The Lost Potential of Norma Jean Dougherty

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, baptized Norma Jeane Baker, and eventually marrying James “Jim” Dougherty, made Marilyn Monroe originally identify as Norma Jean Dougherty. The identity of “Norma Jean Dougherty” is who came right before the emergence of Marilyn Monroe, and likely who Marilyn always was contending with and perhaps grieving. She lost herself in Hollywood, in spite of her incredible talent and fame that would last until this day. Notice the notable dropping of “e” is how Marilyn preferred it spelled. Marilyn was a fabrication of the Hollywood studio system. On March 12, 1956, Norma Jean legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, though she began using the name in 1946, at the launch of her career. She essentially was assigned a name that would be marketable in the movies. Marilyn is truly a fabricated character, which Norma Jean played the role of throughout her life. It is as if she lived a completely performance art life, which cannot be good for the soul. Entire books can be written about the “mythology” of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Up until now, there are various viewpoints and understandings of every aspect of her life, from her upbringing and early life, to the eventual spiraling downfall of her career, marred by people with less than generous interests in her fame. Her husbands following Jim, did not live up to her hopes, I imagine. Monroe, who continues to be an icon of Hollywood glamour, and may actually be the face of Hollywood for all of time to come – was, undoubtedly, a creation of the Hollywood studios. There are unavoidable facts, such as her incredibly warm spirit and clear self awareness that she seemed to cultivate at a very young age, which were essential components of her success.

The creation and imagery that we all associate as Marilyn Monroe today, was designed and crafted by William Travilla and Allan Snyder. These two men, who are inextricably tied to this history of the image of Marilyn, are costume designer, William Travilla, and makeup artist, Allan “Whitey” Snyder, who both worked with Marilyn to closely craft the image that we quickly affiliate as Marilyn’s today. The broader discourse of her blonde hair and how she was framed out by Hollywood studios as a “dumb blonde” character is an entire story of itself, and for which I will not attempt to analyze here. In the scope of her Hollywood career, her blonde persona in Niagara is likely the peak of her acting abilities. Everything after could not reach the heights of the role of Rose Loomis, who ironically is a dark, calculating character. Perhaps Marilyn, and much deeper, the hurt Norma Jean, understood that the armor of glamour was all that she had left to wear against Hollywood. The hairstyles and hair shades of Marilyn Monroe evolved throughout her career, first starting as a lightened blonde at the encouragement of Emmeline Snively of the Blue Book Modeling Agency. She also trusted and believed in these people to help her become the actress she would be. Later, she would lose sight of her inner truth. However, the charm and beauty of Norma Jean Dougherty, before Hollywood touched her life, is a story of its own.

Personally, I hold true to the idea that the brunette Norma Jeane in post-war era of 1946 (right before her rapid rise to fame and she was still married to her first husband), the young woman who had big dreams, was someone who had great potential outside of Hollywood, and Hollywood with all of its ferocious lies and deceits, failed her miserably. The young woman who loved fishing in the great outdoors and playing with her dog, Muggsie, with her first husband, Jim, eventually could not protect her against the pull of Hollywood. I choose to believe in the story of the potential of who Norma Jean was – seeing her as a young woman with a hard childhood and, more importantly, a value set which originally saw the good in others, in a sincere and beautiful way. This was mostly instilled by her Christian upbringing, whilst staying in foster care with the deeply religious Bolender family, and then further into her belonging in the Christian Science denomination because of her Aunt Ana, the woman who played a heroic role in Norma Jean’s early life and who was also a devoted Christian Scientist. At Julien’s Auctions, a letter written by Norma Jean about her thoughts on Christian Science sold for more than $3,000. The letter states the following:

There is no such thing as physical senses. So called seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling, are all me, Spiritual Sense. Thank God I am not a mortal; living in a material world, subject to a material law; but I am an immortal living in a spiritual world subject to a spiritual law. Error is powerless to attract the work of God’s hands and there is nothing made that He did not make. Strength, energy, and harmonious action are mine. Consciousness is the body’s builder and architect. A little boy, having the five senses explained to him, said, “but there are six senses aren’t there,” on being asked what, he said “sense of humor.” He who gets much out of Christian Science puts much into it.

