Sea Us Now & Black Beach Culture

Photo from Sea Us Now

As a Virgo Sun and Taurus Rising, my astrology is deep into the earth. That may explain why I love my plant babies so much!

But some of the best times in my life take place near water. Not long ago, I learned that I’m a Scorpio Moon, which adds some water to my chart. Growing up on the East Coast may have a lot to do with it too. Living in Quincy, Massachusetts, I’m just a couple of miles from the beach. When I open the windows in the summer and the wind blows just right, I can smell the salty air — one of my favorite scents.

There was a pool in the apartment complex where I grew up, so I swam a lot. I loved doing handstands under water and playing Marco Polo. I lounged by the pool almost everyday during the summers and played ping-pong in the cabana. As children, my brother and I took swimming lessons at the local college. Our parents brought us to the beach for picnics and lots of swim time on the Cape. As a young teenager, I even went to marine science camp.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized many considered it unusual for African Americans to swim. When you think about movies showing beach culture, often focused on surfing, someone like me usually isn’t there. But things are changing.

On Instagram, I found a group of Black women surfers calling themselves Textured Waves. Their website describes who they are and their goal.

Textured Waves [w]as created to propagate the culture and sport of women[‘]s surfing towards women of color and underrepresented demographics through representation, community and sisterly camaraderie. We value integrity, inclusion and advocating diversity in the water.

In the early summer, Textured Waves premiered a short film called Sea Us Now, which was created in collaboration with Seea, a progressive women’s surf brand. The film itself is extremely short, but the conversation around it is fascinating and worth watching.

It reminded me of the importance of creating something for the future. Documenting that yes, Black women surfers are out there enjoying life right now. Their existence shows a roadmap for the next generation. The conversation alludes to the precarious history of African Americans and water. Our African ancestors were brought to this country in ships. Many suffered horrifying deaths at sea and those who lived witnessed it. There is also a strong history of racial discrimination at public swimming pools in this country. If we look at the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, even our drinking water is harmful. African Americans have ancestral and current trauma involving water that needs healing.

The joy of Sea Us Now starts that aquatic healing. It feels like a daydream. The women of Textured Waves in colorful bathing suits catching the waves. The sound of moving water, peaceful music and driving in a vintage car by the seashore. Carrying their surfboards. Palm trees and ice cream. Short vignettes of style, beauty and warm weather. Flowering trees blowing in the breeze along with their natural hair. Sisterhood. A carefree afternoon. Time for reflection and dreaming. The gift of exercise on the beach. Black health and wellness.

They describe the film as “a re-imagining of our history with the coastline and the sea” and “a love letter to our past and our future.”

If you want to skip right to the film, it starts a little after 25 minutes and goes until almost 30 minutes. But I do hope you watch the conversation.

It’s quite striking that the timing of the film’s release was in the midst of the protests after George Floyd’s death. Watching the video of his murder made me physically hurt. This film is like a balm for the body and soul. In the midst of everything, we can still find happiness and peace. We always have. That’s how we’ve survived.

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Screenshot: YouTube

Fruits & Vegetables: USPS Forever Stamps

At no other time have I been more concerned about the USPS. The Postmaster General is seemingly trying to destroy it from within and the timing is especially harmful. The pandemic isn’t going away any time soon and the most important election of our lives is just weeks away. Reliable mail delivery is paramount.

I certainly can’t save the Postal Service on my own. None of us can individually. But each of us can support it in tiny ways. How? Make a few purchases from the post office.

When you really think about it, it’s so cool that we have a choice of different stamps. They’re colorful and pretty and whimsical. They don’t need to be. A stamp could be quite utilitarian. But we’re provided choices of new ones on a regular basis — practical pieces of art celebrating American culture.

Back in 2014, the Celebrity Chef stamps were a favorite of mine, along with the Farmers Markets stamps. Now, you can purchase USPS Farmers Markets Notecards, which include the stamps. They’re a nice gift for yourself or someone else.

I’ve never bought notecards from the Post Office, but I will in the future. However, I did recently purchase two books of the new Fruits and Vegetables stamps. They’re so pretty!

