What’s In a Name?

For a while since starting this blog, I’ve flipped back and forth between using my first and middle name, and just using my middle name. The fact is, I find my first name common and not terribly pretty, and I love my middle name. But I’ve been known by my first name for so often that I don’t think I could bring myself to switch over in my daily life, short of picking up and moving somewhere far away where nobody knows me. And in this day and age, that would be difficult anyway.

My mother loved the name she gave me, her first daughter. I know she picked it out practically before I was born. She also loved the name Rebecca, from the old Daphne DuMaurier novel, but decided that the character namesake was not suitable. While I can’t disagree, I find Rebecca a much more lovely name. In an odd twist, I had a dear friend in elementary school named Rebecca who looked a great deal like me and we were often confused for one another. How confusing it would have been had we actually had the same name!

I am less certain of the origin of my middle name, Elizabeth, the name I’ve chosen to use for this blog. I know I had a great grandmother named Elizabeth. Rather, her name was Erzsebet, but it was Americanized when she emigrated to this country. So it’s possible that my middle name is also a link to my past, something that I find appealing.

As a lover of British history, I have to say the name Elizabeth appeals to me for its repeated use among the monarchy. It is a lovely and traditional name that spans eons, rather than a name that ended up being very trendy for women of my age. So for now, I choose to present myself by my preferred name, one given to me in fairness, but not one by which I could bring myself to be known in the everyday world. This blog is the one place where I can use it with wild abandon.

So please, call me Elizabeth.

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A Brief Life Update

I’m still here, I promise. And things are still happening.

Sadly, my gardens are not doing so well. A combination of vacation and busy weekends left us with little time to weed. One of our azaleas seems to be dying, and most of my herb garden has been re-conquered by weeds. The basil and parsley are making an heroic effort to fight back, and the sage is doing admirably, but I’ve lost the rosemary. In an odd twist, some weeds grew in my potted peppermint plant and seems to have completely killed it. Killing mint is a new one for me! But I was able to harvest some parsley for a pantry bean soup a couple weeks ago, and some sage for a sage-and-garlic-rubbed pork roast. But my visions of herbed bounty has been tempered somewhat by my natural dislike of actual garden work.

I’ve started walking much more, in addition to my newfound swimming practice. I’m feeling healthier, though also tired. But I’ve discovered that a weekend walk to the local herb store is the perfect distance to tire me out without being too onerous. And buying a few ounces of herbs is a rather cheap shopping trip.

Boyfriend and I also put up another batch of mead this weekend. We chose to use a local apiary’s honey because it comes in bigger jars, but we kept the same recipe as before otherwise. We made a 5-gallon batch! So hopefully it turns out well and next summer we will have lots of honeyed bounty to share with our friends.

I’m experimenting with my hair care again. I’m trying to become more natural, after deciding to grow my hair out longer. My hair is finally long enough to wear up most of the time, without resorting to sad, floppy ponytails, so I’ve rejoined the Long Hair Community in which I participated for a couple years before my divorce. While going through my old journals, I discovered that I had luck in the past with soap-based washing. Since I’ve recently moved to a homemade facial cleanser made with Dr. Bronner’s soap, oil, and honey, I’ve decided to try using the rest of the soap I’ve bought to wash my hair. It’s a simple process: just unscented soap to wash, rinse quite well, and then rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar to rebalance my hair, and rinse the whole thing again. A little oil or tallow balm on the ends of my hair keeps them soft. And I can use aloe vera when my hair feels a bit dry. So far so good.

But… I have some new surprises on the horizon. I don’t want to give too much away, but stay tuned next week for a very vintage hobby post, hopefully. I’m also going to the local renaissance festival this coming weekend, which is a lot of fun, and progressing with my aerial silks. So that will probably be posted as well in the coming weeks.

The Solitude of the Water

My trip to Boyfriend’s parents’ lake house earlier this month re-invigorated my love of the water. I loved getting up and going for a morning swim every day we were there. Most of the time, Boyfriend would follow along in the kayak, as we got up a little late and there were other boaters out, but the last morning, I was ready to swim by eight in the morning, and it was early enough that only a few meandering fishermen shared the lake with me. It was lovely to feel the peace and quiet of open water in such a beautiful natural setting.

When I got home, I immediately missed being in the water. Despite not being very attached to horoscopes, I’ve always thought it was amusing that I’m a Pisces, as I love to be in the water. When I was a child, I would go to the pool and stay in the water until my lips turned blue and my grandmother practically had me fished out by force! So when I heard that a local aquatic center opened their pool at six in the morning, I thought I should start swimming before I left for work.

