Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Women Who Sing To The Moon

I've had a whole two weeks (Just two weeks?!! Two weeks already!?!?) to think about this post and what I wanted to say about our magical girl weekend. The more I thought about it though, the more clear it became to me that I simply did not have the right words.

This same sentiment has been expressed again and again, a mutual feeling among all of those who were there, in place where our kinship was solid and tangible and glorious. Funny that started with words and images (which is what blogs are at their bare bones, right?), has been so hard to express through them.

Of course I'm going to try all the same, and if it seems like just a long love letter to these girls, I apologize. Though they were there, this post is addressed to them the most and I can only hope that others will enjoy it too.

Most of you have probably already read all of the above versions of the story, as well as Heather's glorious, articulate piece, so you may know that we started the weekend out with a meeting in Nicole's Sacramento shop.
Over and over
Whatever nervousness was mixed with my excitement at meeting the girls, quickly dissipated when Amber's little family entered the restaurant next to the shop, and moment later Heather breezed in as smiley and happy as she always looks in her pictures. (I remember thinking that she was even prettier than I had expected.) In its place there was only a slight sense of unreality, as though I had stepped through the looking glass, or fallen into a rabbit hole and come out in a place familiar and magical all at once.

The same goes for Crimson & Clover, which is indeed a place of beauty and wonder. Nicole and her partner Kara have pretty much created the vintage store you dream about when you dream of having your own vintage store. I think I'm spoiled forever now.
Shopper's Delight
The Beautiful Proprietess
Nicole was just as gentle and gracious as I had imagined. And talk about generosity; she gifted each of us Aquarians with a beautiful piece of clothing (And then gave Heather a skirt she liked). I gotta say, it was almost overwhelmingly tempting to change into mine right then and there.
Portrait of a Lady
Red Head
(I remember first finding Nicole through Amber and being amazed by how similar my butterfly-hairclips are to the ones she makes. Great minds, you see. Her other leather creations far surpass my efforts, though. The girl's on fire, tell you what.)
Pot of holly
Treasure chest
Strange as it may seem, Heather was right in pointing out that this whole blessed union of Womyn originated from something as "frivolous" as a mutual love of vintage dresses.

Missa and I originally met through Wardrobe Remix almost exactly three years ago, and later that same year Amber began posting on Flickr around the time her and Sasha started their amazing etsy shop, Violet Folklore. (It was so successful that they each have their own store now.) We discovered Heather about a year and a half later and since then we three have been a steadfast in the sea of blogs that ebbs and flows.

Birds of a Heather
One night at Missa's I started leafing through her copy of What I Wore Today, and was struck by the walk down memory that it proved to be. It was like a who's who of online vintage bloggers at that time (though sadly neither Missa, or I appear on it's pages. Quelle editorial faux pas.).

Once upon a time, when the whole online style scene was just emerging we rubbed virtual elbows with such blogger celebrities as Rhiannon of Liebemarlene Vintage, Siri of Ringo, Have A Banana! and Rebecca The Clothes Horse. Wardrobe Remix was still pretty small and everyone seemed to "know" everyone (You could easily comb through all the photos posted on each day in less than an hour!).

This was my first experience with any online community and it was very positive and welcoming which I liked. It was also pretty vintage and thrift oriented, which was cool and frankly it was just nice to see girls who dressed even girlier and weirder than I did.

Still, it could be quite intimidating, since everyone's style seemed uniformly pretty cool and there wasn't a lot of hippie garb around, plus not all of us are naturally gracious in front of the camera (As you will learn later in this post.)

So you can imagine that when I discovered Missa's photostream I was pretty much smitten. The feeling seemed to be mutual and pretty soon we were leaving embarrassingly long, gushing comments, that eventually transformed into emails.

I remember reading sometime that spring that Francesca of The Snail and The Cyclops (one of the best blog names ever!) had received a package from another blogger, and since I had already found one thing I thought Missa might like, I decided to go for it.