The stamp designs that we’ve known and loved over the years were created under the direction of USPS art director Derry Noyes. Noyes was interviewed for an article on Artsy, where she explains the process.

It all begins with the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC)—a 12-person panel composed of historians, educators, designers, and others who determine the subjects for each year’s crop of stamps. (Noyes actually served on the committee herself for several years, before transitioning to art direction in the early 1980s.) Their goal, she said, is ‘to pick a broad spectrum that reflects American history, pop culture, people, events—to try to get a good balance for each year.’ …

The stamp-making process typically lasts between two and four years, Noyes said, though it can go on for much longer—particularly if legal issues arise. During this time, the four USPS art directors meet monthly to discuss their ongoing projects and critique one another’s work. Eventually, they share their work with the CSAC to see if they like the direction. The committee eventually votes to approve the final stamp designs, which then must be approved by the postmaster general before they can be released. ‘Unlike a fine artist working for him or herself, doing whatever they feel like, this is a real team effort,’ Noyes said.

While most of us don’t send as much mail as we used to, we still do every once in a while. So buy some stamps that light you up, so the next time you send some snail mail, you’ll spark some joy in the simplest of ways.

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Photo Credit: USPS

Massachusetts License Plate MV 1

Massachusetts License Plate MV 1

If you’re driving around on the roads of New England, you might want to lookout for Massachusetts license plate MV 1.

What is it about us in the Bay State, that makes us obsessed with low number license plates? I’ve never had one, but always notice them and wonder about the owners. These plates are prized family heirlooms passed from one generation to the next.

Well, apparently the generation passing didn’t happen for the MV 1 license plate. Because this past Sunday, some lucky person bought it. The Vineyard Gazette reports that it was purchased via live auction for $46,500.00.

Celebrities are no strangers to the Vineyard and Seth Meyers, who was visiting with family, hosted the Zoom event. He joked that the winner of the plate would still need to make a ferry reservation and that motorists should acknowledge them.

Be sure to say thank you — maybe two polite honks. But this is New England . . . so if they cut you off, feel free to give them the middle finger.

Most of the proceeds go to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, so the money raised will do a lot of good, which I had no idea until now. It’s nice to know that these vanity plates benefit people in need.

So if you play the license plate game, you might want to add a twist and focus on low number plates.

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Image: Possible Dreams 2020

Make Your Own Reed Diffuser

reed diffuser

Being someone who appreciates food and an abundance of flavors, it’s no surprise that I have a strong sense of smell. I enjoy scented soaps, lotions, perfumes and often burn incense and scented candles.

A few months ago, I remember seeing some very pretty reed diffusers at a small pop-up shop. They were somewhat pricey and I wondered how well they actually worked. Would the scent really permeate my whole apartment like a candle or incense?

Then a few days ago, I saw an Instagram post with some simple instructions on how to make my own reed diffuser. I realized that I already had all the items necessary to make one. So why not give it a go?

About an hour ago, I made my own. It took about 15 minutes, which includes the time it took to empty a spice bottle and remove the label.

I probably used a little more than the recommended 25 drops of essential oil. Don’t! I shouldn’t have. I had removed the stopper from one of the bottles, so it spilled out. The smell is actually a bit too strong now.

Next time I’ll be more careful with measuring and will play around with the different scents. It does smell good though and will fade over time. Plus, I like the look of it.

This cost me nothing to make, because I already had everything at home, so I’m glad that I didn’t spend money buying one. The markup is incredible.

So if you like making things and already have most of the ingredients at home, do it yourself and save the $25 or more for something else. Below is what I used, based on the post from Wandering Wild Home.

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DIY Reed Diffuser

Small glass bottle with a smaller opening at the top – spice bottles work perfectly.
7  bamboo skewers
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 T vodka – I only had vanilla vodka, but it worked fine.
25 drops of essential oil – I used 5 drops eucalyptus, 10 drops orange, about 12 drops vanilla.

Mix the oil and vodka in a tiny bowl. Then mix in the essential oils. Use a funnel to pour the mixture into the bottle. Put the skewers in and you’re done! Flip the reeds when you want a stronger smell.