Norma Jeane in 1944

Most likely, and according to her first husband, James (Jim) Dougherty, Norma Jean would have stayed as Norma Jean had he not joined the Merchant Marines during WWII. Norma Jean loved wearing white and especially loved her dog, Muggsie, which Jim gave her. Muggsie eventually passed away of a broken heart when she left him behind with Jim’s family for Hollywood. With a zest for life and adventure (and both being far too young for the mature lives they led in an early marriage), Jim underestimated the impact leaving Norma Jean would have on her. She always looked up to the Hollywood stars, like anyone else. Being a Los Angeles native, she grew up watching Jean Harlow closely on the movie screens and it became rather ironic that her fame would surpass Harlow’s and Marilyn Monroe would be the “new Jean Harlow” by studio standards. In many regards, the success Marilyn achieved was not the success or happiness of Norma Jean, a young woman who clearly wanted to have a family with Jim. When that did not work out in the way she pictured it, she likely abandoned hope for that all together and was caught up in the idea that fame was her path forward, given how much attention men gave her in general. This was probably overwhelming at times and maybe pushed her in the wrong direction. Perhaps Norma Jean resolved the camera can’t hurt you, or so she thought.

Jim went on to have a successful career working many years as a police officer for the LAPD and trained the first SWAT team. He was notably a kind man by all who knew him, and he fell into police work by chance, because he was out of a job and working for a gas station after returning from the war, according to his book. Before he enlisted to join the war effort, he worked the night shift for Lockheed Martin. Norma Jean spent much of his allotment money while he was in military service on clothes for her burgeoning modeling career. She was seduced by a dream that was smoke and mirrors, in my opinion. While it was theoretically exciting to picture that the talented Norma Jean would put her talents to good work in Hollywood – she was ultimately grossly mistreated by the Hollywood studio system. To say mistreated is an understatement. She was robbed of her dignity and sense of autonomy in my opinion. The life Norma Jean could have led after her husband returned from the war is a much more energizing thought. Norma Jean, despite not having much formal education, was intelligent, and it is truly disappointing to see how marred things became for her. The enticement of the incredible fame and glamour she achieved coupled with a tragic early end to her life is clearly a cautionary tale.

Jim’s later association with “Marilyn Monroe” was complicated (he felt strongly he did not know who this woman was), and he did his best to respect his wives who he married later by never mentioning her or openly watching her films. His privacy would later be intruded because of her fame, too, which became burdensome in its own way to be the “first husband of Marilyn Monroe.” He states in his books how he never stopped loving Norma Jean and was not the one who asked for a divorce. He also went on to marry again and burned letters that she had sent him when he was on duty in the Pacific, he mentions there were 200 letters or more where she thematically discusses missing him everyday. He states in his book how he burned the letters to not allow himself to hold onto the ghost of that marriage while he was in another marriage, which he came to deeply regret, for obvious reasons. He was dispatched in the Merchant Marines when he received her notice of a divorce request. She had gone to Las Vegas for divorce papers, which was common at the time. She discussed with him how she wanted their relationship to continue, how much she still loved him, but that she could not enter the Hollywood studio system being married since contracts were not usually given to married women.

Jim went on to marry two more times, had a successful law enforcement career for much of his life, was a great fan of the outdoors, and passed away at age 84 in San Rafael, CA from complications of leukemia in 2005. The idea that Norma Jean could have continued leading a values based, self assured adult life is one that I choose to believe was lost. A Hollywood icon may have been created, but that took away the dream of who Norma Jean could have been. Soon, that ambition and zest for life would be gone from the eyes of Marilyn Monroe. In my opinion, this the lost feminist narrative of Marilyn Monroe’s life – who would Norma Jean truly wanted to have become had Hollywood not come along?

Sources: Fred Guiles book Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe and Jim Dougherty’s book, The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe.

