Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's in a name?

As you may know, I have not taken off my Lost Boys and Lovers jewels since I received them in the beginning of this, my birthday month. In addition to being stuck in my ways and firm in my opinions and tastes, I put a lot of weight in words (in case you haven't noticed yet...).
The title of this particular one of Sadie's lovely shops got me thinking about about what I might name my place of business (And believe me, there are plans for one...) It's such a lovely, evocative name. Just as shop names, pet names, and kid names (even though those are perhaps not quite comparable), blog-titles are often seem as though a great deal of thought went into them, that there's a story in there, and it might be an interesting one.
Three years ago when I started this here blog, its name came to me almost instantly, though as you can tell by the URL, it originally started out under a different name and was in fact an entirely different log.

As I was writing (read: procrastinating on) my final paper and waiting for my visa I thought to post on feminist-centric culture, Girl Art, as it were, but after a few tries discovered that I rather thought of the blog more as a virtual scrap-book than a series of carefully meditated posts on a single topic.

You are here
As you know I did not entirely scrap my original idea, but rather expanded upon it wildly and with reckless abandon. If you asked me today what this log was about, I'd still be hard pressed to answer, though I think the tag-line still stands: Musings On Books, Woods and Other Obsessions. Personally I'd like a little more book, but there certainly have been plenty of woods and a multitude of other obsessions.
My second blog was also easy to name, and I while I was happy to integrate the two (and this has certainly made for a lovely year of blogging), one of the sad things about it was loosing a name so fitting for our life here.
A girl with her bear
Still, I never considered changing the name of this blog. My filmmaker boss once asked me what fairy-tale most describes me as a person, and though I had not thought of it as such, it is a rather loaded question. Fairy-tales, as we all know, are archetypes, they represent a part of our collective human psyche that we can only access on the most primal level.
Eve and her Apple
Repeated through time, they are so ingrained into us, that though their original meanings have been lost, they still have the power to move us, inhabit our bodies and make our spines tingle. The Girl Who Married A Bear is one of the universal myths in which a young woman is wed to a beast, often an earthly manifestation of an otherworldly beast, a demi-god, an ancestor spirit. Interestingly enough the myth spans both the parts of the world I've lived in stretching from the Baltic over the Ural to these Pacific shores.
Then there were two
In it, a young woman invariably gets lost in the forest and meets a bear, sometimes one that can transform into a man, he takes her as his wife and a litter of children is born to them. Later, the woman brakes some sort of taboo and some hunters (often her own brothers) come to kill her husband. They take her and her children (cubs) to their village (often her own village), but she can no longer live as a human. In the end the woman transforms into a bear and takes her brood back to the woods with her.
Shall we dance?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have felt a connection to this story, but it was only Gary Snyder's interpretation of the myth that truly explained its appeal to me. In his brilliant collection of essays The Practice Of The Wild Snyder argues that the girl, the woman is already half-way into the forest-world, because she chooses to brake the rules that keep humans safe, chooses at least in part to enter it.

Snyder explains that the woman intuitively bridges the gap between the two worlds. That she is the manifestation of that wild yearning that seems to be a part of the human condition itself: the wish to return to our true home, the one in the forest, the water, the sky.
Bearchild by Susan Seddon Boulet
Long before I married my Ursine husband, (who has been given bear charms and called one since his teenage years,) and travelled West, this was a very good description of me; someone suspended between realms, able to see both but never fully enter either. Though the story does not tell, I imagine the Bear-girl herself remained part human even after she made her decision. Able to see into the other world, the world her brothers, mother, friends and family still inhabited, she might be sitting on a mountain top looking down at the fire lights, filled with longing.

The Maiden
There you have it. I am the girl who married a bear, and have been for close to three years already. Very little about this blog has changed, though of course it has evolved in both subject matter and style. The look of it certainly has remained almost exactly the same, safe for a slight modification on width. Until today.

Like I said before, I don't believe in messing around (with perfection;), certainly not when it comes to something as uninspiring (to me) as blog-templates. I like simplicity, and have felt that I had the look pretty much nailed with the image of a little girl offering something (perhaps herself?) to a bear cub. (It's actually a donut, just so you know. A way to a man's heart is through his stomach.)

