazing lady, a horticulturist and philanthropist, a mover and a shaker, and the grandest possessor of hats, scarves, and jewels I have ever had the good fortune to meet. She, at some point, loses this brooch and secretly goes and replaces it without telling her sons. Then FIFTEEN years later she finds it again out in the garden by the woodpile (because, of course, she’s the kind of lady to wear fancy jewelry out by the woodpile). By this time, my parents are married and now Gramma has two brooches- so she gives the replacement pin to my mother. By this time in the conversation, my mother has pulled hers out. Apparently, they don’t make them anymore, but Daddy has found one somewhere (perhaps out by the woodpile) and thinks that since Gramma and Mama both have them, Nan should too. How divinely amazing!!
As you can see, I filled my tiny vase-pin with water, went right out and cut a peony from the garden, and went along to the nuptials feeling fine, like a classic Virginia lady (albeit in an Abigail Lorick dress), and most importantly- very loved.
Here are some modern options (if you don’t have a southern woodpile that keeps birthing brooches on the world):
You know when you stumble across an image and you just can’t stop looking at it?? I feel that way (sort of inexplicably) about this shot of Dita Von Teese… I simply can’t stop looking at every detail…the huge bunch of lilies, the sparkly Louboutins, the reverse manicure with its ingenious little white quicks, the pink correspondence, the starry headband… it’s all such a perfectly curated world, and obviously full of intention- but somehow effortless (and how does a diamanted and tulle Sunset Boulevard couture gown seem like “this old thing”?). Love.
Oh My. I’ve written about dyeing easter eggs with natural dyes and plant reliefs before (onion skins make a sepia brown egg, lily stamens make bright yellow, beets make purple) and today, Easter Sunday, I received pictures from three friends (!) who made beautiful eggs using this old post. They are so lovely and classic in a way that feels simple and right– like seersucker and fresh cut grass or scratchy old vinyl music and twilight– that I thought I should re-post the instructions to pay it forward:
My mother collects bird-nests. By now she has dozens of them, and each one has a story… ‘this one with the auburn gold hair woven in is from Sally’s Valley, the hair came from Cayman, their Golden Retriever… this tiny one is from the barn at the farmhouse in Toano where you were born… this one with the beads of amber is from two Christmas trees ago, remember when we found it there in the branches?’ Her favorite nest, a delicate little number thatched with horse-hair and poets laurel, sat on a bow-front chest in her bathroom, and held three sepia-colored eggs blown hollow and covered with gossamer photo-negative outlines of tiny ferns, clovers, and gingko leaves.
Spurred into memory by the recent changes in the weather towards the warm and supple breezes of spring (and the sudden appearance of the hollow-chocolate-rabbit Easter tableaux manifesting themselves across New York), I decided to make myself some of these beautiful eggs. Instead of traditional dye, the sepia eggs of my youth are made by boiling the egg alongside yellow onion skins (easily acquired for free, especially in the north-eastern-winter-time-farmers-market glut of root vegetables).
You will need: eggs, onion skins, a small stockpile of interesting leaves (parsley is easy to get in a city as well as the aforementioned), panty-hose or cheesecloth or gauze (I found a bunch of those footies you try on shoes with), rubber bands, some sort of ballast (I used loose change).
-Fill a deep pot with water and bring the onion skins to a boil.
-Hollow out the eggs by piercing a small hole with a pin in either end of the egg, and, positioning the egg over an empty bowl, blow, baby, blow (you can leave the eggs intact, but then the finished product is perishable, and you won’t have the makings of a delicious frittata when it’s all said and done).
-Nestle your egg into the panty-hose (or square of gauze/cheesecloth) and put in a couple of leaves flush with the shell. The leaves resting against the shell creates the relief outline, so use your imagination.
-Tie the egg tightly off with a rubber band, add enough ballast to keep the hollow egg under the water, loop the rubber band around again and drop into the pot.
-Let percolate for as long as you want, until the egg achieves your desired level of greatness.
-Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place into another bowl full of cold water until the egg is cool enough to handle. Unwrap and marvel at your ingenuity.
Sepia isn’t the only color option, though, there are many variations of natural pigments that can be used to imbue the eggs with sweet, tender, and genuine colors not found in a little tear-drop of McCormick food coloring. For yellow eggs, try stargazer lily stamens (use a non-reactive pot and watch your apron!), for purple-blue use beets, for green eggs (ham, foxes, and boxes not included) try spinach. Have some friends over, experiment, make a delicious “McFadden Ricotta Fritatta” with the egg you have left over, and have a happy spring.
Ah, a gentler time. When, upon getting a missive from HOUDINI, without this disclaimer you might gasp and blush at the incivilities therein. We certainly like this more than the standard “This message sent from my Ipad”.
Meags sent me this today. The creator of this highly desirable daily schedule– with his ingenious bifocals, discovering of electricity, master raconteur status, bitchin waistcoat collection, impetus for America’s first library, and fondness for the French– is, of course, ole Benjamin Franklin. Who wouldn’t want to devote four hours a day to putting things in their places, music, and supper?
While this routine really seams imminently do-able, does it also simultaneously seem to anyone else to be totally impossible??
I’ll start with baby steps of contemplating goodness at the beginning and end of each day. If I may not be healthy, wealthy, and wise- at least may I be conscientiously moving through the world with goodness and light in mind. Not too bad.