And just like that, our friendship went from a tentative online connection to something more tangible. I don't mean to say that swapping dresses somehow solidifies a friendship (though it seems to help ;), but exchanging cds and books and embodying things you send with warm-loving energies probably does.

We exchanged mail, both snail and electronic, for over a year and a half, before we actually met, but in spite how silly the way we'd come together sometimes seemed to us (especially when you try to explain it to other people), deep down I think we both knew it was the real deal.
Had anyone ever told me that I would make, not just one, but several close friends, Moon Sisters, through such an unlikely connection, I would have been highly doubtful, but now I know better.

Like all friendships, they have to grow organically, they cannot be forced, but forged through fearlessness and luck and faith and love and light.
Whale of a Sweater
(I love this picture of C. checking out the scene. I don't think that sweater's for you, hon.)
A Handful
After we had shopped and browsed and photographed to our heart's content, we bid Nicole fair-well till the next day and headed for the hills. Since both Missa's and my family had come up in the same car (thanks again for driving Lucas!) I took the opportunity to keep Heather company on our way to Placerville.

I barely remember anything of how we got there, I was so entranced by our conversation. As Heather mentioned, besides our all abiding love of dresses, we are all also readers extraordinaire and so our first destination in Placerville was the fabled The Bookery where Heather also works. Up until this trip, by the way, I had somehow concocted it in my head that The Bookery was actually a bookstore and a bakery. Sadly not (Ladies take note, it's a damn good idea!), but it is a very powerful little book establishment.
Having already witnessed Clover's voracious reading habit (or should I say being-read-to-habit), it came as no surprise to me that little Mycie is quite the focused reader herself. It might help that her mama is an aficionado of the printed page herself.

You can tell a lot about a person by what they choose to read and in a lot of places our tastes in books overlap. Some of my favorite posts from these girls are book, or film, or music recommendations, or musings on something they're currently obsessing over.

While it might seems illogical to someone who's solely concerned with the internal processes of people, our similar aesthetic (i.e our love of Gunne Sax and moccasins and cardigans and the list goes on...) also belies a deeper connection. We all seem to be into the female point-of-view, magic, fairy tales, crafts, history, spirituality, alternative health, film, music, and anything the 60s and the 70s.

The way we dress is kind like a shorthand for these all these things and many more. Like a prism, you can look through it and see the multi-faceted whole. Or not, whatever you prefer. You certainly can not judge a bird by it's feathers, or a book by the cover, but often they indicate something of its deeper essence.
As you may already know, Amber's really into maritime lore right now and knowing the Bookery quite well, she pointd my hubby its dedicated section. She was actually able to recommend him a book or two, The Heart of The Sea being one. Between the two of them I could see myself getting pulled in the cold, dark waters of the high seas. It is always awesome to observe people and their passions, whether new or long-standing. Sometimes, when a person really knows their stuff, even things that are only of a passing interest to you take on a whole new glamour.
For now I'll stick to my own current (or maybe recurring) obsessions, though I look forward to delving into some maritime literature soon (well as soon as hubby is done With The Heart Of The Sea). I loved the way the store was organized, labyrinth like, you could get lost in there for hours. It reminded a me quite a bit of this little bookstore here at home.
With a few armloads of books, beer and Mexican food, we finally retired to Heather's beautiful, cozy gypsy caravan of a house, where Darin was already anxiously awaiting our arrival. By now the guys had had a little bit of time together and with the copious amounts of beer we'd reserved we felt confident enough to leave them with to their own devices. They did good it seemed. Just don't ever ask them define the word "ancient".
We snuck into Heather's bedroom for a swap extravaganza unlike any. Girls, little and big alike made out like bandits in books and dresses.
Missa and Amber both had gotten stuff for each other's little ladies, but to add to the madness Heather and I too had been squirreling away snall frilly things for just this occasion.
The little ones were not shy about changing outfits a few times. So many times in fact, that at one point Clover actually said: "Mommy I don't want another dress!" She did take the statement back about 30 seconds later.