Pin-up: Lana Turner

In honor of both Women’s History Month and the 95th Academy Awards, here is a featurette description on Lana Turner. Lana Turner was undoubtedly one of the most incredibly glamorous movie star icons of Golden Age Hollywood. And yet, today’s media is not covering her very often. She is also a wonderful example of the “American Dream,” as she grew up in poverty in a rural mining town in Idaho and ended up starring in Hollywood movies. Lana is a great example of true grit put into the American context. She was born February 8, 1921 in Wallace, Idaho. She showed an interest in performing arts while the family struggled to make ends meet – her family relocated to San Francisco when she was 6 years old. Her parents separated after moving to San Francisco.

Lana’s father was murdered in 1930 when she was 9 years old after having been robbed of gambling money he won, the murder was never solved and he was found in the Dogpatch neighborhood. His passing greatly affected her and she grew up quickly as a result. Her family then moved to Sacramento and around the greater Bay Area, including Modesto. It would be common to have “crackers and milk” to live on throughout the week. Her mother worked 80 hours per week as a beautician. Lana converted to Catholicism during childhood (having been baptized Protestant), and she had aspirations of becoming a nun in San Francisco. Due to her mother’s respiratory issues, they moved to Los Angeles for a drier climate by a doctor’s recommendation.

When Lana was 15, she was spotted by the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter while buying a soda on Sunset Blvd., where she was living at the time. Her mother allowed her to enter the movie industry and she was signed to a contract at Warner Brothers. She later moved onto MGM and worked alongside Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, even testing for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, unfortunately not winning that role. In the 1940s, she acted alongside Judy Garland, where Lana was paid $1,500 per week. They became lifelong friends and lived next door to each other! Some of her famous lovers included Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra.

By 1948, she was one of the highest paid women in the US, being paid over $226,000 per year and the most popular actress at MGM. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1957 for Peyton Place. Her next film, she would earn over $2 million in Imitation of Life. Lana Turner was a Hollywood powerhouse who has not had as much mainstream appeal today. In her personal life, Lana was married seven times. She had one daughter, Cheryl Crane, when aged 14, murdered her mother’s lover, Johnny Stompanato, during a domestic violence altercation in 1958. Johnny worked for the Cohen crime family. Her daughter was not charged. Lana died of throat cancer in 1995, at the age of 74.

In honor of her memory and legacy, Lana Turner is a true Hollywood icon.

Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and Hedy Lamarr

Sources: Wikipedia & YouTube

A Brief History of Mardi Gras

The celebration of “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday,” in the United States originates in New Orleans (NOLA). In Europe, Mardi Gras is known as “Carnevale” in Italy and “Fasching,” in Austria and Germany. In Brazil, the celebration is central to Rio de Janeiro. Across the globe, this extremely festive and costumed celebration is part of preparing for Lent season, which is intended to be a season of little indulgence until Easter. The celebration of Mardi Gras in the United States, in particular, is an emblem of rich community togetherness (I find the subculture of “Krewes” fascinating and how people find yearlong community through that) and a notoriety for endless partying. The Golden Globe winning actress, Patricia Clarkson, is a New Orleans native and has been known to attend the Krewe of Muses in celebration of Mardi Gras.

Aside from celebrity sightings in New Orleans, Mardi Gras there is illustrated by King Cake (a brioche dough cake filled with cinnamon and a lucky baby piece symbolizing baby Jesus – Joe Gambino’s Bakery has been making King Cakes since the 1920s. In Europe, the complimentary concept of King Cake is “Krapfen,” a refined version of the American doughnut), bead catching in the parade, and jazz music. The bead colors are purple, green, and gold, representing justice, faith, and power. The beads can be all colors for decorations, but in New Orleans, the color scheme is primarily purple, green, and gold. Jazz music, according to NPR, the music of “the Crescent City [New Orleans] has provided the thread that ties all these traditions together.” Jazz historian, Michael White, is a New Orleans native and clarinetist who has been playing in a brass band since 1979 and has been continuing a tradition of jazz there for many years. Mardi Gras in New Orleans undoubtedly brings the best to bear of a city rich in history.