It’s largely a quiet bunch, mostly older, who inhabit the pool in the morning. There is the occasional person my own age, and the lifeguards are all quiet young, but mostly I see seniors doing their morning workout in the water. I’ve been fortunate to get a lane most of the time, but at a small community center, the lifeguards don’t mind if we rearrange the ropes a little to swim laps outside of the lanes. The water isn’t too cold, but also not bathwater-warm like some indoor pools, and even with people on either side of me, I feel alone, cushioned from the world around my by water.

I only swim breaststroke anymore. I used to try to mix in other strokes, but I like breaststroke. It’s peaceful and doesn’t splash, but I still feel my body getting stronger as I go. I think my favorite part of each lap is when I have just turned around and I have the entire lane ahead of me to peacefully glide through the water. Sadly, my skin still smells like chlorine, but it is a small price to pay for my little morning retreat.

Tea Leaves and Tarot

One thing that has always interested me is the Victorian and early 20th-century fascination with the occult. I’m not talking about really serious ritual, or the Pagan revivals, but instead the interest people took in fortune-telling, divination, scrying, and other occult arts. As a spiritual-but-not-religious person, I’ve dabbled in plenty of these arts, both with and without ritual, but I love the aesthetics of tarot.

RWS_Tarot_00_FoolI have a Radiant Rider Waite deck that I’ve used for several years. It’s strange to say, since they are ultimately inanimate objects, but I feel like the deck and I have an affinity. I’ve consulted my cards as a way to focus my mind when I’m dealing with stressful situations, and the cards have seen me through plenty of crises. I had fallen out of the habit of reading the cards, likely because of the upheaval of moving around a lot, but I’ve settled back in and enjoy consulting my deck. I know a couple complicated spreads, but I love to read three-card spreads on a daily basis.

Each morning, while I sip something warm, I sit on my oriental carpet and shuffle my deck. I cut the deck and deal out three cards. The first tells me where I am, the second where I am going, and the third how I will get there. It’s a nice way to focus my mind and plan my day. I still don’t have the cards completely memorized, and as such, have not ever read for anyone besides myself. I still consider myself very much a novice. But the practice is soothing.

Beyond the cards, I will sometimes pour out the leaves in the bottom of my tea pot and read those. Tassomancy is a very cottage-magic feeling practice and fits in nicely with the herb lore and folk magic towards which I feel an affinity. Like baking bread at Lammas, it’s a gentle way to celebrate nature-based spirituality, and one that is steeped in tradition (pun intended!).

With my cards and my leaves, and the occasional glance at a horoscope or lunar chart, I make my way through life, feeling just a little bit more connected both to the spiritual world, and the history and tradition that unpins it.

(image source)

The Ritual of Putting On Lipstick

I’ve talked at length about my personal requirements for a perfect red lipstick. It has to be the perfect shade for my pale-but-warm complexion and look true red even on my lips that tend to pull everything into the pink. It has to be the right consistency; it can’t settle into the lines that have become more defined as I stride more definitively into my thirties. It can’t melt off my face. It has to last through a cup of tea, if not a light lunch. It can’t have too strong a scent or taste. It can’t leave me worried about eating a little bit of it.

But I’ve discovered that, by far, the biggest deal breaker is the format of the lipstick. I mean, the color is pretty important, but I’ve found lippies that are the perfect color, but lack the experience that comes from putting on lipstick from a tube. Even my new Besame lipsticks are starting to feel lacking because I dislike the shape of the bullet. It’s not the experience I’ve come to enjoy.

Because there is a ritual for me when I put on my lipstick. I do it in a specific way. I trace out the Cupid’s Bow and perfect the points of my lips before swiping on the rest, filling in my lips and perhaps wiping away the odd overdraw with a clean finger. It’s a fluid motion, or at least a series of fluid motions. I’ve gotten to the point where I wouldn’t mind being filmed applying my lipstick because I feel deft when I do it. It feels womanly to be so comfortable applying bright lipstick. I no longer worry about where it might end up when I apply it.

So this is my ode to the lipstick bullet, with its rounded shape and single, angled tip. Yes, this tip will blunt and change over the lifetime of a tube, but it changes with the idiosyncrasies of the user and reflects the ritual rather than detracting from it. Here’s to the ritual of lipstick.