In addition to books and dresses and jewellery, there were some spiritual decorations. Missa had made all three of us a hanging mobiles with ojos dios and seed pods from their wisteria tree.
In a fit of synchronicity I'd commissioned a dream catcher for each of the birthday girls from my dream catcher maker. Each was adorned with shells, or berries, or some other piece of this little Island and since Nicole and Heather both have dream catcher earrings from the same hands they kind of completed the circle.
One of the many wonderful things about these swaps (along with beautiful clothes, the element of surprise, the giddy excitement), is the simple joy of giving, the good energy that comes from considering others. There's love in those objects, I swear.

I wish I had a picture of my pile, with the beautiful books and clothes from Amber, with little cards and drawings from Mycie and most importantly this brooch, which she spotted in my etsy favorites and got for me. It depicts four women in a field standing in a circle, their hands joined. It's us, of course. I had to fight back tears when I first opened it.
Not for long though. The little girls were getting along famously and entertaining all of us with their jumping and running and constant calls for Heather. Turns out Mama and Papa can really get a break with Auntie Heather around.
Making ourselves at home;)
We drank beers and talked and laughed and took endless pictures and petted Cream Puff, who was quite taken by all the attention. The little girls ran around and we all made ourselves at home.
Run-by feeding
Darin's onto something
Gypsy love
Moving out
A few members of Heather and Darin's illustrious band of friends arrived, and I wish I'd gotten to talk to them more, but soon we girls felt compelled to step outside for a moonlit walk and some raspberry wine. We circled and sang and howled, and the rest, as they say, is history.
An ode to joy?
The next morning I woke up next to Cream Puff and my own sweet C. to bright sunshine and Graham puttering about the kitchen. He seems to be an early riser like me. And since there was nothing else to do, and Cream Puff had already taken over my spot in the bed, we cooked up some epic breakfast, while Lucas cleaned out the the party clutter. These boys, they deserve their own post...
The Joy
Eventually everyone rose, and in case you were wondering: yes they're just as charming and pretty and full of mischief in the harsh light of day. Even more so, if possible, I'd say. And who would I find in my bed next if not Cream Puff? These three beauties, of course.
Aunt Heather
And what were they doing there? Why reading Tarot cards, of course.
I found these guys in my bed in the morning...
It was the sweetest scene imaginable: Heather in her beautiful, old-fashioned nightgown, telling tales, the little girls flocking around her in the early morning sunlight. All was full of love, it seemed.
This is you
From the moment she took my hand into hers at the co-op where we stopped for supplies on Saturday, so that she stood between her mom and me, a complete stranger, I knew that Mycie was a warm, special soul, so open and sweet and while both girls took to Heather like a wildfire, she seemed completely at ease with all of us. Getting to spend time with the kids, husbands, families and cats was an important part of getting to meet the girls.
This one's actually a dog
I think in this shot she's explaining that one of the animals is dog that got in with the cats. Darin's definitely paying attention.
(Raiding Heather's closet!)
Lady of the house
We got our act together surprisingly fast for such a big group of ladies and Heather and I headed out a little before the others to pick up her sister Addie.
Little Ship House
No one ever told me that Addie lives in a wondrous little pocket of winter.
As you can probably imagine this girl from the North Country was delighted with this unexpected gift from the Weather Gods.
The magical feeling was only enhanced by the curious appearance of the house itself (Heather remarked that it looks a bit like a boat turned upside down-what a wonderful image-to live under a boat!), or the fact that its mistress looks strikingly like a fairy-tale heroine.
Who could resist the Beauteous Beatty Sisters? Not I.
It made me particularly delighted that Addie and I were both wearing a Gunne and some mocs. I have secret (okay, maybe not so secret) wish to sometime pass for a Beatty-girl. Seriously though, riding in a car with these ladies was a special treat in the hectic weekend. Since Addie was busy with homework the night before it was wonderful to get to hang out with her a bit, before joining the group.