The origins of the tradition trace back to Medieval Europe – to Rome and Venice, Italy, and the French House of Bourbons (the city of New Orleans having a deep French history). In New Orleans, “On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras” when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras.” Source Mardi Gras New Orleans. The famous French Quarter of New Orleans on Bourbon Street is where most people know the images of Mardi Gras, with the beautiful iron wrought gates. The Royal Sonesta Hotel of New Orleans is a great option for a French Quarter experience if you visit NOLA.

Perhaps most iconic, wherever you may be when celebrating, is to have a mask. I am a huge fan of Venetian masks and my family and I have always collected them. Find yourself a mask and put one on this Tuesday. As Irish poet Oscar Wilde famous said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth.” That, in a quote, sums up the festivities of Mardi Gras.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

King Cake

Solfeggio Frequencies & Sound Healing

I recently came across the phrase “sound healing.” I had never heard of it before and I am not interested in the world of pseudoscience as I do believe that it is misguiding. However, I did learn that there are scientific studies around sound healing that are quite intriguing in terms of how the brain processes sounds. Ultimately, this can impact our overall health. During the pandemic, I started to meditate more frequently. I focused on how to learn meditation in a way that works for me and I also focused on not “ignoring” the inner voice that comes up while meditating. It’s a common misconception that you completely quiet your mind during meditation. That is definitely far from the truth. Meditation, with practice, enables you to focus and “go within” yourself so that you are able to better focus on what matters most in this life. For me, that has been focusing on honoring my prana (Sanskrit for life energy) and honoring the gift of our life force. Because we are blessed to be alive, I have found meditation to be a tool to improve and clarify the foci of what my I want in my best life.

I am also aware that mindfulness enables us to recognize that we are interconnected in a greater schematic – we are not alone in this universe, everything is interconnected. I do believe that meditation is a highly powerful tool that enables us to manifest the best in our lives, honoring ourselves and others because of it! In the same vein, what we listen to while we meditate impacts us. For me, I have found “Meditative Mind,” to be a highly valuable tool. The website, app, and YouTube channel all offer different sound frequencies to meditate to. I have listened to many of the difference sound frequencies and have found that listening to 417 – 432 Hz is best for me.

I notice myself feeling a deep sense of calm when listening to sounds in the frequency range of 417 – 432 Hz. Everyone is different and Solfeggio frequencies have a range. Listen to your inner voice. Solfeggio Frequencies are powerful. According to Better Sleep, “Solfeggio frequencies relate to specific sounds that promote mind and body health. These frequencies incorporate tones that date back centuries and include sacred music and chants. They were rediscovered in the 1970s by Dr. Joseph Puleo, a physician, and researcher. During his research, he discovered six measurable tones using mathematical numeral reduction. These tones were found to aid healing and balance out the body. Thanks to Puleo’s work bringing the solfeggio frequencies back into public awareness, many scientists after him have discovered more evidence about the positive effects these frequencies can have.” The best frequency to use for sleeping, if you need sound as a sleep aid, is the 417 frequency (below). Explore the range of frequencies and find what sounds best to you (Hz refers to Hertz, which is the unit of measurement named after German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz). Sound healing has become an essential part of my meditative practice and I encourage you to explore what frequency of sound speaks most to you!

Yoga Nidra & Your Dinacharya

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” -John Dryden

In Ayurveda, your most key tool to establishing balance in mind, body, and spirit is through your Daily Routine, or Dinacharya, in Sanskirt. The Dinacharya is a process which is tailored to you and for you, and should be one that you look forward to and ensures that you are adhering to practices that are going to revitalize, energize and balance your being. For me, in establishing this routine, I came across books by Dr. Marc Halpern, who is the Founder of the California College of Ayurveda. This was the first time I stumbled across the term “Yoga Nidra” and I was intrigued thinking it was a physical exercise, but learned it is a meditation. Yoga Nidra has become popular again, but renamed as “NSDR” or “Non-Sleep Deep Rest.” The practice of Yoga Nidra is incredible. It is a meditation that resets your entire nervous system. If you are having insomnia or sleep issues, this practice can enable you to rest and achieve sleep. Yoga Nidra is a holistic practice which can be done in tandem with your healthcare.

