"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.


Friday, 17 November 2017

BOOK NOOK; Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica D George



It is a cold, frosty night as I begin to write this post and I am snuggled under the faux fur throw, sipping on hot spiced fruit punch to keep out the chill. I have a Yankee Snowflake Cookie candle burning, to make the house smell festive, and after a long day of Christmas shopping, I feel like I am getting into the winter spirit, no doubt helped along by this fabulous book, which I have just finished reading.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George is a retelling of the classic Norwegian fairytale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which is also an album by my favourite band A-HA.  From being a young girl I have always wanted to go to Norway, possibly for my birthday one year, and this book has revived that dream in me again.  I really want to see for myself the frozen snowy landscapes that are described in this novel, because it sounds just like a real life fairytale. 

I could feel the cold as I read this book; the world building is that strong upon the page that it lingers in the mind. It tells the story of a poor lass with no name and no prospects, but after coming upon a magical white hart reindeer and freeing him from the brambles he is trapped in, the girl is granted a boon.  She is given a secret name and the ability to talk to animals and hear their words.  The girl soon becomes well known for her special gift and before long an enchanted polar bear comes calling, begging her to help him by living with him for a year and a day.  The girl agrees and her adventure begins, taking her across a vast land of ice and snow.

The bear lives in a magical ice palace, where log fires blaze in the hearths but the palace doesn't melt.  The girl is introduced to luxury and fine dining for the first time in her life and she is given a beautiful suit of rooms in the palace, including a dressing room full of wonderful ballgowns and lovely clothes.  She settles in and with her pet wolf, Rollo, for company, she begins to explore.  

Thus far the novel has undertones of Beauty and the Beast, but this tale as old as time has a distinctly Norse twist, for in order to break the enchantment and free the bear, the girl must first decipher the strange runic language carved into the ice pillars and fireplaces of the palace.   The story incorporates lots of Norse mythology, and magical creatures such as trolls, selkies, fauns and centaurs, all play a part.  The girl meets the Three Norns and the Four Winds as she continues in her quest to free the bear and she must make the journey to find the Queen's palace that lies east of the sun and west of the moon. 

It is a very wintry tale of swirling snow flurries, and in a way I wish I had waited a few weeks to read it, as this is a novel that begs to be read by the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree, while snuggled into a mermaid blanket or faux furs. Even the character of the North Wind looks just like a white and silver version of Father Christmas!  So if you are looking for something to read during the festive season when you have time off work, this book is ideal. And if you think the cover girl looks familiar, that's because it is modelled by You Tuber FreddyMyLove adding her charm to the overall beauty of the book. 

If you like wintry Narnian style fairytales then I am sure that you will really enjoy Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.  It has certainly got me all ready for winter. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; A Thousand Years

I have died everyday waiting for you...


x💘 x

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Life Goals

Ballet is one of my goals for next year


November is my birthday month and the time when I begin to make plans for what I want to do throughout the next year.  With the harvest of Samhain last week I realised that I've done quite a lot in the past twelve months.  I have completed the classroom hours of my Counselling Diploma and left college and the taskmaster tutor behind; gained a placement for my clinical hours; passed three extra training courses in Grief Counselling, Business Etiquette and PTSD Counselling; wrote new psychotherapy features for a new editor and a new media house; and went ice skating again for the first time in four and a half years.  Of the six major goals I set for myself this time last year, four have been achieved, plus additional ones I set along the way - and there's still time before the end of the year to achieve the last two.

So I've been pondering on what I want to do next.  Half-term being over, I went ice-skating again yesterday. This is definitely becoming a regular thing. We had the first frost of the season and my car was covered in white when I went out to drive to the rink.  I had a lovely skate and practised some manoeuvres - just forward chasses in both directions and glides, nothing fancy - and I felt like myself again for the first time since I started the diploma.  It was very liberating to just glide along to the music without a care in the world.   

Of course the ice-hockey players kept getting in my way and one of them nearly skated right into me!  I was on a circle, just quietly doing my own thing and chasses-ing around the line, when he very nearly slammed into me. He did that three times!  He did apologise each time, giving me a wink and a smile, but it still irritated me.  

There is some rivalry between ice-hockey players and figure skaters and the hockey players love to give figure skaters 'tips' on skating, so when one of them skated up to me and said "I've got a tip for you" I just rolled my eyes and thought "Here we go!" Then he said "Whatever you do, and this is very important, whatever you do, always keep your feet on the end of your legs!" and off he skated, thrilled with his own wit. It did make me laugh though.