And as it is customary in enchanted kingdoms we descended from the hill to something even more magical to a Northerner like me: orange groves. We had to stop at the farm stand and buy some produce (Thanks Addie!). The proprietor quickly fell under the spell of these creatures, too.
It had not really occurred to imagine the landscapes we might travel through, simply because I was so focused on those I'd be travelling with and meeting at our destination and the beauty of the foothills was almost too much to take in.

I also felt lucky to be travelling with a bona fide history buff and as we wound our way up and down the curved mountain roads and breath-taking vistas, Addie pointed out historic sites, told local lore and was an all-around awesome travel guide.
We met up with our merry band again in Coloma and took a little stroll. It was so awesome to roll in a big posse of girls in colorful calico and embroidery, red-cheeked kids and handsome husbands in tow. Stranger still, it actually seemed quite natural, like this was something we do every other weekend.

We attracted quite a few good-natured stares and one lady asked me if we were sisters. When I later confessed that I was tempted to say we were, Addie quipped that I should have told her we were actually sister-wives! All I have to add is that a razor-sharp sense of humor and a good deadpan are a nice bonus in a sister-wife...
C. and I even got to meet a local celebrity. He gave us his autograph on a postcard with a picture of him on it. C. bought me a gilded alder cone and a deer-bone whistle for himself, as souvenirs from the gold country.

He also may have missed his opportunity to join a secretive, hard drinking organization of gold panners, called Clampers. Apperently a thick, black beard is all the ticket you need to get accepted in most gritty circles...Or perhaps the trading post lady just really wanted to know if we were from around there. We'll never know.
Upon reaching Nevada City, we headed to Ike's, a place who's praises Heather has sung quite a bit and for a good reason. One of the things that can be a bummer about travelling, is the abundance of bad food. And we're really spoiled, I gotta say when it comes to local, fresh, organic cooking. Having so many farmer friends and neighbors, our own garden and chickens has really clued us into eating fresh. Not that we expect that while travelling. We had some awesome meals in Santa Rosa, and California Mexican is unrivalled by its Washington counterparts, but Ike's really took the cake.

Or the macaroni and cheese with collared greens, in my case. And corn bread. Oh my gosh. I think love of food should be added to the growing list of things we girls have in common.

In addition to nourishment, Ike's also gave as an unexpected new delight: Amber's friend and model Suuzi. Sadly I seized taking photos and started talking in stead, so I have no evidence to back it up, but I can tell you that Suuzi is a wicked awesome lady, whip smart and outspoken and fun.
(Those in the know can tell that these pictures are out of sequence;)


Nevada city is, of course, the home of many artists I love, from songstresses Mariee Sioux and Joanna Newsom, to my favorite poet Gary Snyder. While no sightings were made, I was regaled with many a story, especially of Snyder, like he was the old bruin on the mountain, that occasionally took human form to come down for a beer at The National Hotel.
After we checked into our cozy cabin, Nicole arrived, family in tow and the whole group took a stroll through a curious little cemetery up the street and then strolled down through town to the afore mentioned hotel to meet the lovely Sadie and her son.
The kids were really taken by the snow and we were rather taken by the two new additions, Nicole's sprite-ly son and daughter were snowball fighting and shenanigans and entertaining the littler kids in no time.

Amber says that The National is the oldest continuously operating hotel West of the Missisippi and it looked the part in all it's Old West glamour. I already very badly want to go back to all these places and when I do, I can't wait to spend a night here.
They even had pretty fancy ladies just like in the olden days.

There were so many pictures from the weekend, it felt that we kept taking them simply because we wanted to remember everything, we wanted to be sure it really happened. Luckily, it was all not just a dream and I have the uncensored, goofy photos to prove it (do I really look like that you guys?).

The lovely Brigit recently wrote a very powerful post on the realities and fables of blogging, and how blogging is always a selective representation of the person's reality, no matter how hard you try not sugarcoat your life, or create some imaginary existence.

The thing is though that if you're still trying to represent your real life, it can almost shine through more purely because you're carefully externalizing your internal life into words. As Amber pointed out, all of us often feel very comfortable and express ourselves deeply in writing.

