23 March 2017

Magic-making, wave-riding and other stuff

Thank you. Thank you for all your thoughts on Instagram. I solved my little unproblem by removing two thirds of the account's followers, keeping the ones I know and/or trust, and then set it to private. It feels much better. Less like I've thrown open the doors and windows of my house and invited randoms to set up cameras where they like. Now I can start to think about a public, project-based account.

It's March, isn't it? And for me that always means a touch of the mad hare. I can easily leap from Winter's dreamy, contemplative ways to 'OMIGOD I have the best 25 ideas EVER!'. If I look back through my blogs to posts I've written at this time, firstly, many of them will be written on a relatively new blog, and secondly, they will be all about how I've found The Thing and I'm dedicating the rest of my life to it. For realz tho. For ever. Then by about June, as Summer's lazy #Can'tBeArsed to do anything but relax and enjoy the outdoors feeling hits, I'm over it and feeling a) guilty, b) ashamed and c) another step down into the pit of worthlessness that comes with repeatedly failure.

Happy days. But at least I'm aware, right?!

So I'm going to attempt to avoid long posts about what I'm [not actually] doing. I'm going to try to direct my March crazy towards staying on the path I've been slowly exploring since the beginning of the year. I'm going to try to make some magic that's grounded. Yes dear Reader, I'm going to attempt self-discipline. Hey, stop sniggering at the back. 

I've no doubt that I will spin off now and then. Sorry. My sensitivity to these energies has long been something with which I have a love/hate relationship; to the point of medication. But that's gone. Time to learn how to ride the wave.


14 March 2017

Pretty pictures


Because I haven't been able to choose between two post topics, I haven't written anything. 'Write both and save one', ya say? Pah. Far too simple.

Anyway, I've mused on the subject of bringing your body - not just your mind - back into the moment, because it's becoming my favourite, most effective way to get past random anxiety. Mused. Not written. Yet. Instead I being you...Instagram!

Instagram is 'my favourite and my best'. The micro-blogging aspect with longer captions...great. The new 'like a comment' feature and it. Stories...not really got to grips with that yet but I watch other people's. A simple picture with a couple of words...yes.

I follow about 600 people and although, thanks to the backworkery, I don't get to see all of them all the time, I do see most. I follow friends, acquaintances, a couple of family members, lots of dogs and their people, rescue organisations, plant-based people, podcasters, artists, bloggers and even a couple of 'influencers'. And Alan Cumming because it feels as if he's all those things in one person. I see pictures that range from my nephew with his underpants on his head (he's two) to swoon-inducing, perfectly curated galleries.

I do not follow people who use Instagram to lie, using smoke and mirrors. If you lie to me on something as trivial as Instagram, my experience is that you lie about more important things too and I don't have time for that nonsense. But even though we might fall for this stuff at first, I think over time it becomes apparent that something is just a bit 'off'.

My irritation with that used to make me over-reactive to anything that wasn't just 'messy 'n' real', lovely photography, or a good caption. Then I started to appreciate the work going into curating a good gallery. At first it was with the dog accounts I follow. Some are so beautifully shot, matched with good captions and maintain a really high standard. Much better than my higgledy piggledy mix of good and bad photos (HE MOVED!) with hastily tapped in captions.

I hated real hashtags used to gain likes and follows. But why? Instagram is a social platform built on connection. Why would you use it and hide, unless you're keeping your account private? It's like writing a book, sealing it, and then putting an entirely blank cover on it.

Somewhere along the line I came across Sara Tasker at Me and Orla. Her Instagram is not only stylish and beautiful, but she's also a very likeable person who's great at passing on her expertise. I read her blog, downloaded her free resources and now I listen to her podcast. It's fun and inspiring, not just for would-be influencers but for anyone wanting to create something beautiful.

Not gonna lie, it's made me really want to try out building a curated gallery on Instagram. As a creative project. I've been in love with blogging for so long - right down to the techy side - that this feels like a natural extension. And it gets me really excited which is also a sign.

Over the last couple of months I tried setting up separate accounts for trying this out but neither really grabbed me (I already have an account for endless pics of my dogs but that's different). There's a school of thought that says, if you want to up your Instagram game, stay with your existing account and show the evolution. Also, who scrolls that far back on other people's accounts? ( actually, but that's not the point) But that doesn't sit well with me.