“This is self directing a state of calm through respiration and vision.” -Dr. Andrew Huberman

I have learned that Yoga Nidra brings me a deeper sense of calm than I usually achieve through my usual guided meditations (I often like to meditate listening to Boho Beautiful Meditations or Deepak Chopra), but something I have learned while practicing Yoga Nidra in Savasana pose is that my body really quiets down and resets its energy level. Therefore, in my Dinacharya, I usually integrate it as 10 minutes in the early afternoon before I have a coffee etc. It’s a practice that you can integrate into any time of the day, but the idea is that you are focusing on resetting your nervous system and calming down your nervous system, so it’s important to recognize when your are moving too fast throughout your day etc., and when it’s time for a break, even if it’s just 10 minutes.

Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends this practice ideally to be between 20-30 minutes and does not need to be daily. It is most realistic to not engage in this practice daily, but if you are working towards learning more about it and integrating into your Dinacharya, I would say 10 minutes in the early afternoon or later in the day is ideal. A basic overview of my Ayurvedic Dinacharya is the following:

  • Wakeup around 6am (the ideal is when the sun rises)
  • Engage in positive visualization when I wake up (positive visualization is anything that gives you joy – focus on whatever gives you joy as a visual cue)
  • Read a positive affirmation to myself from Miranda Kerr’s Treasure Yourself book
  • 20 minutes of light exercise (I actually love Denise Austin’s AARP workouts – they are really for all ages!) or a few sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) recommended in an Ayurvedic lifestyle by Deepak Chopra
  • 10-15 minutes of meditation
  • Shower / Get Ready
  • Early afternoon – 10 minutes of Yoga Nidra
  • Go to bed around 10pm or earlier

This Dinacharya has been most sustainable for me as I have busy work days and do not find grounding my Dinacharya later in the day as ideal. When adhering to an Ayurvedic lifestyle, it’s especially important to be mindful of the time of day and how your body naturally reacts because of the time of day it is. For example, going on more vigorous walks by noon time is great. The idea is that you are centering your health in the most holistic way possible. Health becomes a priority in a mind, body, spirit sort of way. While studying Ayurveda, I have learned that the topics are so vast, it makes sense to find yourself gravitating to a few topics in particular. For me, that has been studying meditation and Yoga Nidra. In my next blog post, I’ll be writing about the impacts that Solfeggio Frequencies have on the body whilst meditating.

Yoga Nidra, by definition, is “a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, typically induced by guided meditation.” (Wikipedia). Its origin story includes a Goddess named Yoganidra, and she would appear in the Hindu text “Devi Mahatmaya.” In the modern age, neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Huberman, of the Huberman Lab at Stanford University has been promoting the benefits of this practice on podcasts, which I think is a fantastic way to revitalize an ancient practice. Scientifically, Dr. Huberman states that a regular practice of this meditation increases brain plasticity (neuroplasticity) by 50%, which means you can learn and learn a lot much faster. You are rewiring circuitry in states of deep rest. Ultimately, you’re only benefitting your health in every way possible with this practice! Dr. Andrew Huberman’s lab website is a great tool for learning more about the scientific benefits of this practice. It is common to rest at the end of a Vinyasa yoga routine in Savasana pose. Recognizing the power of this pose in how it enables you to calm your entire nervous system gives you a stronger sense of autonomy over your rest and relaxation.

Aesthetics Trends + Style Going Into 2023

The Balletcore aesthetic as shown in this Rodarte advertisement for Fall 2022.

2022 was a complicated year – the world has seen increasingly complex issues surfacing and it is intriguing to see how social issues and awareness of them (or escaping of) are reflected back into fashion and style. Something noteworthy, especially in what is reflected across social media, was the emergence of trends such as Y2K, Barbiecore, and Balletcore. These trends are a definite combination of nostalgia and escapism, which is clearly indicative of larger societal themes in my opinion. I think the aesthetic loudness of Barbiecore indicates an aspiration of “being seen,” which is the entire idea of people involving themselves in social media for the most part. The aesthetic absurdness of these styles is actually pretty fabulous, too (Margot Robbie dressed as a Barbie cowgirl is probably the best outfit of 2022, albeit a film costume).