Still, with 3 years of blogging and all, along with the biggest, bestest blog-related event ever on the horizon, I figured a little change couldn't hurt. Right. Boy did I choose the worst time possible to dick-around with my blogger-header image. And Mercury isn't even in retrograde...
hmmm...I'm a little puzzled by this image
I'm eventually planning go back to the picture of the little Alaskan girl, but until blogger fixes its little snafu, you get to have your say between these lovely Girl and Bear images I have been contemplating. I am rather impartial to one, but would love to hear your opinion.
Wedding Party
These last four are from this mesmerizing book, which chronicles the relationship between the pre-Christian Finns and the ancient forests that were their native environment.
Though our pagan roots and polytheistic plethora of deities are long gone from our collective consciousness (though perhaps not the collective unconscious.), much of it still remains in folk-tales, customs and even place-names. The ancient Finns considered the bear, who's name as such could never be spoken, to be their ancestor, the spirit of the forest who was surrounded by many taboos and called by many pet-names, so as not to invite his presence.
A marriage of true minds
Having come full circle back to the names and naming I would like to hear from you about your stories and inspirations in naming your logs and leave you with this further explanation of mine, far more eloquent than I could ever write.
True Love
"He was human to her. And so she entered the in-between world, not exactly human, not exactly animal, where the rain might look like fire, and fire might be rain. And he put her more sharply, more solidly, into it, patting her on the head so she forgot. They went under the tangled windfalls, and when they came out they had passed beneath a range of mountains. Each days is a month, or years. But she didn't entirely forget. We are always in both worlds, because they aren't really two." -Gary Snyder: The Practice Of The Wild-


  1. Whitegirlfro-I fought with my frizzy fuzz most of my existence, (excuse the use of a lazy metaphor) Tried to pull and elongate spiralling tendrils with hot ceramic plates burning fingers and tender scalp, tried to pull and stretch my identity and soul to fit this fuzzy square peg into a round hole. Joplin and hendrix described their messy tresses as satellite receivers from the universe, rastafarians consider hair a connection to their god. It is my most identifying feature but I liked your dead hair post and I fell i cut all mine off and it wou be ok, I am not my hair (India Arie track).

    Fairy-tale wise I am Little-Red Riding Hood, sometimes I am little red cap herself, then I am grandmother a lot of times I am the wolf :) Sorry about the length of this comment and thank you for the oppertunity to write. Have a wonderful day.

  2. I Will See You in Far Off Places-I started my own little internet space when I moved abroad again and began more travels. I wanted a way to stay in touch with those from home who cared to do so, and a space to record my experiences for future reference. Now, as I venture once again through academia and do much less exotic living (but still some), the blog has taken on a little life of its own and the title is more ephemeral then based in a current reality. However, I like it and that's that.

    I enjoy your words and thoughts. Thanks for an intriguing question:)

  3. I can't imagine any picture being better than the one you had. This is coming from a totally compulsive blog changer, I know, but I'm very attached to your page the way it is :) I'm sure that whatever you change it to will be thoughtful and evocative, just like you.

    How's your week shaping up? Do you want to have a night walk with me?

    Oh, my blog name is my actual name- or, it will be once I file the paperwork and wear a name tag until everyone gets it. It took me over ten years to find it, which probably wins me some kind of long ruminated blog name award. My middle name is shared by my Great-Great Grandmother and the four women preceding her. I found it on my own.

    Some of my past blog names:
    Crystal Calliope
    Song to an Island
    Song of Breseis
    Hollyhock and Hawthorne
    and my kids blog is Tater and the Tots because I have a friend who calls me Tater (long story) and it's the cutest nickname I ever got.

  4. Spider Silk Stockings - The stockings bit is firstly because I meant the blog to be about fashion (thrifting, vintage, outfit photos). Also, I am absolutely obsessed with spiders, they are one of my favourite creatures and passions (I have 10 pet tarantulas). And all together, the Spider Silk Stockings, after a pair of stockings that was actually made entirely out of spider silk. It's daring and crazy and odd, and I like that.

  5. I adore the pictures of the little girl with the cubs (like the one you have now! That was really interesting and I did always wonder about the story behind your header title.... I love when you discuss Finish things since my hubby is a Finn and some other good stuff too!

    I've struggled quite a bit with my blog header and creating a "brand" so that my blog and Etsy shop match up and describe me and my style! The Stitchy Life started as a place to showcase my crafts (embroidery) and eventually serve as a bit of advertising for my Etsy shop I would someday open to sell my crafts (though I started selling vintage clothing and haven't put a handmade item in yet!!! haha- very soon though).

    Funny how things morph! I love reading about your woody adventures and your sweet outfit posts- Love your skirt in this post!!!