I stepped back and tool a mental look at my feed (sorry Mel) and suddenly I was wondering why exactly I even do it! A handful of friends aside, why do I feel the need to show pictures of my daily life to complete strangers? It's bizarre! I started to feel a bit icky about it. Not because of privacy issues but just because who cares? Who cares what my garden looks like or the inside of a tattoo studio I'm sitting in on a random Tuesday? (See: the screen grab above.) Who cares what I'm doing day in, day out? And why?

I'm still sitting with that one. I'm open to either shutting it down, going private (as can be with 500+ people already in) or even just carrying on as I am. I just need to think it through and decide. I might even keep a 'record of my days' account that's uncurated and just 'here's today..what are you up to?' but only send invites to people I think of as friends. I like taking photos on my phone. I like sharing them. I love to see what my friends are up to each day, how their kids and dogs and cats are, what they've just seen that made them go ,'OH!'. It's the sharing. I just need to dial in on with whom I am sharing. Does that makes sense?

Meanwhile, I fully intend to start a curated gallery to play with. I'm fascinated by the thought of tones and feel and aesthetic. By choosing things that fit and not throwing everything into the soup. With telling a story, not throwing mud at a wall. I believe there's a lot of skill involved and I want to learn. Most of all it's fun. I'm building secret Pinterest inspiration boards and giving some serious time each day to exploring Instagram beyond my usual circles.

So that's my Instagram story for today. Ha. It just hit me that I could stick with the one I have but develop it in a new direction, then start another day-today, personal one and just invite the people I feel safe having there. Yeah. I think that's it.

Do you use Instagram? I think most of you do. How do you feel about curated feeds? Do you have any favourites? I might do a post listing mine.


21 February 2017


When I hit publish on that last post, magic happened. Ha. But no, something special did happen. First, I felt an immediate opening. A falling into place of something I'd shut out. In fact I almost came back and rewrote it before deciding that no, it was a good marker for me. Next, I got private messages, emails, and the wonderful comments left here and on Instagram. Some of them surprising.

I wrote that post in a hurry. It was a tentative step into exploring something but obviously it was trivial. I mean, I've never actually believed that witches are like Willow or Piper, I was writing about popular culture's take on the subject and how it served to bring witches back into the open for my generation.

Fictional witches are often all about the magic. Then and now. Magic that conjures and changes, makes miracles in a puff of smoke. Wands, cauldrons, spells. For me, real witches are something else. Something that changes with geography but holds within it earth medicine. A sister to shamanism.

I've received emails from friends and acquaintances who have family witches in living memory. I don't. Although, it occurred to me, I do have an uncle on one side (no longer earthside) who was a "wolf-loving pagan" (his words), and another on the other side who by his 60s (he's now 80) was, to the absolute amazement of all who had ever met younger him, a Reiki Master who imported crystals for a living! Interesting that it should be the men who were open about this stuff. But not surprising.

As for the women, I know very little about them. My dear sister-aunt is of course a very spiritual, earth-loving plantswoman like her mother before her. Green fingers, thumbs and toes, both of them. But I've no known blood claim to wise women or healers.

That said, I'm the product of these islands and I'm very aware of the earth that built me, physically and spiritually. It's been a life-long love affair with Nature, my true comfort zone, that has got me to this place where I can confidently build my home in Witchery.

It's the land, the plants, the other animals, the weather, the spirits, the intuition, the fixing, the healing, the feminism, the wholeness, the ritual, the 'superstition', the edges and the ways. And there's so much more to say but I had to come and keep this moving. More soon.


17 February 2017

The W Word

Let's talk about Witches. It's a popular topic these days. I'm noticing that I have a strong reaction to how younger women are using the word and I'm curious about why that is. I have a great respect for words and names, I believe they have their own power (although I'm not sure if I think this is a good or bad thing), so I try to be careful about how I use them.

My first version of Witch was the typical childhood fairy tale bad gal. The black pointy hat, the hooked nose, wild hair, broom, cat, and warts. Always the warts. I was given a Pelham puppet when I was about five - love those things - and it was this one. I was never quite clear on why she had green skin but the rest of it I accepted without question. Remember, this was in the days before The Blessed Jo Rowling and all who followed in her footsteps, making Witches and Wizards cool for little kids.