I got chatting to one of the figure skaters. He has lessons in ice-dancing with one of the male ice-dance coaches and he was telling me about it.  It does sound like fun and is something I would love to try, but I need to find my ice-feet again first.  I've had a long break and I just need to build up my confidence, not to mention my strength and balance, before I undertake ice-dancing lessons.  

Its always nice to chat to people who have a shared interest. You never know what you might learn or what doors might open for you.  In the past four years the rink has taken on lots of new coaches, so it could be that one of them suits me better than the one I had before.  Getting some private lessons might be fun and it is something I am thinking about.

I have also decided to set the goal for next year of starting dance classes again, namely ballet, as I think this will improve my skating.  The two disciplines are  very similar and spending time in ballet class should help to improve my core strength, balance, turn-out, extensions and fluidity.  Ballet and ice-skating support one another, so it makes sense that ballet class should be one of my next goals.  Later this month I have tickets to see The Northern Ballet dance The Little Mermaid and I am sure this will inspire me to do all I can to achieve my own ballet goals. 

Another goal I am setting for the next year is to continue my psychotherapy training.  I want to take a Life-Coaching course because this sits neatly alongside both counselling and my writing and I can use it to expand both areas. I do it anyway in my self-help writing so I might as well get the qualification for it!  Someone I know from my clinical placement is thinking of setting up a private practice next year and he asked me if I want to work alongside him there, so this is also something I am considering. If I had a Life-Coaching qualification it would mean that we could offer that too, as well as counselling services. 

And once I have finished my clinical hours and got the certificate for my Counselling Diploma in the bag, I can then put together the portfolio of work to support my application for the MA that I want to do.  I'm hoping to begin that next year, in the autumn time.  It will be another iron in the fire.

So I've done a lot since my last birthday, and when my new solar year starts on the 22nd I will have a list of goals all written out, so that I know where I am going and what I want to achieve in the next twelve months.  It is important to know what you want out of life; to have a focus and a direction of travel, with a particular  destination in mind.  Drifting along has never been my style, because it gets you nowhere and you end up feeling like a victim of life, instead of an active participant.  I'm looking forward to another year of busyness, learning, achievement and possibility.


Saturday, 4 November 2017

POET'S CORNER; Love's Philosophy by P B Shelley

Cupid and Psyche

Love's Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle -
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Its All Coming Back To Me Now

Echoes of the past whisper through the silver mists of an autumn night...its all coming back to me now...ghost rider...


"It was gone with the wind but its all coming back to me...
The flesh and the fantasy all coming back to me now."
xxx

Monday, 30 October 2017

Saturday, 21 October 2017

POET'S CORNER; Beautiful Wings




Beautiful Wings

I gaze no longer at empty horizons
I look no more to the skies
Now turning away
At the dark of each day
To the place where the last hope dies

Enshrouded in a wispy cocoon
I rest and I wait out the storm
Then in plumes of white
And ethereal light
I grow spirit Wings of my own

And I try out the span of my Wings
They're as light and as pure as snow
As they beat with my heart
Shake off dreams torn apart
I am free now to let you go

So I leap out into the void
In peoples darkness, now I am their light
But who holds a candle for me
In the darkness through which I can't see,
When Wings weigh me down in the night?

As I dance with cold winds of the north
On the wing I am one with the dove
Our chance has been lost
I'm an Angel of Frost
A new beginning I'll suffer alone.

By Marie Bruce


Friday, 20 October 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Swan Song

Winter has come for me...is it a dream?


New wings are growing tonight.
xxx

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

POET'S CORNER; From Wounds That Bleed


From Wounds That Bleed

Around, all around the shadows gather

My dread grows as his touch falls against my neck, capturing my fear like a bird in his hand
It slays me, and darkly my life's blood drips to the cold, uncaring tombstones

Wrists that bleed from crimson wounds no-one else can see and now will never heal
In a strange and terrible glee I dance macabre while my doom takes me

Now alone, my soul cries out behind silent, staring eyes
Seeking the shadows for refuge

This is the path on which your love left me
And I am all the stronger because of it. 

By Marie Bruce

Monday, 16 October 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Ice Baby


Last Christmas-time as I sat by the twinkling tree, watching Ice Princess, I decided that I would make returning to ice-skating one of my goals for 2017.  I used to go skating two or three times a week, with lessons and practise sessions and I have certificates for the Skate UK Levels.  I really missed it and it was something I wanted to get back into on a regular basis, so I made it one of my goals for this year.  Today I have achieved that goal and I have just returned home from my very first skate in four and a half years!  

