"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce

All material on SHIMMERCASTDREAMS copyright of Marie Bruce and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

IVORY TOWER; Winter Is Coming...

Every snow queen deserves her own ice palace.

If you have been following my work for some years you will be aware that the dark season is my favourite time of year.  I love autumn and winter; these magical seasons that glow and gleam in turn, then fade into early darkness and twinkling black skies.  

As a child I used to wish I could find a way to make winter last longer, to make the amber tones of autumn linger on. As an adult I found that I could use my home to achieve this, to give me the lasting essence of the dark season, all year round.  If you saw the At Home shoot I did with Spirit&Destiny a while ago you will have noticed that I have a thing for decorative trees and leaves - the kind designed to hold candles and tealights.  I suppose part of me just wants to live in the middle of a forest, like witches do in fairytales, and I have brought that vision to life in my home decor with the accessories I own.   

Recently though I've been wanting to crank up the wintry aspects of my indoor enchanted woodland.  I want to bring in the shimmering light of a snowy day and the silver frost of a winter forest.  So I've been collecting things over the past few months - soft furnishings, trinkets, ornaments etc - keeping them all to one side until I have everything I need to make the transformation. Yesterday I went shopping for a few more bits and I am almost ready to bring the spirit of winter into my home, to sit alongside the iron trees and leaf men of autumn that already live here.

I bought some lovely cream voile panels that have silver metallic trees on them; new cream faux suede curtains; and crystal drop tie backs that look like ice.  These will really brighten the windows and make the whole room look different.  I also got new scatter cushions, cream with a silvery winter tree design. To go with these I got a soft silver faux fur throw, that looks similar to wolf fur and it just reminded me of Winterfell in Game of Thrones, so I had to have that. 

My main purchases yesterday were a couple of very special things; first of all I added to my winter tree collection - I already have a 5ft tree candle stand, a large tree wall sconce and a 3-fold silver leaf screen - yesterday I bought a silver branch wall sconce, that 'grows' out sideways. You can see trees that grow horizontally up on the Yorkshire Moors due to the high winds, and Emily Bronte makes reference to them in her novel, so whenever I see a horizontal tree it always makes me think of Wuthering Heights and my home county.  This silver branch has six cups to hold tealights and fixes to a wall.  It's very pretty and sparkly and goes well with the other trees. 

The last big item I bought was a huge picture of a silver-birch forest in winter. It is all silver and frosted and it has silver thread woven through the canvas, so it glimmers like sunlight on snow, which is exactly what I wanted.  It looks stunning against the cream wall -wintry but not cold and I am delighted with it. I can't stop looking at it, it's just so pretty and unusual. It's like a magical winter forest has been framed and preserved and now lives in my house! So my little woodland is growing and expanding and I love it! 

To add to the winter enchantment I have also been collecting silver stags on my visits to Scotland and I got some as gifts for Christmas too. I have them in all sizes, dotted around the room and they lend a sense of Celtic magic. Stags are the power animal of the pagan horned god Cernnunos or Herne the Hunter; they remind me of my time in the Highlands and the real live stags I have befriended there, so I wanted to have a lovely collection of pretty silver stags, sparkling around my home, to honor that connection. 

This weekend was all about shopping for the final bits and pieces; next weekend is when I plan to complete the transformation and hang the curtains and picture, put out all the soft furnishings and arrange the silver stags.  It is going to look like a whimsical winter wonderland, like Narnia, and I really cannot wait to get it all done so I can enjoy my very own silver winter forest, all year round. It is going to be beautiful - an Ice Palace for an Ice Maiden. 

Yes...Winter is coming...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Outlander Obsessed!

I must confess that I am a little late to the Outlander fan party and it's a recent discovery to me.  I got the Series 1 DVD box set for my birthday last November and it was a case of instant obsession. I love tales of Scottish history and romance and as I enjoyed the series so much, I knew I had to read the books, so I've just bought the first three in the series; Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.  I started reading book 1 this weekend and I'm loving it so far.

Outlander tells the story of Claire Randell, a WW2 military nurse, who stumbles through a portal back in time to Jacobite Scotland in 1743.  It is set in Inverness and surrounding area, taking in Fort William as the story progresses.  These are the places I visit when I go on holiday to the Highlands, so the Outlander series has given me a new appreciation of my time there and a longing to return.

This series presents the Scotland that I love, the place I look for on my visits - the romantic, honorable, battle ready side of Scottish history, the breath of which still lingers in the remoter parts of the Highlands where the story takes place.  It is the idealism of a nation, swathed in magical mists and slippery with spilt blood as the Scots fight against English occupation. 

I love that the tale is told through the eyes of an English woman, a Sassenach. As she tries desperately to assimilate with her new circumstances, in a new time, she struggles to understand the ways of  the Scots.  She tries to make friends. She tries to prove herself kind and trustworthy by being helpful with her gift of healing. Yet always she remains an outsider - useful to the Scots, but never truly accepted by any one of them. Except Jamie...

Of course I'm completely in love with Jamie Fraser...a hot tempered, red haired, honorable, gallant, kilted Highland Chief...oh my, how could I not be?? He hand-fasts with Claire to protect her from questionable members of his own Clan, by making her a part of it and thus protected by a blood tie; he rescues her from English soldiers with wicked intent; he gives her haughtiness a ticking off when she needs it - he is her match, in all things - except Time.

I can relate to so much of this story and Claire's struggle; the feeling of being torn between two worlds, two different times in her life, two loves; and of never feeling like she fits in with either one. Always longing for where she isn't - it's a difficult road to travel; one which requires a true heart, a sure step and a steady courage to face down the hostility that is ever present in the Highlands.  I love Outlander because it gives me a taste of the Highlands when I am in England, and as I can't cross the border for a while yet, I need this show and these novels to sustain me in the meantime.

The final episode of the series is very harrowing and one that I will not watch again - I'll leave it at the penultimate episode and then move onto Series 2 when that comes out.  I admire the fearlessness of the last episode though - making the last battle, as it were, all about the two men and showing the lasting effects of that battle, the hidden mental scars that linger, is an epic piece of media genius. If it makes men think on it, relate to it, then it has served a very useful purpose in facilitating understanding. I won't watch it again - it's just too brutal for me - but I admire the genius behind it.

All the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon are available from Amazon UK, however the DVD box set is only currently offered to view on Amazon Prime, so if you want to buy it, you're better off trying HMV instead.  I'm looking forward to discovering how the story unfolds through the novels and eagerly awaiting the release of Series 2 box set.  Jamie Fraser is my new favourite Scotsman...I'm sure you can see why... :-)