Later I learned more about the terrible hunts of the 17th Century and my internal image of a Witch became more that of a persecuted wise woman who was 'probably just a herbalist', and more than likely 'a bit gobby'. Next up, in my New Age years, was an awareness of Wicca and the feeling that only practitioners of that should be called Witches. This was happily superimposed with the wondrousness of the Buffyverse, The Craft, Charmed and (*puts hand on heart* *sighs*) Practical Magic.

I discovered the concept of hedgewitchery only in the last few years and found that I could really identify with it. I've dabbled in various versions of earthcentric faiths and practices but always ended up going solo and patching together my own way, so hedgewitchery kinda fits. I have a 'We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn*' t-shirt and when I wear it, I mean it.

Ack tho. 'Witch'. Does that not make me sound like some teen emo who likes to play dress-up and drone on about how 'different' she is, along with a dozen friends who look exactly the same? I just recoil from it because grow up.

But I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of the more spiritual of them are hosted, and guested, by women who are anything from 20 to maybe 32, 33. Their experience with the word Witch is different. Not to say they aren't aware of the history because mostly they are well-read, intelligent women who are curious about their roots, but it's just different. Maybe it's the post-New Age culture. The way the world is more open to the esoteric and what used to be 'alternative'. It's no longer something to be hidden; it's cool. And suddenly everyone's a Witch. Meditate? Witch. Like plants? Witch. Essential oils? Witch. Believe in spirit? Witch. Candles? Witch. Yesterday I heard someone describe Jesus as 'The Grand Poobah of Witches".

My knee jerk reaction was WTF? (That's pretty much my 'go to' reaction for anything these days.) Then I caught myself and asked why. The word Witch has evolved and if young women are reclaiming and celebrating it, is that wrong? Of course not.

I'm still not ready to embrace it myself though, however fitting it may be. I bought domains based on hedgewitch. Can't bring myself to use them. I love the whole hedge/edge thing with all my tree-hugging heart and I'm very comfortable there but the W word? Not yet. Maybe never. It just feels disrespectful on the one hand, and childish on the other. I wish it didn't. Also, if I'm as honest as I promised I would be, I feel excluded (by myself) because I'm not young and hot anymore. I don't look like the Instagram Witches. I know that's crazy, but it's true.

Do you have feelings and/or experience around identifying as a Witch? Have you found your way into peace with it? I'd love to know your thoughts.


*Pedantics Corner: when people rewrite that as 'We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren't able to burn' it makes me want to scream. READ IT OUT LOUD. Where's the rhythm?! Oy. I know. I'm that petty.

7 February 2017

From the heart

Back in the winter of 2011 we were struggling. We didn't know, thankfully, that the struggle would get deeper and harder until we hit the infamous 'rock bottom' from which we all hope we'll bounce, should we hit it. I was holding on to my part-time job, post-economic crash, and looking for anything else I could find to fill in the gaps. In a local free paper I spotted a little ad saying that a person was needed to help look after some dogs. Phone number. So I rang and arranged an interview for the following week.

Come the day, wearing smartish (as in, clean) clothes that didn't look too much as if they'd be ruined by muddy paws, or that I'd care if they were, I found my way to a beautiful, big country house. The owners, a very elderly gentleman and his son, showed me to the study where we could talk. They were lovely. We talked about dogs. Then they told me that the dogs' number one human, their own wife and mother, had passed away the day before. We were all very stiff upper lip - although I tend to let the side down with watery eyes on occasions like these because heartbreak - and I was reminded that the older generation of the British upper class simply doesn't talk about 'this sort of thing'. Or perhaps, more likely, they were still in shock. I've been there.

A week later I returned to start my new job. Every Tuesday I'd visit the seven Beagles, bath a couple, groom a couple, and clean/hose their kennels and yard. I also got to play, cuddle and generally make a fuss of them.

It transpired that their late owner was Someone Big in Beagles. She was a nationally respected breeder and had judged championships all over the country, including Crufts. She had also been instrumental in setting up the Beagle welfare organisation in the days before such concerns were a given.