I'm not going to lie - it was pretty nerve-wracking.  I didn't sleep last night due to anxiety about it and my mind was trying to distract me with all the things that could go wrong. But I had a nice message from a pal this morning, which gave my confidence a boost and it was just the pep talk I needed. Then once I got to the rink and got my skates on, I started to feel a lot calmer. My friend was quite right - the first time back is always the hardest. 

My main fear was actually stepping out onto the ice again, but I needn't have been so anxious about it.  As soon as I was on the ice my old training kicked in and I did okay.  I wasn't the best skater by any means, but I wasn't the worst either.  I decided to just take it steady and enjoy the thrill of being back at the rink.  They were playing ballet music, which I love, so this helped to calm my nerves too. 

I'd forgotten how much I love skating, and with arms outstretched like wings, how much it feels like flying when the glide takes hold of you.  In my head I could hear my old coach saying "Glide...be the swan, gliding across the ice"  It was much like riding a bike, in that once you have learnt to do it, it all just comes back to you again and it feels like you've never been away.

I still had some nerves to contend with and there were private lessons going on so there were skaters doing sit-spins and such like around me, which is a bit distracting, but in a good way as its fun to watch.   A couple of hockey players were there too, practising their stop turns and I had to keep an ear out for the dreadful scrunching sound of their hockey skates coming up behind me.  My figure skates sound much nicer - they give a soft whisper as they cut through the ice.  It is a comforting sound and today was mostly for figure skaters anyway. 

For the most part I tried to just concentrate on what I was doing, which was to get a feel for the ice once more and nurture my confidence.  I wanted today to be about feeling comfortable when skating again, so I didn't do any manoeuvres, other than sculling and forward one-foot glides.  The hardest part was maintaining the correct speed - too slow and I'd get wibbly legs; too fast and the blade would bolt away from me like a misbehaved horse - it took me about half an hour to judge the right speed and maintain that. 

I was also very aware of what was going on around me, making sure not to cross the paths of figure skaters having lessons, while giving those skaters who were obviously beginners the space they needed close to the edge.  There is nothing worse when you're a beginner than a fast skater speeding past you too close! I remember it was one of my pet hates when I first started, so I tried to be as considerate to other skaters as possible, while claiming my own space.  I had one slight stumble when I didn't get the correct ballet turn out on my left foot and the toe-pick hit the ice, but it was just a blip in the flow of movement, not a fall, so it didn't knock my confidence, which is good.

On the whole, it was a good skate and I really enjoyed it.  I know it will become a regular part of my life once again, just as it used to be, and I'm already planning which manoeuvres I want to practice next time.  Now that I have finished my college course, I have no excuse not to go skating and I am really looking forward to my next glide on the ice.  I wish I hadn't left it so long, but it is fantastic to be back at the rink, happily skating, chatting, laughing, meeting up with old friends and new.  I had great fun and when I came off the ice I had snow on my blades and my leg-warmers were wet, so I know I worked hard!

So yes, today was a milestone for me and I'm glad I didn't let the anxiety and nervousness get in my way.




MUSICAL DOLL; Going Under

Drowning in you...Going Under



Wake me up inside...Bring me to life


Looking forward to their new album, Synthesis, dropping next month.
xxx

Saturday, 14 October 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Gothic; The Power of Darkness


It is that time of year again when our thoughts turn to 'ghosties and goulies, long leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night'.  It is October and the gothic season is upon us.  It is all rather fun and fabulous and fleeting; a month in the year when we can give ourselves up to spooky films, ghost walks and DVD marathons of Supernatural.   But what happens when the shadows seem to linger a little too long; when the darkness encroaches on your day to day life, pulling you down into a gothic abyss? 

I adore the gothic genre.  Books, music, films, poetry, art, architecture...if it's gothic I love it, whether its a classic novel such as Dracula or contemporary art by Victoria Frances and Anne Stokes.  I love to immerse myself in this world of shadowy enchantment.  But you can have too much of a good thing and the power of darkness draws you in like a magnate.

I studied gothic literature at university and in cultural terms it is a very important genre because it brings to the surface all those issues that society as a whole shies away from.  Death, despair, depression, addiction, mental illness, isolation, incarceration, forbidden love, secrets, trickery, manipulation, illusion, delusion...its all apparent in the gothic genre, which lays it out on the table for all to see...and yet it doesn't tell the truth.

