Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Living in photographs

As I journey through old digital photographs in an effort to tidy up my digital storage, I am learning unexpected lessons about myself.

There are many people from my childhood that I am simply done with. There are many faces in the photos that I am familiar with, but I can't remember their names anymore, or we never communicate (online or otherwise), or I frankly just don't care about them. It's hard with some photos to determine how I feel about them. Photos of former teachers? Do I really care about these? Would I miss them? I would probably not remember them if I got rid of the pictures, and that doesn't help me decide at all. In a physical photo album, we review the pictures periodically or infrequently and still appreciate them. As a digital volume, do I want to do the same? It seems absurd to keep so many. How can I really know what to keep? My inclination is truly just to hoard them all.

I came across the first photos of me with pink in my hair (the better version of the photo was actually taken on a film camera). I had been permitted, at around age 15 I think, to put a streak of pink in my hair. I felt so bold. I loved it. I love the photo that attempts to capture those feelings. I like being able to look back and know that's not a person I want to be anymore, while still appreciating who I was.

These photos also capture my varying and strange personal fashion trends. Most of them make me laugh now. I've spent many years trying to find a personal style without realizing that I have one already. I may not be able to define my tastes, but I know how to pick clothes that I like and I only wear what I like.

This article had me re-assess my current hair state, which is a somewhat more mature pink, as in much less vibrant (I didn't lighten the hair enough before dyeing). I don't think I'm done yet with fantasy colored hair. It still feels like me, it still gives me confidence. But I do recognize there are some inklings of teenage-me in my choice of hair color or style. I don't think that's a bad thing. Some things we take with us and some things we leave behind as we grow up. It can always change and I am open to listen to myself on this score.

I am realizing that choosing what (photos) to keep is less about the memories and more about what aspects of me I will choose to carry with me into the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Scents and sounds

I've always considered myself a visual learner and expected most of my memories to be tied to visual stimuli as well. While I do have a good memory for faces, I've found recently that scents and sounds tend to trigger much stronger emotional responses for me.

Lately I've been reading about aromatherapy and essential oils. While I'm dubious as to the claims of potential medical help oils could provide, I think that the emotional response by smelling something pleasant or specific (placebo effects!) is very real. I bought an inexpensive kit (affiliate link) from a brand that sells on Amazon to start myself off. While none of the oils on their own make me think of anything in particular, I am starting to get a sense for what scents go well with others and might make a nice blend for a candle or roll-on application mixed with a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil). It should be a fun little project, even if I don't stick with it. I've accepted that I'm a hobby hopper.

Scents that trigger nostalgia or pleasant feelings for me

  • freshly cut grass
  • rain on hot asphalt
  • this body product line that my grandmother has had in her bathroom since forever, the name has some 3-digit number in it; the scent is a combination of sharply floral yet masculine
  • Old Spice deodorant, probably because my dad has always worn it
I don't have particular memories associated with most nostalgic sound triggers, but there are some that I find oddly soothing.
  • plows in the wintertime, but only at night when it's really quiet other than potentially wind
  • lawnmowers, specifically make me think of the week or two before the fall semester started my sophomore year in college. I was there early for job training and the riding lawnmowers were out much earlier that I'd like, but it's still a nice memory
  • humidifiers
  • a shower running in another room
  • the sound of water running through pipes for a shower. When I was little, I would sit in the closet of my sister's and my bedroom (now my parents' room) and listen to the sound of the water running through the pipes/the shower on the other side of the wall while anyone was in there getting clean.
  • fan noise is SO soothing to me. I love having a fan or air purifier running at night. I think it's because it helps drown out any sudden noises that may occur outside so I don't get woken up by them
I guess a lot of the sounds I like are kind of variants on white noise! A distant lawnmower is something I could sleep to, as are all the others.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sabriel Day

I was lent Sabriel by Garth Nix when I was around fifteen years old. My best friend at the time had really enjoyed the book as well as its sequel, Lirael, and I trusted her book recommendations. I don't remember if I immediately loved it as much as I do now, but I liked it enough to read the sequel and buy the third book in the trilogy when I realized it was already out. Actually, her little sister bought it for me and I can't remember why  now! I still have that copy and I still think of her every time I see it on my bookshelf. The original release date for Sabriel was twenty years ago today, in Australia.

The first book follows the journey of Sabriel, a teenager in a fictional version of 20th-century England, as she re-enters her magical homeland: the Old Kingdom. There, she takes on the mantle of the Abhorsen, which is essentially a law-instated necromancer, as she searches for her father, the former Abhorsen, who went missing. Accompanying her on the journey is a magical creature that takes the form of a speaking cat, Mogget. Sabriel's tools of her trade include a bandolier of bells, each spelled for specific duties against Dead creatures arisen by rogue necromancers, a spelled sward, Charter magic, and the Book of the Dead.

The second and third books follow other character primarily, so I won't try to summarize those because I'd probably spoil something. I can say, however, that Lirael and Abhorsen take place somewhere around 20 years after the events of Sabriel. Sabriel does make an appearance in those books, but she's all grown-up *sniffle*.

The heroines in books whom I find most appealing tend to be very self-sufficient and courageous. Sabriel is no exception there. She doesn't always makes the right choices, sometimes she pays for those mistakes, but she always finds a way through on her own. There are very few situations in the book where I'd consider her "rescued" by anyone. I've found that my own choice of friends over the years tend to have similar qualities: passionate, self-reliant, often gregarious or extroverts. Sabriel is not entirely an extrovert, but she is able to speak up for herself and take lead when needed.

Over my many years living with and battling depression, I've learned over and over that there is no knight in shining armor to save you from the bad times. You have to do it yourself. Sabriel represents to me someone who can take on tremendous odds and conquer them. While my battles are usually mental and hers are usually physical (or magical), I still hold her as a sort of role model for strength and perseverance.

I recommend this book to anyone who remotely like fantasy novels, especially to teens, but really to everybody. There are a couple more books related with the trilogy as well, such as the recent release of Clariel, a prequel that takes place a couple of hundred years before the events of Sabriel, and some short stories in two separate collections (one comes out next month).