The thing is, because us humans were virtual strangers and I didn't want to intrude on what was profound grief, we simply never spoke about her. We talked about the dogs, my life and family. We shared an interest in environmental and conservation issues so we'd talk about that. Most of the time it was just me and the dogs. What I learned about her, Google told me. Photographs all over the house, of a stunning woman, showed me her face. She was clearly, going by Google facts alone, awesome. But we still never speak of her. The family does, obviously, but I don't.

The seven dogs - six female, one male - were the tail end of a dynasty. There had been, at one time, more than 40, virtually all of them Champions. I'm all about the rescue when it comes to dogs and I'm no fan of breeders. Nor do I like what showing has done to breeds over the years. That said, the Beagle - thanks in no small part to the role played by the woman whose dogs I was caring for - has stayed true to original type, strong and healthy. And there's no doubt that the dogs I was working with were wonderful and so very loved.

However, they were hard work for the family and slowly the difficult decision to rehome the younger ones was made. Three left home to new (known and trusted) families, sending regular tales of adventures and destroyed furniture (these are Beagles, after all) via their carers, and I was left with four charges. The eldest, already 14 years old, passed away in her sleep about a year after I started. Then my boy, Flyer as he was known at home, passed away about three years ago. So nowadays it's just me and the adorable mother and daughter pair that's left. Somewhere along the line I started visiting monthly, rather than weekly. The family moved home. I stopped needing the work years ago but somehow couldn't leave, so here I am...six years on.

This last weekend I visited and found that the elder of the two dogs, Plum, had been a bit under the weather. She was off her food, and her people thought perhaps it was a tooth problem. She was also being a bit clingy and inclined to snap at her daughter. Usually Plum is the gentlest of dogs so it was all a bit 'off'. A gentle exploration and massage along her jaw, then looking at and touching her teeth showed no problems there. Her eyes and ears were no different and she was comfortable with me feeling along her legs and feet, and doing a few other checks. And yet she wasn't right. She was pushing her head into me and just leaning. 

Reiki can be really helpful in this kind of situation, so as I dried her from her bath I kept one hand over her heart and slipped into a Reiki space. It's a kind of meditation 'bubble' into which you invite whoever it is you're working with. Animals will often choose to experience it from afar, flopping down to rest on the other side of the room, stable or even field. Distance isn't an issue. Others really enjoy close touch. I stood with Plum for a moment and just took deep breaths, centring myself and visualising a white light around us. And then I started to cry. Just like that. Out of the blue.

The feeling of sadness was overwhelming, truly a wave. I 'felt' Plum as she said to me,"I'm sad. I'm very sad. I miss her. I wish I could be with her again."

Obviously I knew who she was talking about and as I comforted Plum and continued to hold us in the Reiki space, I remembered that this week marks the anniversary of her human mother's passing.

At coffee break I shared that I (as a non-veterinary person) couldn't find any physical discomfort in Plum. I didn't want to start a conversation about Reiki and grief so I just added lightly,"She does seem sad though. Perhaps she just wants some extra cuddles."

The son, who is a lovely man and very insightful - met this with a few moments' silence. Then, apparently changing the subject, he said,"Oh by the way, my father is in talks with the Beagle Club about having a section of their annual publication dedicated to people who've played an important role in the past." I'm glad that he also made the connection.

Clearly, Plum had been hearing conversations about her late human as the anniversary of her passing came around. No wonder she was sad. No wonder she was seeking closeness and affection. 

This is not the first time that Reiki has opened doors to something else for me. It's not an aspect of Reiki that you pick up images or thoughts or anything else, it's just not about that, and yet it seems to allow me to find a frequency (for want of a better word) where this is possible. It's never been this strong though. This direct and almost audible. 

I spent a couple of days wondering what to do with it. Trying to unravel what happened and see if it was just coincidence, just a thought, but it wasn't. It was Plum, sharing her sadness with me. I have no doubt about that.

So maybe this is something I need to explore. To try here at home with my dogs. It might seem strange that I haven't already done this but to be honest, I've always been a bit skeptical about animal communication. I'm skeptical about most things but always open to persuasion. I've never tried to talk on this level with my dogs because a) I think I read them pretty well non-verbally, and b) I'm scared they're going to tell me they hate me and want to call the RSPCA. Ha. But I think sweet Plum's openness was a gift in more ways than one. I owe her.