This is because the gothic genre romanticises everything, but there is nothing romantic about watching someone descend into addiction, depression or dementia and fading away before your eyes as they become little more than the shell of the illness which holds them.  Think back to the movie Black Swan, which bears all the hallmarks of classic gothic literature.   The main character, Nina is suffering from mental illness, yet the film portrays this as the spirit of Odille, the black swan, possessing her.  It romanticises Nina's frailty with a supernatural twist, because few people would go to see a film about a girl with a controlling and possibly abusive mother, who experiences delusions and  eventually kills herself!  

The gothic culture is also important because it gives people a place of belonging when their life has become a struggle, or when they feel like outsiders, for whatever reason. Goth culture embraces those individuals which society might shun.  The darkness makes all things beautiful. 

When feeling down, you can turn to this genre for comfort because it doesn't tell you to get a grip and get on with things.  Instead it says "You're depressed? But how marvellous! What does your beautiful darkness look like? Let's turn it into music, a song, a poem, a symphony."  And so you can wallow in the realms of  Edgar Allen Poe or Evanescence and feel that your low mood is completely understood, in a way that no doctor could ever comprehend.  Giving yourself up to the mood in this way can in itself be healing, but it is vital you don't let yourself linger too long.  After all, the main point of experiencing dark nights of the soul is that they lead you back out into the light of a new dawn.  Balance is the key. 

A few years ago I had lots of gothic art in my home.  Prints by Victoria Frances adorned the walls of my study and bedroom; black roses stood in a vase on my desk.  Friends would contribute to this style of decor by giving me gothic calendars and mugs etc for my birthday and at Christmas, usually with the comment "I thought you'd like it because you have gone a bit that way haven't you?"  A wiser, more compassionate friend would have asked why I was suddenly drawn to such images of isolated maidens, wounded and alone, wandering in dark forests, and why I felt my place was among them.  

Then two years ago I had an equally swift and sudden change of heart.  I was tired of the darkness. I realised that enough was enough, for it was no longer doing me any good. I'd had too much of a good gothic thing and I was ready to move back into the light once more. I wanted to make my home lighter, brighter, whiter - I wanted it to sparkle, for the sunshine to bounce around the rooms, reflected in mirrors, sequins and crystals.  I put all the gothic art away and bought sparkling pictures of snow scenes instead.  My home is now a snow-scape of creamy white and sparkles and I love it.  I stopped wearing so much black and went back to the favourite colour of my childhood, dusky pink.  I'd had the dark night of my soul, the gothic genre had helped me through it, but now I was awakening to my new dawn.

The darkness is a beautiful and powerful thing.  Enjoy all that the gothic genre has to offer this dark season...but don't allow it to linger in your life for too long! Blessed Be. 










Friday, 13 October 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Gothic Romance

Pretty music for the Gothic season...enjoy!

Isn't someone missing me?


And will we ever end up together?


But who can decide what they dream? And dream I do...


xxx

Thursday, 12 October 2017

WRITER'S DREAM; Psychotherapy Writing Success


It has been just over a year since I stopped writing my Wiccan column for Spirit&Destiny magazine.  Everything happens for a reason and as it turns out, I left not a minute too soon, because I was immediately up to my eyes in essays for  my therapeutic counselling diploma.  In the past few months I have written over 40,000 words in psychotherapy essays!  I have been super stressed-out and when the course ended in July, I was glad to see the back of it, but I did feel a little cut adrift.

With no column to write and no essays to focus on, I had time on my hands to wonder if I'd done the right thing in deciding to switch genres.  Yes, the Mind, Body, Spirit genre isn't nearly so lucrative as it once was, but maybe any writing was better than no writing at all and I felt like I was in a writing desert.   

To add to this, there were major changes going on within the publishing and media houses I work with - changes that had nothing to do with me and which were beyond my control.  For instance, my favourite long term editor decided that she would retire this year.  Losing an editor you've worked well with for years is always traumatic for a writer, because it could mean that the new editor won't support your work in the same way.  Writers need editors to champion our ideas at board meetings - without the editor rooting for us, writers would never get published, so it's imperative that a writer has an editor who is totally on side and supportive of our creativity and ideas.  When that editor leaves, there is always a chance that the new editor will bring in her own pet-writers. 

At the same time, a re-shake of the entire media house was going on, with magazines being out-sourced and editors switching from one magazine to another.  This does happen periodically, but it means that most commissions are put on hold until the changes have been made.   To add to the confusion, one of my book publishing houses was in the long process of merging with another house.  So it was all going on at the same time and freelance work was very slow.  

