A Winter Name for God

Today, for the first time in perhaps ever, I went to church.  I’ve always considered myself deeply entangled with spirituality, but rejected many aspects of Christianity that related to guilt, repentance, and denying yourself indulgences and pleasures.  As a self-identified Maenad, I find that I am at my spiritual peak when experiencing life to it’s fullest.  It never made sense to me that we should be born into this world for the purpose of being sorry.

The church I went to was a Unitarian Universalist church.  To quote their official website, “Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion that encourages people to seek their own spiritual path.”

As a God-believing universe-praying spell-casting pantheist witch, I felt right at home!  Their messages spoke directly to my core being, expanding upon values of loving your neighbor, loving yourself, allowing yourself to experience life’s gifts, and giving back to your community.  The sermon included a frank discussion about ending white supremacy, and honestly, my favorite phrase – “Eat those apples!  Bake an apple pie!”.

The sermon also included a full recitation of this incredible poem, nodding it’s head to the specific pleasure-moments of life, and welcoming back the reign of spring.  I was so touched by this writing I felt the need to share it with all of you now, on this little blog, that has more to do with fashion than with faith.  Without further adieu:

 

Try To Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.
I don’t know what exists out there, beyond the horizon.  Perhaps it’s a great God, perhaps it’s a slow beat of energy guiding us all along our paths, and perhaps it’s nothing but particles and dark matter and stardust.  But I do know that in my bones, when I am alive, I feel the universal love of the world humming in my ears.  I am guided not by a religion, but by my willingness to be kind and generous to others, and find pleasure in this life.
I wish you all a bountiful summer filled with wild strawberries, and drops of rosé wine.
Cheers,
Josephine

Clothes, Clothes, Wonderful Clothes!

I’m here today to answer one of the most common questions I’ve gotten as the owner of a vintage business.  “How do you decide which clothes to sell and which clothes to keep for yourself?”

I’m answering this on the heels of a new haul of clothing, which I go into detail about on my alternative blog on Sephine Vintage!  (Please check it out).

Out of the 15-ish garments I collected, only one stood out for me as something I had to keep for myself.  It’s a 1950’s black chiffon dress that was so akin to something Marilyn Monroe would classically wear.  It had it all – the breezy skirt, the wrap-around wide-cinched waist, the cascading fabric bust that tied around the neck and left the back uncovered.  To some, just a little black dress, but I knew the instant I put it on that it was a staple of my own personal style.

If I could, I would absolutely wear everything in my store 24/7.  I am proud and envious of all my wonderful customers who get to call Sephine collected pieces their own.  But when you have such a wide array of clothing to select from, you must narrow it down to not only fabulous pieces, but pieces that speak to you as an individual.  This discernment is essential.  You must figure out what type of person you want to be, and make sure your wardrobe speaks to this.  The Marilyn Monroe dress spoke to me because it embodied elements of femininity, sexuality, and power.  It’s playful with an edge.  A rose with thorns.  A woman with a sharp gaze.  Enchanting-yet-mysterious has always been my favorite elegant woman quality.

Oh, and did I mention it’s incredibly fun to dance in?

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Cheers,

Josephine

Alternative to Being ‘Aloof’: Being Memorable

Disclaimer: This is an article written by a woman, speaking about ideas that came from women, that are embodied by women.  I value every individual woman’s expression of herself, and in no way seek to change or alter a style or artistic decision that makes anyone feel comfortable in their own skin.

For the longest time, I couldn’t put my finger on why I had such a hard time relating to the culture of chasing fragility.  Seeing women talking about their desire to be soft, milky, delicate, angelic, a baby princess flower, conjured up no inspiration within me.  I thought that the ease and elegance of femininity was beautiful, and I wanted to be close to it, but not at the risk of losing my punch.  The fire that keeps me going.  For me femininity is, at it’s best, awe-inspiring, and at it’s worst, dangerously insidious.  This beautiful double-edged sword of womanhood is something that occupies my thoughts frequently.

This is why instead of being aloof, I propose, being memorable.

Be incredibly tangible to others.  Make them know exactly who you are.

Wear your favorite scent of perfume proud wherever you go; make them smell you even after you’re gone.  Laugh loudly, listen attentively, tell stories passionately.  Meet your partner in conversation with a steady gaze.  Wear clothing and accessories that shine, that you can see through, that cover you head-to-toe, that have sequins, that jingle when you walk, that click as you leave, that you can play with.

Carefully select the refreshments available in your home.  Such a dire mistake it would be, for a guest to be served a sweet bubbling rosé, when you know in your heart that your soul is best embodied by a bold Chateau Lagrange red.  Keep your kitchen well-stocked and inviting; your living room clean and plush.  Make obvious the fruits of your labour, and make bountiful your place of being.

Don’t speak of work, of money, of troubles, of politics – those are the easy routes when it comes to conversation.  Take another’s mind somewhere they would otherwise not go.  Speak of travel, of obscure spiritual concepts, music and artistry, ask them questions, be interested in their answers.  Recall fond memories, share heartfelt sentiments, conjure up grand images of the future, but … be sure not to give away more information than you genuinely want others to know.  There is power in refinement, and keeping certain things to yourself.

The ultimate goal of being remembered fondly is to make sure that in any interaction, you are neither used, nor are you using the other person.  You are embodying your fullest and brightest version of yourself.  The rose gardens of your mind are in full bloom.

This, to me, is the highest calling.

The most darling and the most dangerous thing, after all, is an unforgettable woman.