The emergence of these trends in mainstream adult fashion brands is also intriguing because it speaks to the timelessness of certain fashions and fashion icons and how they continue to be recycled through the years (Barbie will never go out of style). In 2022, the trends of Y2K, Barbiecore, and Balletcore all defined how women are rethinking their own sense of style and how small accessory changes can have a big impact. For example, the classic retail store Claire’s (typically geared towards the youngest shopper) has revamped many of their jewelry and accessories line to be adult friendly. 2022 presented an opportunity to reconsider kitsch style as real fashion in a new and fresh way and there were many avenues to proceed with. Of the styles that we saw this past year and going into next, I am most appreciative of Y2K style with Hawaiian beach style accessories. There is something so joyful about bright colors in small doses.

Additionally, I think there is nothing wrong with being ultra feminine if you want to be and this year’s fashion theme reflected that idea strongly. 2023 will likely carry many of these themes again and I am looking forward to that!

See this list for some accessories that defined the style of this year and will likely define most of 2023:

Two of my favorite accessories: Wildflower Cases limited edition dolphin case & charm; SHEIN’s flower hair claw in Watermelon Pink

Claire’s 20MM hoop earrings and Erin Condren Colorblends A5 Softbound LifePlanner

Margot Robbie in costume for the live action Barbie film this year.

Y2K style has dominated fast fashion brands this year such as SHEIN, REVOLVE, and Fashion Nova.

The Consistent Charm of Nancy Drew

Without a doubt, the mystery book series of Nancy Drew is prolific – and repetitive, but still prolific. The independent spirit that Nancy Drew has and her general fearless pursuit of justice is something that feels uniquely American. Nancy Drew, without a doubt, is a literary icon – she has remained popular since her original release in 1930 to boot. This holiday season, you may think about gifting a set of 10 Nancy Drew mysteries to a family member… or more. I am currently on #23 and I am not quite sure how I have read 23 of these mysteries… they truly start blending together after #15. In truth, the reason why it’s so comforting to read this many mysteries of a similar predictable format is that the formula of the story is predictable, yet the content of the mystery is different each time, which is the most enticing part of reading more than 10 of these mysteries. So, if you dare, perhaps reading past #10 of the Nancy Drew mystery books is a great way to occupy yourself this upcoming holiday break.

Nancy Drew’s ability to “get to the bottom” of the mystery at hand is adorably predictable, but the nuance which makes these mysteries continue to appeal for generations on end is the truth that mysteries are all around us. We should give ourselves the opportunity to open our eyes in our everyday surroundings which can sometimes become so very routine. We should let ourselves be willing to not be ignorant of our immediate communities, of our neighbors, and that caring for those around us in whatever way we can is one of the “coolest” things we can do.

Nancy’s ability to stay consistent is possibly the most inspiring part of this book series. And beyond her character, it is worth noting that an English major from Iowa, Mildred Wirt Benson is “Carolyn Keene,” and that Mildred’s development of the character is also a great piece of Americana and Midwestern history. The actual setting for Nancy Drew’s town remains a bit of a mystery (a suburb of Ohio; a small town in Vermont… all contenders), but it’s more likely that Nancy is based in either Iowa or Ohio because Mildred lived in Ohio for most of her life. There have been a number of pop culture portrayals of Nancy, and none of them have gotten it quite right, but I think there is still time to develop a film that could give Nancy the true credit she deserves as a character who is an American icon. The archives of the University of Iowa have compiled together an overview of Mildred’s life, and it is fascinating to ponder how much of Nancy’s spirit is infused with Mildred’s own zest for life.

Holiday Gift Guide 2022

Each year, it remains an absolute joy to think about larger themes of the past year in terms of aesthetic trends and also harmonizing lifestyle interests within the context of the world we are currently living in. There has been a strong wellness interest in my life in the past year, which has influenced how I approached putting together this year’s list. Hopefully, this end of year season will enable you to stay grounded and remember that spending time with loved ones is the ultimate gift of them all.