I had all the same feelings that any writer has when the work is going through a lull; feeling that maybe that was it and I would never receive another commission; that I would never write another word;  that I should have stuck with MBS and been grateful for it, unless the genre disappeared altogether.  In my mind, the words of  all the naysayers of my past were coming back to me - how I'd just been 'very lucky', or 'it's just a hobby' and how it was all just 'a flash in the pan'.  Fortunately for me, I didn't believe them back then and I certainly don't believe them now, after 20 successful years in publishing!  But it was a very anxious year and I had to be extremely firm with myself to keep the faith that something would change for the better soon. 

I really needed my holiday in the Highlands!  The mountain air, the space, the freedom of the place, all helped to clear my head and keep my spirits up.  While I was there, I decided to cast a sea spell in Oban Bay, because it never hurts to have a good dose of magic on your side! As soon as I'd cast the spell, I felt an immediate shift of energy and I knew that the spell had worked.  I gave thanks and walked along the esplanade back to my hotel on the sea-front.  It was a beautiful September evening and I felt a gathering sense of optimism growing within me. 

A few days after my return home I received a new freelance commission, for a psychotherapy feature, which marks the continuation of my switch in genres and the beginning of a whole new publishing outlet.    I am now writing for a new editor, with a new media house, for a new look magazine.  It is great to know that I am making the cross-over into more therapy based writing, and that my reputation as a reliable contributor of MBS is actually helping me to make this switch in saleable writing expertise.  

Yes, switching genres is a bit like starting all over again and it will take time to build a firm publishing platform and body of work in this area. But I have so much enthusiasm for this kind of writing, because I enjoy making it unique, with its own style. It is a relief to know that I have new editorial support for this style of work and for my ideas in general.  

I have mentioned that, in the past, certain individuals have tried to throw a spanner in the works with my editors at Spirit&Destiny, and that I had made plans to work with a whole different publishing outlet; one that those individuals know nothing about, in order to prevent their spitefulness having any adverse effect on my writing career.  

Well now I have achieved that goal.  Spitefulness isn't enough to stop me.  I love to write.  It's my job and what I get paid to do.  And now I am writing features in my new genre of psychotherapy, for a new media publishing house and building up a working relationship with a lovely new editor.  I got exactly what I wanted.  But then, I always do!  So here's to a whole new chapter in my writing career...I'd better crack on with it. 
Invictus




Saturday, 7 October 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Oban and the Western Isles

Glencoe
I forgot to reset date on my camera, but all these photos were taken last week!
This time last week I had just returned home from my holiday in the Highlands.  I stayed in Oban again and this time I visited some of the Western Isles, Seil Island, Glencoe and Loch Lomond - all places that have been on my bucket list for a while.  I took some rather nice photos but because I'm a technophobe I didn't know how to set the date on the camera - all the images here were taken just last week, between the 23rd and 30th of September 2017, not in 2005!

I have been to Oban before, back in 2013 for my 40th birthday.  It was the last time that I saw my soldier and I remember dancing with him in front of the hotel, losing my shoe on the steps and him kneeling to replace it - I call them the Cinderella steps now...

The Cinderella Steps to my hotel


This holiday though, it was just me and Scotland getting reacquainted after a three year separation, although I did have a good laugh with the hotel bar manager, Cameron, in the evenings. He's great fun to be around and they all really looked after me because I travel alone.  It felt so good to be back in Scotland! The mist was beautiful.  It has been three long years since I last saw Scotch mist clinging to the treetops, curling up from the pine forests like smoke and wrapping around the mountains like a scarf, just the summits peaking out at the very top.  The beauty of it is indescribable and its something you really have to see for yourself to appreciate.  

On my first day I took the advice of Colin Maclachlan and went on the ferry to the Isle of Mull.  As we sailed, we went right into the rain and the island suddenly loomed up on us out of the cloud. It was a fantastic sailing trip and I loved every second of it, despite the drenching from the rain.  Rain is something to enjoy in Scotland, because without it you wouldn't see all the many waterfalls flowing down the mountainsides.  It is beautiful in all weathers and I love it.

Taken from the ferry, heading out to Mull

Mull is such a pretty island.  Tobermory is a little coastal town there, with a row of pretty pastel coloured gifts shops and cafes.  It reminded me of a storybook, all the pretty colours being washed clean by the rain.  There was an aquarium I visited too where they had the cutest little octopus, about the size of a tea-plate.  As I watched him he scratched his head with one tentacle and his back with another. It looked like he was playing that co-ordination game of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time - and he was very good at it too!  They also had a very rare blue lobster who was equally lovely, though a bit shy. Apparently blue lobsters get bullied a lot in the wild, so they keep him safe at the aquarium for conservation purposes.  He kept trying to hide behind a rock half his size, so I don't think he's quite grasped the concept of camouflage and taking cover, but he was adorable.

Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull

Tobermory main street

On the second day of my holiday I kept a promise.  A few years ago I swore to my Strathpeffer friend Petr Royston MacGreggor that I would one day go to Loch Lomond and see the area where our hero Rob Roy had lived.  Roy told me that I would love Loch Lomond and that it would suit me.  He wasn't wrong - I fell in love with the landscape and loch as soon as I saw it, partly for its own beauty and partly for his sake.  Sadly my friend Roy died a few years ago, but I kept my promise to him last week and threw a pebble into the loch for him.  I could feel his presence as I walked lochside, watching two swans paddling together on the water and I knew that he was keeping his promise to me too. He said he would always be watching over me like a daughter - and he was.  It is clear to see from the photo below why Clan MacGreggor were known as The Children of the Mist...the beauty of the place has a haunting, ethereal quality, swathed in Scotch mist...it would be so easy to just slip back in time and become a Highland lass.

Loch Lomond
The two swans reminded me of Roy and his lovely wife Betsy.  They were such good friends to me and I miss them both.  
Swan love on Loch Lomond


For the next couple of days I stayed in and around Oban.  I went on a seal spotting boat trip which was wonderful.  Its hard to recall that I was once terrified of boats because I can't swim.  Now I love boats!  I do still get nervous and I can't walk around on them yet - I cling to the side like a barnacle, but I like to be up on the top deck, open to the weather with the wind in my hair and the sea spray putting roses in my cheeks.  When the boat rocked and rolled I just remembered my soldier telling me, years ago when we were in his boat together, "The boat has to rock so as not to let the water in lassie - when the boat rocks, it's keeping you safe".  So I have learnt to face my fear of boats and I have come out the other side loving them!  I love the sense of freedom and liberty they give you - it's as good as a great gallop on a fast horse.  If I were a man and I lived by the water, I would definitely want my own boat.  It felt like a great escape to be out on the Atlantic Ocean with the sea gulls screaming and the wind blowing my hair into a million sea knots!  I think I am learning to trust that the boat will carry me safe out to sea and back to port.  Sailing is wonderful!

I also went to Dunollie castle, which Robert the Bruce confiscated when the MacDougalls  betrayed him.  There isn't much of it left standing, but it was nice to know I was walking in the footsteps of the Good King and Sir Walter Scott.  It is a pretty place with a lovely Celtic Cross in the grounds. The hike up the cliff is worth it for the panoramic views.

Dunollie Castle

The stunning Celtic Cross in the grounds of Dunollie Castle


On the final day of my holiday I went to Fort William.  Again this is a pretty Highland town, very small so you could never get lost there, which is great for me as I have no sense of direction!  There is an impressive museum there that is full of artefacts, from targes and claymores to Victorian gowns and the kilts of clansmen. It was interesting and I would like to go back because there was so much to see and read that I couldn't take it all in.  

And on the very last day, on my way home in fact, I managed to find something I had been looking for all week - an Outlander scarf, made in the very tartan that was designed for the TV series and which is worn by Jamie Fraser!  So I was thrilled with that and I've been wearing it ever since.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful week in the Highlands and already I am thinking about my return to Scotland and where I want to go next.  

Edinburgh has been suggested to me and is somewhere I have always wanted to visit so the suggestion has taken root in my mind. And somehow, I don't think I would be on my own quite so much there, so I am considering a fun trip to Edinburgh next year...watch this space! 😏

Bardic harps at the Fort William Museum

xxx

Thursday, 21 September 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Run To You

Running through the clouds towards love...

This is my favourite Whitney song.
Enjoy!
xxx

Saturday, 16 September 2017

POET'S CORNER; Sea Spirit

Related image
http://www.victoriafrances.es/en/

Sea Spirit

The Boatman calls to me; I have no coin to pay his fee
The lighthouse shines so brightly; its beacon comes too late for me
I'm lost at sea; forever lost, I wait for thee

The sea gulls call; their gleaming eyes see right through me
They sing my song; their haunting cries sing out for me
I'm lost at sea; forever lost, I wait for thee

The Boat has gone; the ships have all returned to shore
They search no more; I'm lost, yet they look for me no more
I'm all at sea; forever lost, I wait for thee

The waves took me; now they bear my flesh to shore
I swim no more, against the current rough and raw
But it's not me; no, it's no longer me

For I am the spirit of the sea; I am the mist, the spray, the foam
I am the ghostly sea; I am the haunting sea
Bound for all eternity to be a spirit of the sea

I'm lost at sea; forever lost I wait for thee
When will you come to me...to join the spirits lost at sea?

by Marie Bruce

Sea Spirit first published in my book The Witch's Almanac 2011

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Facing the Void

Sometimes a day in bed is just what you need


The daylight is already fading as I settle in to write this post. Autumn is upon us and another winter looms up ahead.  It is time to get cosy; to be warm and quiet, curled up with a book and a cup of chai tea latte to keep out the chill.