[Featured Image: La volupte  – Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire]

The Hope-Renewing Kindness of Strangers

A quick write-up about something that happened to me today that has left my heart brimming and my face grinning!

Picture this, if you can.  The weather is unseasonably sunny for late winter in Oregon.  My husband and I have decided to take the early morning off and play hooky, strut around downtown,  and drive up the Skinner’s Butte to sunbathe.  There’s a beautiful pink victorian style house at the base of the Butte, functioning as a lingerie and nightwear boutique, that has always caught my eye.  For years, I’ve forgotten to take a peek inside.  I thought, why not stop in for once?  It being such a nice day, and my mood being so bright.

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Once inside, I find myself waxing poetic about how lovely the fixtures are, how much I love vintage homes and vintage things.  On the topic, I strike up a conversation with the charming lady working at the front desk, with neatly combed grey hair and lovely earrings on.  We discover her parents were named Josephine and John, just like my great grandparents were named Josephine and John, just like I was named Josephine after my great grandmother.  She tells me she was an interior designer for Bath & Body Works in the 60’s, and that she designed vintage Victoria’s Secret interiors as well.  We go on a tangent then, about how much more quality products were made back in the day, and how tacky commercial products have become.

That’s when I start talking about my business  (“Well, you know, I own a vintage clothing shop online”) .  She seems interested, so I begin showing her pictures, starting with a 60’s Valentino jacket, one of my favorites in the store.  She then tells me that it looks just like a coat that her mother had, and excuses herself to go look for it upstairs.

About 3 minutes later, she comes back down, holding an absolutely gorgeous grey double-breasted coat, buttons in two rows down the front, mink fur and neckline.  It’s in plastic wrap and clearly impeccably preserved.  She begins showing it to me, the features, and how mint the fabric is.  And then came the words that made my entire day:

“I want you to have it.”

Me?  Have?!  For Real?!?

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The infamous coat, graciously modeled by my mother.

I was blown away!  She explained that the thought her mother would be happy knowing the coat went to someone so passionate about vintage, and quality clothing.

 

I thanked her many many many many many many times and I’m quite certain me and my husband ended up giving her a group hug.  Needless to say I was bouncing out of the store giddy!

 

The coat itself is union label, and worth a great deal.  I haven’t decided yet wether I am to sell it or wear it myself, as a little thank-you to the late Josephine and her extremely generous daughter.

It’s Enough to Be Young and in Love

Hey folks.

I urgently need to talk about Lana Del Rey’s new song “Love”, and it’s music video.

Lana has always been one of my favorite artists, for the way she highlights the simplicity of familiar concepts, in a nuanced and highly emotional way.  Everything she pours out might be cliché coming from another artist, but from Lana, it somehow becomes an audible bearing of the soul.  I believe this is due to her humble roots, kind attitude, and the way she has stayed true to herself throughout her rise to fame.  She is, without a doubt, one of the most intelligent creative minds in the music industry today.  Her talent speaks largely for itself.

On the topic of “Love” – I couldn’t put into words my favorite thing about it until I watched the music video, released today.  While many of Lana’s songs focus on individual stories, or personal memoirs, “Love” emphasized the universal emotions of youth.  The music video made it clear that it was not just about herself, but about us all.

Hidden within this heartbreakingly simple song was a feeling: you’re okay, you’re holding a world in the palm of your hand, you feel nothing but happiness and wonder.  You’re going somewhere incredible.

It’s her ability to perfectly recreate these emotions in a song that has captivated me.

Through her music journey, Lana’s fans have had the privilege of watching her grow and become more comfortable in her own skin.  I’ve been watching since she was proclaimed the worst performance to ever grace the SNL stage in 2012, and I get to be here now – seeing her smile and wink at the camera as she heartfully spills out lyric after lyric packed with enchantment.

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Flowers in her hair, high heels on, white dress glowing, this is Lana at her finest.  Creating honest and touching ballads that speak to the common desires of us all, using nothing but her powerful voice, charm, and imagination.

My youngest and most genuine love to Lana, and my entire heart for whatever she produces next.

Truly,

Josephine

[Image credits: dellrey.tumblr.com]

Here’s To a Beginning

Because in between starting a business, starting a new job, starting a new profession, moving houses, and trying to produce a new album – why not start a blog?

My life has been rolling around in weird ways over the past year.  A lot of things have ended, messily I might add, and prematurely.  I think that life is harder in the winter.  That’s something I’ve noticed.  Just this past week, little tulip buds are beginning to bloom over people’s lawns and on the sidewalk cracks around town, and it reminds me that something new and exciting is coming.

I moved out of my childhood home two days ago, and returned tonight for a family dinner.  I am learning to love my new space in West Eugene, but also felt at ease washing dishes in that familiar kitchen, on the Southern end of this small town.  I had gone through the turmoil of moving and letting go, but all of a sudden was realizing that nothing had been taken from me.  I still had access to that comfort and that warmth I always associated with “home” (here meaning, a specific house).

Sometimes when I think of all the different places I’ve lived, all the different friends I’ve had, all the different personalities I’ve adopted, connections made a lost, jobs held, music listened to, feelings experienced – well, it makes me want to cry.  No matter how deep into a situation I get, it would seem that most things are still only temporary.

But I know the truth; that nothing ever really ends.  They just become something new.

So I’m starting this blog as something new.  Maybe it’ll be like other past experiences, and just turn into water under the bridge, a page in my memoirs or what have you.  But who knows.  Maybe this is something more?

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the things that last are the things most unexpected.