This post is brought to you by the History of Literature Podcast. They’re not sponsoring it, that’s just what I listened to on my short hike this morning. They had an episode on blood transfusions in Victorian England and their ties to horror stories. It gave me an interesting new perspective on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and made me put Mary E. Braddon’s Good Lady Ducayne on my reading list.
Aside from that, though, fall always puts me in a slow living mood. With kids in school and me finally having some time to myself, I usually eat better and get more exercise and just generally live a simpler, healthier life. This fall I bought a pair of trekking poles to try out. I’ve had back problems on and off for years and they’ve been really bad this year, and I’ve been caught in that cycle where sitting around makes my back worse, but back pain makes me want to sit around more.
I belong to a really accepting online fitness group, and after seeing about a million people on there recommend trekking poles for back pain I finally spent the money and I’m so glad I did. For the first time in a couple of years I can hike pretty much pain free, and the exercise is really helping my back pain in general. For now I’m ignoring the fact that I’m soooo much slower now than I was before my back went all to hell and focusing on enjoying all the pretty trails near my house before winter comes and they’re all too snowy.
Our local trails are full of mountain bikers and sporty moms in their basic bitch sportswear, and I’m not all that different (except that all my gear is black or purple), so aside from some sideways looks at my bright red hair people are pretty friendly. Even if they were rude I’d still do it, but it wouldn’t be as relaxing. Obviously.
As someone who dabbles in simple living, slow living, and decluttering, I can’t help but notice a certain dominant aesthetic that’s very different from my own. I’m most definitely not into bare white walls and pale sunwashed sweaters and chinos. I also won’t touch a hand-carved salad bowl or quirky hand-painted coffee mug unless I’m buying it personally from a local crafter or thrift store. There’s a big difference between living consciously and loving the minimalist style trend, but the effort to get readers makes most writers combine the two so they can hook both audiences. And frankly, there’s a lot of overlap between aesthetic minimalists and simple living converts right now. If I wanted to be mean, I’d say the common link is that both things are trendy right now and some people just live for trends.
I’m not mad about this, but it means I have to translate everything sunwashed and minimalist into something moonlit and medieval. It’s more work, but I suppose it makes me more conscious of my lifestyle choices. Which is kind of the point, right? I have a lot of thoughts about this stuff.
Some of my thoughts are practical–if you aren’t too taken in by the goth versions of fast fashion, focusing on your true dark style is a great defense against overconsumption, and the strong emphasis on creativity and the life of the mind can really help a goth rise above the consumerist clutter that surrounds us. But some of my thoughts are more abstract. For example, maybe some of my attraction to Victorian and Renaissance aesthetics is also an attempt to bring the slower, simpler pace of those earlier eras into my modern life. And how I love the luxury and ornamentation of earlier eras, but I also like the fact that all their glory has faded with time. I’m very aesthetically attracted by the idea of faded glamour that mirrors the faded noble families of gothic novels* or old Hollywood stars, but I also think this idea of cherishing well-made things and loving them until they fall to dust is a pretty earth-friendly attitude. Even the gothic weakness for the classic looks and artists is a form of slow living, not just taking any new music or fashion that comes along, not mindlessly following trends and cycling through styles to fit in and keep up.
These are just my own blending of interests. If YouTube is anything to go by, goths can be just as thoughtless and consumerist as anyone. I think if we want to be thoughtful about it, though, we have a lot to work with. My interest in slow living has grown a lot in the past few years, and I’m still working on ways to be more earth-friendly and live more simply while keeping the personal style that makes me so happy. I have no idea if this applies to anyone else, but if it does I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*I count modern gothic novels here. Anne Rice, for all her writerly faults, is a master at telling generations-long stories of scandal and decay.