I am in a reflective mood tonight. I really miss Pyewackett and as the nights draw in I feel his absence terribly.  It has been just over six months since his death and I have been keeping busy and occupied, but as the dark season begins, it reminds me of how much I miss the day to day aspects of living with my cat.  It has made me realise that I am grieving the loss of him. 

Facing the void is never easy, yet the void inevitably follows on from a loss. This is true of any loss, whether it be the loss of a job, a divorce or break-up, or a bereavement.  The void triggers our fears for the future, our anxieties and insecurities.  It makes us question our identity, for who are we if we don't have that job, that marriage, that family member?   The void is like a dark mirror, reflecting our own mortality back at us and forcing us to find an answer to the question What now?

Life is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Therefore, if your life has been touched by a death or a loss of some kind, it is only a matter of time before the rebirth takes place, although waiting for Life to labour a new beginning is a painful and frustrating process.  It might seem as if a new start is way out of reach, but something has to come along to fill the void which the loss has left behind.

I frequently tell my clients to go easy on themselves, and in the past couple of days I have come to the conclusion that I need to take my own advice.   There is no point pushing myself; reinvention simply doesn't happen overnight. Logically, I know this, but emotionally, I have been using my drive to move deeper into a viable counselling career as a way of avoiding my grief.  Add to that my thyroid illness and traumatic stress, and it isn't really any wonder that I'm feeling tired and drained.

Part of it is the post creative come-down, which I have mentioned before in previous posts, and which occurs after a long stint of writing and the completion of a big project.   Four years of studying has taken a lot out of me and not because the course was hard, but because we had a tutor who loved to treat us like puppets, constantly moved the goal posts at a moments notice and made things as stressful for us as he could get away with.  

Trying to study under this kind of duress was almost impossible.  I did as much work from home as I could manage and started to see the classes as just something to attend and get through - I didn't learn much from them because I don't respond to the brow-beating approach.  I did what I could to distance myself from it as much as possible, even putting a filter on the constant barrage of tutor emails, but it still had a negative effect.  

So part of my current fatigue is due to being in recovery from the onslaught I experienced in college.   It isn't an experience I am eager to repeat, hence why I am taking a year off before I plan to do the MA. Even though the MA is held in a different university and by a different tutor, on a different topic - I still feel that I need this year long break.  And the deep fatigue I am currently feeling confirms that theory.

Part of facing the void lies in letting go.  You have to let go of what you have lost before you can move on, though this is easier said than done.  But there is also another kind of letting go - that of surrender and I think that is where I am at right now.  I feel ready to let go and surrender, just to wait and see what life has in store for me next.  I have always been blessed with the right kind of opportunities when I needed them, and I have no doubt that this will continue. The right opportunity for psychotherapy work will come to me - probably when I least expect it.  I trust that this will be the case, as it always has been before. 

In the meantime my body is telling me that I need to rest; my mind is telling me that I need to rest and refill the creative well with new sights, sounds and experiences. I need Artists Dates and days off from writing, so that I can nurture new ideas instead.  I need to relax and read and dream once more, without guilt or anxiety pushing in and spoiling things.  

My Highland holiday later on in autumn will be just what I need - a complete escape and a much needed change of scene. The sea and mountain air of the Highlands always rejuvenates me and inspires me; the sound of the bagpipes makes my heart lift and I am so much looking forward to being back in Scotland once more.  It is the place where I feel most free; where I am most understood. And who wouldn't enjoy time spent in a land of stolen kisses from handsome kilted men? 

Until then I plan to read, rest and recuperate; to let go of control a bit and stop pushing for my future; to wait for my future to just turn up with a new opportunity, when the time is right and I am strong enough to accept it and do a damn good job of it.  So mote it be. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Entrepreneur


Someone once referred to me as a "Jack of all trades...and master of none!" when in fact I have always been an entrepreneur.  On the surface they probably thought they were making an accurate assessment of my life, but the truth is that I have never been content to be a hamster on the wheel of life - I frequently jump off and go and do something else instead. 