And so from the moment we met it felt like we had known each other for a long time, like we translated easily from that ephemeral online world to this very real one. So I love each of those goofy photos, because I'm there with my sistren and it's real and I only look goofy because I'm so very happy. To me they represent the reality of our meeting.
Sipping Addie and Art's delicious homebrew (A million thank yous!) talking and listening, sitting next to Sadie, who we convinced put her beautiful, sick son to our bed for a nap so that she could stay a little longer, Nicole's daughter sitting among us "big girls", completely at ease, our guys laughing (maybe at us) and taking photos (they got quite good at this) and the kids, older and younger merrily playing together, I felt so at home. And later there was some more singing to the moon. Through the days the constellations of who was there changed throughout the weekend, the same easy sense of belonging remained.
It really felt like this wasn't really the first time we'd met. I had known intuitively that we were all connected on a much deeper level, but had not dared to really believe that we could just come together like old, old friends, like sisters from some barely remembered past life. And yet, that's exactly what happened, of course.
So much Love, Bright Blessings and Safe Travels to you girls and all those who were there in spirit.


    My goodness. Where to begin? I have been keeping my comments to a minimum because so much of what I want to say I'm saving for my own post. I will say now though Milla, that Mycie sure did love you too. The next few days were filled with "Mom, when can I play with Charlie's wife again?" and "Mom, can Milla have a playdate soon?" and the best comment ever "I like Milla because she's warm".
    I love the last photo, I love allllll of us girls together (including Suuzi!).
    Last summer I met up with Heather and Adie and in my post afterward I said the same thing- I wanna be a Beatty sister! (They said I could, so I'm sure you're in too! Poor Missa may need to dye her hair to join the family of sister-wives, or maybe she'd be like the Cinderella of the group).
    The photo of you and Heather in front of the Nevada Theatre is so cute! Happy girls. (And is very much like the one of Katie and I in the same spot I posted a few months ago!).
    I am so glad you captured Heather in the morning in that glorious nightgown with the girls. I loved that moment.
    And btw, how cute are our menfolk?

  2. all of you ladies are so amazing and inspiring. i refrain from commenting most of the time, because i am an unknown follower but this time i had to share my thoughts. i started off reading heathers blog and found myself attracted one by one to each of your attractive blogs. its incredible to watch you all journey together and connect in such a beautiful way. i wish you all more magical gatherings and hope that one day i will experience a bond of friends that reaches the bonds of sisterhood. thank you for sharing this lovely connection.

  3. Milla- it's been days since I have checked the blog world of modern lore and legend but just this moment I checked on..... synchronicity reigns again! I see you just posted this within the hour. What a feat! What a lovely surprise! It was so wonderful to meet all of you beauties, and I did feel the kindred spiritness soaring with ye, Milla. I am so happy that you and C traveled to this western corner of the world and now you have written the most beautiful tale of it's treasures! Thank you! You are a force of goodness and light.

    I love getting tidbits from inside your brain as to the things you were enthralled with during the different moments, because as it all happens it can be so very hard to convey the delight. I do hope to visit you on your own treasured ground someday soon, and hope all is blessed and full of perfectness in your land.

    LOVE and bright spring stars!

  4. oh milla milla milla! i don't even know where to begin. all i can really say is THANK YOU oh so graciously and lovingly. for giving me back these incredible moments right now today and for your beautiful wise happy strong words that convey the REAL feeling. i am tripping out about what is real, just like you say: to meet in "real" life....the realness of it it already felt real even before; shared memory, synchronicity, collective unconscious, blood, MAGIC?! oh how i love these ladies each so dear. how i love the orange farmer on his tractor, and that drive through my familiar landscape with the new mystery and beauty you brought to it. and our coloma ramble, and your very own clamper, and nevada city at dusk, and suuzi and sadie and the national hotel with its piano and chandeliers, and kama and her mama! and all our rowdy and handsome and clever and wonderful men and families.

    i'll have to go back through again and again and absorb every detail and discover to my bewildered delight that indeed it is all REAL. love love love love.