  6. This was a cool post! I was not familiar with this story, you explained in beautifully. There is a similar story among many Native Americans of the Southwest & Central America in reference to a corn goddess who is both the sacred food and human. She bridges the two worlds, and her being a her is significant in fertility both to the soil & to human beings--which sustain the life of both. Very cool indeed. I had not looked deeper into the meaning of your blog-- I kind of took solace in the latter explanation. That you had actually married a bear-- I'm quite fond of the bears myself :)

    I found most of the images you shared haunting-- in the goosebumps kind of way. I think the bear-hug-girl-moon one helped me visualize the story.

  7. I have a birthday gift waiting for you that I purchased last month (a rare non-thrifted gift at that!) and when I came across it, I just felt very compelled to get it for you. Now, in true Missa/Milla synchronous fashion, I know why!

    As for my silly blog title, I wish I had a story to tell about how “Thrift Candy” came to be in such a lovely way that revealed something of my soul in the process. But, not so much. My original intent for the blog was to merely document my thrift finds and post about thrift related topics. The title was in reference to “sweet” finds as well as presenting a lovely image of what thrifting is about, showing pretty thrifted treasures, a bit of “eye candy” for those who enjoy and revel in the beauty of a good find. Blah, blah, blah.

    Of course, my involvement in wardrobe remix ended up quickly influencing the blog, leading it into an increasingly style-focused realm. Over time I’ve become more and more lazy about documenting my actual thrift finds though. It’s become more and more about documenting (through my best attempts at photography) lovely little bits of life, in which I happen to be wearing thrift finds. I think my blog could definitely use a little sprucing up. New header, perhaps, new about me statement, for sure.

    As for all these amazing images, I am quite smitten with the illustration of the bear holding the wee girl against the starry night sky. Though I have always loved your original header and think it is quite perfect :)

  8. Oh wow.. This was so interesting to read! And I love the name of that etsy shop.. So Peter Pan!

  9. Milla!! Talk about being in awe of a blog post. Geez.

    Funny, I have been wondering quite a bit lately where your blog name came from, and was planning to ask you when we meet up.

    (Have I ever told you that I met Gary Snyder?)

    These pictures are amazing and that book looks SO cool! What a score for you to have that knowledge about your own roots. Getting to know you has made me realize that I know nothing about Finland. Like, nothing. But I hope to god you have an adorable accent :-)

    Oh and I have also wondered if your blog name did have to do with Charlie being such a bruin! Ha!

    As for Violet Folklore- Sasha and I thought about it for a long time. I finally came up with that one. Violet is Mycelia's middle name and is a beautiful and useful herb and is an old fashioned name (also one of my grandma's sister's names). And Folklore, well, obviously. We had originally planned to sell herbal medicines too so both names seemed appropriate.

    Biggest, bestest, blog-related event ever!!!

  10. i also have wondered about the title of your blog. i knew it had to have some meaning and low and behold it does! and an awesome one at that. what a cool story! i think i'm partial to your original picture, but i also dig the one of the bear holding the girl in the night sky.

    i too "dicked" around with my header. let me guess, it comes up blurry every time you upload it? so annoying! i had import it to (i had never heard of that site), then use the link to upload it into blogger. you may want to try it.

    as for my name... i was reading emily dickinson for some inspiration and just sorta came up with it. it is a bit ironic though, i don't consider myself a ray of sunshine by any means, but i wanted my blog to be just that- a place of positive thoughts and fun pictures and hopefully some crafty inspiration.

    i can't wait for the package to arrive! i hope to get you yours before you leave for california. and i absolutely adore your entire outfit! the lost boys and lovers jewels are beautiful!

  11. I love what you wrote here so much, and your photos and the ones you gather and post are endlessly magical and inspiring. This reminds me of two things:

    -The book "Bear" by Marian Engel. Somewhat scandalous and testing of taboos, but lovely and intoxicating and worth reading if you haven't.

    -Joanna Newsom's sad sad song from "Ys," "Monkey and Bear."

  12. This was so so beautiful. Thank you so much, because how you felt, in limbo between two worlds, is how I've felt for a long time. You're an amazing girl, do you know that?

    Forestlass came from my always having lived in or adjacent to the forest. I grew up in the forest, playing in huge, dead trees. I collected leaves in the fall and stuck them in my hair. When it snowed, I tramped through the trees and rolled around in drifts. I played chicken with maples when I chose on many occasion, to sled between the dense trees. I lost a handful of times. When it rained in the spring and summer, I made mud slides! It houses my favorite of forest friends, the wolves and deer.