With love and gratitude,


Beauty: Benefit Cosmetics Gift Sets



Peter Pauper Press: The Universe & Gilded Tree of Life Notebooks


Yoga Mat + Bolster by Gaiam

For Him

Bombas Men’s Gripper Slippers + Etsy Obsidian Bracelet For Men

A Brief History of Ondine, A Ballet

“Ondine is a fairy of the water… she is as pure as the water is… she comes out looking for love.”

Ondine is a ballet in three acts by Sir Frederick Ashton and composer Hans Werner Henze. Its original production for the Royal Ballet was in 1958 (there was a production as early as 1843, by Jules Perrot, and this was noted by Ashton in 1958 that he was inspired by Perrot). There are many famous ballets that we all know of such as Swan Lake. However, Ondine, is most certainly an underrated gem in the ballet world and should be put into production more often. The choreographer is credited with establishing a distinctly “English style of ballet.” I am most fascinated by how this ballet explores the fluidity of movement and inspires one to think about how the human body connects to the natural elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space), in particular pushing our ideas around water, femininity, and human expression through fluid bodily movements.

The concepts explored in this ballet are unique characterizations of the ballet world itself. For example, the character of Ondine is not an easy one to portray – she is complex and translating complex characters into dance is never a simple task. The ballet was adapted from a novella titled Undine be German writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouque, and it tells the tale of a water nymph who is the object of desire by a young prince named Palemon. A revival of this ballet took place in 1988. This ballet should be revived once again.

Particularly noteworthy is the composition of the music of this ballet. Nothing about the rhythm is too predictable or stable, which feels reminiscent of the way the seas can be and how the nature of the sea can change quickly. English prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, below, played the title role and the ballet was choreographed specially for her. Between 1958 and 1966, nearly every performance by the Royal Ballet saw Fonteyn reprise this role. There is something beautiful about her willingness to repeat this ballet over and over again, as it must have been emotionally intense to engage with expressing the character so often. Fonteyn is a true ballet idol. She was appointed prima ballerina assoluta by Queen Elizabeth II.

Today, Ondine should be reprised by ballet companies around the world. The character “bears a resemblance to The Little Mermaid,” and it is worth noting that this ballet was revived in 1988, one year before the Disney film was released. We are seeing continuous tropes in popular culture which involve water, fluidity, and the nature of the human spirit. If we continue to build a cultural understanding of the veracity of our connection to nature and our spirit, perhaps through elevating art such as this ballet, we can have imagery to remind us of just how deeply connected nature is to the human spirit.

Ondine potrayed by famous English ballerina Margot Fonteyn in 1958

An illustration portraying Jules Perrot’s first production of Ondine, which took place in July 1851.

Source: Wikipedia

The Idyllic Charm of Solvang, CA

I am a native Californian and only stumbled across hearing about this town in Santa Barbara County while watching the iconic 2004 film, Sideways, by Alexander Payne. A small town with a population of 5,000, Solvang has been known as a “Danish village” because of its distinctive Danish architecture. It is also known for its wineries. Founded in 1911, the town has a museum dedicated to Hans Christen Andersen, the author of The Little Mermaid. Between 1850 and 1930, a considerable number of Danes left Denmark for economic reasons and these Danes who settled across the US were specifically Danish Lutherans. In 1911, Solvang was founded by purchasing 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant.

In the film Sideways, scenes in Solvang are most notable in a restaurant where one of the main characters (played by Paul Giamatti) has a burgeoning relationship with a waitress named Maya, whom he initially looks down upon, but is actually studying horticulture and waitressing on the side, played by Virginia Madsen. The restaurant featured is still open today in the downtown area (aptly named Solvang Restaurant) and you can feel right at home with the completely fascinating world of Sideways. Additionally, in the neighboring town of Buellton, you can stay at the renamed “Sideways Inn” (formerly known as the Windmill Inn which is mentioned in the film). The town is only a 10 minute drive away from Solvang. California is certainly filled with wonderful destinations to serve all tastes and any sort of adventures you seek. I think Solvang is a forgotten treasure and it’s a bit like a real life Disneyland, too.