  5. i feel so special to get a mention in this gorgeous post full of amazing ladies.
    you guys are all so lovely, and your genuine awesomeness just seeps through your pictures and words on all your blogs. all my favorite bloggers in one spot!
    and the little girls! man, how much fun must they have had. thanks for sharing these, and thank you for your continued sweet comments on my blog. it makes my day to recieve such thoughtful little messages from you.

  6. wow, I am new to the blog world, so I feel at times overwhelmed by the who's who of all these lovely blog connections and was happy to read some about the back story as to how all of your friendships evolved. This blissful gathering looks like a fairytale in itself. So much fun to read each girl's version of the adventure - each of them equally enchanted by the experience it seems. Makes me happy that I finally decided to give blogging a shot considering such solid connections are possible via the virtual world...

  7. But I thought you said you didn't have the right words?! Nope, no, this post has all the perfect words. And more.

    It makes me so happy to see your lovely faces in the shop. I wish you could be there more often.

    Kama and I are totally jonesing to visit the Bookery, I can practically smell the books now.

    I've been thinking about the whole blogging/real life discussion/dilemma. And one other thing I have realized is that blogging has sometimes made me more appreciative of little moments, happier to wear my impractical frocks, and thirsty for adventure, good books, and my best life. It has raised the bar on my 'real life' in that way. I have a beautiful life --really, most people do if they stop to look around-- and I want to feel that. And my heavens and stars if I did not feel it hard in that little Nevada City cottage.

    It's all too much, and I have lost any train of thought beyond Thank You.


    P.S. oh yeah, and totally wrong about my being a better leather tooler than you. Girls running around Cali in tooled leaf hairpins for the past two weeks are living proof! There's yet another job for you ;)

  8. awesome to see all these pics! how incredible to meet and feel so at home. heart warming. <3

  9. Oh Milla, this post is perfect, absolutely perfect, as was our weekend and everyone in it! So many amazing people came together and it's here, it's all here! Ha, I feel like Dorothy waking up back home after returning from Oz "And you were there, you were all there!"

    You did it, you made our time machine a reality and took us back to our glorious days in the Gold Country! Thankyou my darling sister-wife :)

    I loved reliving our friendship's humble beginnings through your words and realizing that those first silly little comments we made about each other's outfits (though we had no idea of their power and potential at the time) were actually small seeds that have since sprouted and grown and branched out and blossomed, and propagated... spreading new seeds and bringing us here to this beautiful garden of calico and kindred spirits! It's all a bit mind-blowing, don't you think?

    p.s. I love the photo you took of me and Clover outside the cabin, she looks adorable of course, and I just look happy and content, not the least bit uncomfortable ;)

  10. I was so surprised to see you went to Placerville! No one ever knows about Placerville! I grew up there (especially in the bookstores!), but haven't been back in over 4 years, sadly. I know what you mean about the Bookery being like a labyrinth. I remember there being a fat cat and a golden retriever as the residents of the bookstore downtown- I don't know if they're still there or not. I'm glad you had fun and think it's so cool all you girls were able to form lasting friendships out of the world of online fashion blogging!

  11. what beautiful adventures. you have found yourself truly a warm nest of amazing ladies!

  12. i am just now seeing this post. joyous and delightful, as anticipated. all the right words and photographs....oh my. what can i possibly say? i love you girls!! i do. i can't wait for more more more.

  13. I feel so lucky to be reading such beautiful and personal accounts of this fabulous women past-life reunion. You look beautifully ecstatic! And the warmth amassed at the gathering is radiating from your pics. I'm happy for you all.

  14. wow, as a longtime reader I can only say: I would have loved to be there!!

    I feel like I'm part of this sisterhood (the faraway online chapter maybe?) and I totally hope one day to experience something similar

    many hugs

  15. such a beautiful post milla!

  16. What a fun trip! I read both your blogs but it never occurred to me how sisterly you and Heather look until I saw you in the same photos!

  17. it's nice to know that things and people and gatherings like this exist!