    Deeper than that, the forest has always been a place that heals psychological bumps, scratches, and more severe wounds. And when I'm riding a joyous high, it takes my hand and pulls me higher. I am a lass of the forest, plain and simple. You know what? As much as I love my real name, I often wish my parents had named me something more suitable. Fern or Willow. Maybe Flora. Even Afton, since the river does run through some forest. I'm certainly not the princess Sara entails. Or perhaps I'm a forest princess...?

  13. i always wondered about the name of your blog, and assumed it had to do with your hubby's look (which appears much like my bf's look!). then, even though i knew it was unrelated, there's the fact that i live in the castro and am steeped in the culture, though i am straight, and here a bear is a different thing, though often no less wild! ;)

    i named my blog bohemian raphsody because music has been preeeeetty much the most important thing in my life and the title seemed to apply to my day to day existence, which is kinda what the blog would cover, tho it is mostly my etsy finds. :)

    this post you wrote is one of your best yet. i absolutely loved reading it.

  14. milla dear, i saw this post briefly while visiting my brother in utah but didn't have time to read it all. meanwhile my brother was sharing with me some of his favorite new book purchases, two of which i took to bed with me to peruse that night. one of which was gary snyder's book of essays you mention here! aw crazy sweet synchronicity.

    i love the story of your blog title and fables are rich to me in my dreamlife and awake. it's one of my favorite sections in the bookstore and i create my own in my head all day. if i were asked which fairytale resonates most i think i'd be bewildered to find a suitable response. funny how i always hated the parables of the bible (not all but most) but love fairy tales and legends and folklore.

    the legend of my own title is simply that it has been trailing me for ten years. when i thought of the name it was for a new email account and i knew i wanted to invoke tom waits, trains wailing, bootleggers, light, rags and bones, secrets in the forest, and la luna herself. i think it might be unweildy but i don't have much ulterior motive for my blog or etsy or email names. i just want to find myself in a junkyard full of moonlight, and to dance and sing there. preferably with all you folkloric ladies of this madcap world of web logs.

  15. what a lovely and thoughtful post.

    i am afraid that my blog (and business name) originated out of meaningless babble. whilst in my senior year of high school, yep friends and i were lazing around in the grass, while i stitched a hair wrap into in of their hair. we were swapping hair stories, and the friend whose hair i was doing told us of her grandmother, agnes, who'd had bright red hair. children in her class had been cruel to her, calling her "flaming ag". well i was sitting behind her, i was dopey, i was 17, so i didn't hear her properly, and rather heard "flaming hag". we giggled at my mistake, and i swore i would use the newly coined term for something someday. by college i was studying any strange spiritual pursuits i could, and hag came to have more meaning to me...eventually it just stuck.

    when do you leave for ca? can't decide whether to mail your bday gift or keep it for your visit, and don't want it to miss you....

  16. yep friends?! two friends, just two non-yep friends.

  17. Wow. This post caught my eye for SO many reasons, where to begin? I married a Bear too, a large beast of an angel who keeps me living happily (although lonely for trees and sea) in NYC.

    I recently started blogging in an effort to both hang on to my instincts in creativity and fun, but also to commemorate myself in my changes, my transformation as a woman married to this man/cub/bear/creature. I myself am a Raccoon of sorts, having evolved form a wild horse on the west coast to this more curious, rebellious creature who is both closer to the ground and moving more stealthily- albeit more slowly.

    Thanks for the information on the Bear stories, I'd actually never heard them- and can't tell you how peaceful it made me to read your post. There's something undeniably special when our instincts meet universal truths...magic.

    I shouted you out on my fashion/life blog,

    much love, and happy winter- D

  18. What a beautifully written post this was! I don't know what my fairy-tale would be; to be honest, I don't know all that many apart from the really basic ones, and I love hearing about all this stuff you know about folklore and stories.

    As for "No Signposts in the Sea', I simply stole the title from a novel by Vita Sackville-West. I guess I was going through a rough patch when I started blogging, and felt like the title spoke to me somehow; it seemed to express something profound about the way I felt about life at the time. I also stole my blogger identity, from Virginia Woolf, whose novel "The Waves" is my favourite book of all time. I am quite the thief, really.

  19. It's fantastic!!! This photos are like a dream, I really love them!

  20. I love the whole story of how you chose your blog name and it sounds like a fascinating story - I must see about tracking down that book. I like both bear headers - so difficult to choose! The images of the woman in the wedding dress almost being crushed by the bear are very haunting.

    My blog name, The Rainbow Notebook - was inspired by Doris Lessing's novel The Golden Notebook - the idea that it would be about different topics like film and fashion and writing . . .