Friday, November 18, 2011

A Brand New Season

Brand New Day (Breaking Free)
Photo courtesy of Flickr's Finest

This next season I will entertain you with some fun process-type posts while I continue researching the next jewelry periods. It feels monumental that we are moving out of the dark and into the light in the jewelry periods at the same exact time I'm moving from darkness to light in my personal journey. I can't tell you how happy I am to be on the research trail, hunting for new treasures.

A Brand New Day
Photo courtesy of Shasi Kumar Aansoo

This past week, I have found a gold mine in the Simpson Library in the form of a sweet little book from 1954, Alexandra: Edward VII's Unpredictable Queen. Written by an English woman named E. E. P. Tisdall, this treasure opens on Alexandra's family and their humble beginnings as wards of the King of Denmark and closes with "Her Last Defiance," which I still have yet to read about. Oh, the joy of discovery!

Of course, beginning at the beginning also affords a view of the daunting task I have before me. It will surely take some time to find the angles that will best allow me to open her life up as a model for how a warrior princess like me can become a dignified queen. Together, we will wade through the anecdotes, the facts, and the memorable quotes in hopes that Alexandra will have a thing or two to teach us.

Brand New Day
Photo courtesy of The UpShot

To whet your appetite for what's to come, I leave you with a quote which highlights Alexandra's affinity for fashion from a very young age: "Alix was not really a promising pupil except in deportment--which came to her naturally--in riding, in music, gymnastics and dressmaking. At this last she soon had great skill--a very complicated art in those days--and although her knowledge would one day give her a reputation for wilfulness and obstinancy among 'by appointment' houses, the result was that she always displayed herself to the best advantage." (Tisdall, p. 14)

On a Good Note

Edge of the World
Photo Courtesy of She Deserves My Best

I have not dropped off the face of the planet, though that may appear to be the case. My grandma sent me an e-mail the other day. "I haven't seen you much on Facebook. Is everything all right?" I felt so bad. I have been completely absent from everyone. The last time this happened I was struggling with some very hard things. I'm happy to report that is not the case this time. Nope, this time I'm struggling with some very good things.

Can anyone say irony? Good and bad things both seem to create a tension, a type of turmoil that is difficult for me to navigate. The true irony is that I've actually found it harder to write about good things while I'm going through them than to write about bad things while I'm going through them. I am determined to come out of hiding this week and start writing again. Meet me at my other blog for news of a more personal nature. Here, I will proceed to keep my promise and wrap up our exploration of Queen Victoria's life.

"Cheeky" Young Victoria
Photo Courtesy of Eyes Wired Open

Determined to leave you on a good note with Queen Victoria, I have finally found some words that will bring happy smiles on our faces about our complicated monarch. Remember when I wrote about the film Young Victoria?* I would like to draw you back to that spritely young woman with her pixie naughtiness and her sharp wit. Brilliant, curious, dynamic, spirited, vigorous, vivacious. These words capture the essence of the true Victoria. She most definitely lost her spark for many years after Albert died, which makes sense given her intensity in every other sphere of life.

I am happy to have found some evidence that she did not fully remain tightly wound, stodgy, dreary silhouette we see in photos from her final years. She spent many hours painting and drawing scenes from her sanctuary at Balmoral, and she celebrated and doted upon her family and friends until her death in 1901. She sent every single one of her nine children and forty-some living grandchildren cards on their birthdays every year. She was faithfully fond of her grandchildren, especially Princess Alice's children, who lost their mother in their young childhood.

Victoria's portraits of her children
Photo Courtesy of Polyvore's Katfaerie

Speaking of her grandchildren, her royal legacy upon the earth is without precedent. She is the Great Mother of kings, queens, emperors, and empresses throughout Europe. She wrote and drew in blissful ignorance of the dramas that would unfold as her children and grandchildren rose to power and fell, sometimes very hard, as in the case of Princess Alexandra (Alicky). She wrote of Alicky's marriage to Nicholas: "How I thought of darling Alicky, and how impossible it seemed that the gentle little simple Alicky should be the great Empress of Russia.' Oh, the bliss of knowing only the beginning and not the ending for some of her family members.**

I promised to leave you smiling, so I will end with this quote from Marina Warner. It made me smile, and I hope it makes you smile, too: "Queen Victoria's curiosity and gaeity did not dminish with age (the principal reason we have for thinking her severe and mirthless is that photographs in the eighties and nineties were to be exposed too long to capture a smile): excursions were still a source of delight, and she became more adventurous as she grew older, visiting Switzerland for the first time in 1868, Italy in 1879, the South of France in 1882, Spain in 1889. Her travelling style reflects her roots in the eighteenth century and its traditions of the Grand Tour...Yet in the midst of her extravagant ways, the girlish gush of pleasure at new sights and new experiences remained....Up to 1890, she was still busy painting throughout her holidays, seeking out splendid views with the help of local guides, sometimes ambitiously covering a double sheet with an Alpine range 'glowing in the setting sun, what is called here Alpengluhen. It was glorious...'" (Queen Victoria's Sketchbook, p. 208-09)

*By the way, if you haven't seen the movie Young Victoria, I highly recommend it. The history is accurate to a fault, the images are brilliant, and the acting is stunning. Their portrayal of our queen was done with excellence, grace, and accuracy. I've linked you up to a clip so you can see a few scenes from the movie and hear actors Emily Blunt & Rupert Friend talk about their experience playing Victoria and Albert.

*To learn more about Alicky's sad end, I highly recommend Helen Rappaport's book, The Last Days of the Romanovs.

Friday, November 4, 2011

So Much Going On

Peach Tree by Vincent Van Gogh
Photo Courtesy of

Well, on one hand, I'm writing to tell you how sorry I am to report that once again I don't have my final post written on Queen Victoria. On the other hand, I'm also writing to tell you how happy I am that I'm behind for really good reasons and not just because I'm under the weather or under the thumb.

For the past month, my hubby and I have set sail on a journey toward living from passion and rest. We've experienced tremendous breakthrough in our marriage and in defining our purpose, dreams, and life work. Through this journey, I have experienced moments of great hope and moments of great sorrow. I am glad to announce that we are nearing the end of this phase of our journey. Our little tree has grown sturdier, and the blossoms are beginning to emerge. Spring is surely upon us!

I am filled with hope, while at the same time wondering what the coming weeks will bring in terms of weather and nourishment for our tree. Despite these niggling fears and doubts, I believe we will very soon be eating juicy, sweet peaches off our tree. I can't wait for our summer to arrive.

Photo Courtesy of Soy Candles by Phebes

In the meantime, I'm doing the best I can to juggle all the writing balls I have up in the air right now. One of the most important aspects of this season for me has been to clearly define myself as a writer and my dreams for the future. My dreams for the future have to do with writing, but they are much bigger and include raising my children, loving my husband, and being available for those who need my attention beyond the scope of my daily work.

I have felt more than a little frenzied at times, and have often found myself wandering between my office and the living room without clear direction or focus. I'm afraid my kids and my writing have been suffering as a consequence. Part of the reason for this is that I have been spending hours a day talking and processing with my hubby. In the past couple of weeks we have both found ourselves annoyed with how much time it takes to do life together. Starting this weekend, we are going to use that talking time to determine how we can begin spending less time talking and more time doing the things we've been talking about. Not an easy thing, since I LOVE to talk, especially to him. Haha!

Anyway, I hope you will bear with me and stay tuned. I hope to have a final post on Queen Victoria and the beginnings of the next post on the Art Deco Movement by next week. I raise my glass in a toast to myself for being an eternal optimist and to you for being such a faithful reader. It warms my heart to have such faithful readers.