I suppose it comes down to having an entrepreneurial mentality.  I think in terms of possibility and I am not afraid to follow my dreams, even if this means taking a step backwards and starting again.  I am not scared to be a beginner. I thrive on it because it means that I am learning something new and that makes me happy. I am not too proud to do a part time job to pay the bills, while getting a new venture off the ground, because I know what my ultimate goals are and where I am heading. I am not too proud to work for free in order to learn a new role and create a new network of business associates. 

Running a small business isn't an easy option, in any line of work,  but as a writer it is difficult because there are trends, variables and lead times to take into account. That's why it's important to have as many outlets as possible - although some editors will only work with writers who don't also write for their competitors, which makes this even more challenging. 

But why would you settle for doing one thing when you can do several?  Why settle for one single source of income when you can generate several sources of income and have them flowing into your business?  This is why entrepreneurship is so appealing to creative people.  They can work from home, or in their spare time, so the business overheads are minimal; they can take their time to grow their business at a steady rate, though sometimes you will have more work coming in than you reckoned on.  They can set cash aside for the lean times.  It just makes sense to think of yourself as an entrepreneur and while some people might not understand it, if you hold that view of yourself you will be more likely to see new opportunities when they come along, because you will have developed the right frame of mind for success.

Finding ways to make money while you sleep is a key factor in being an entrepreneur.  For writers and musicians etc, this means royalties.  Royalties accumulate for work we did years ago; it is the easiest form of income for creative entrepreneurs, though you have to have published a body of work to get to that stage.  For others, it might mean selling via an online shop, or offering online study courses - anything where people from different time zones can do business with you as you sleep.  

Waking up to a royalty check is one of the best parts of being a writer.  It means that your work is still selling; that readers are still enjoying it; that the publishers are still happy they offered you a contract! In lean times, it can be a vital means of survival, while in prosperous times it could mean a little treat, such as a writers holiday or new research books.  Royalties can pay for college courses allowing you to further your knowledge or expand your business in a new direction, which in turn will generate more income. 

The trick is to forget about what other people might say about you - just do what makes you happy and what gets you closer to your long term goal.  If that means flipping burgers for 5 years while you finish a degree you're passionate about, then so be it.  If it means reducing your hours at work so that you can actually write your screen play rather than just talk about writing it, then that is what you need to do.  

Creative entrepreneurs rarely have only one job title!  We diversify and acquire new skills as we go.  I started out as a content provider for correspondence schools. Now I'm a content provider, author, journalist, recording artist, blogger and counsellor. Lots of different hats that require slightly different skills, but all of which fit together like a jigsaw, into the framework of my business.

Is it easy, juggling all these balls?  No, not always.  It can be tough and stressful at times, especially when something isn't working as quickly as I would like it to.  But it means that when one area is slowing down in terms of generating income, I have other areas I can concentrate on instead.  As an entrepreneur you give your time to that which is generating the best income, or to the area that needs nurturing into a new source of income.  

So for me, that means continuing to write, while also building on my new role as a counsellor, which itself can be broken into two branches - counselling practice and writing psychotherapy pieces.  At the moment counselling practice isn't generating income and I work for free at my placement in order to gain valuable work experience and create a network of associates. This won't always be the case and at some stage I will be getting paid for the counselling sessions I offer. 

Writing about psychotherapy topics however, has already generated income and is the direction in which I am taking my writing business for the time being.  This is where I focus my time and attention, because it brings in money and it moves me closer to my goal of being a psychotherapy writer, in much the same way that I have been a Mind, Body, Spirit writer for all these years.  

That is the beauty of entrepreneurship - it changes and evolves with you.  It doesn't limit you in any way.  It isn't a rigid job description that defines you, like say for instance Nurse or Administrator.  You can craft your entrepreneurship into whatever you want it to be and wear as many different hats as take your fancy - there are no limits! It doesn't define you - you define it.

This freedom was something I kept in mind when I had to think of a name for my business so I could register as self-employed years ago.  I knew I wanted a business name that didn't define a single aspect of my work, but one that could be applied to all aspects of my work, in the present and in the future. I would recommend this practice to anyone who thinks that they might expand into future developments or who has several creative interests they want to make into a viable business.  Choose a business name that is generic.  There is little point calling yourself Lucy's Candles if further down the line you want to sell cupcakes instead!

I suppose what I am trying to say is that if you begin to see yourself as a creative entrepreneur it doesn't matter if you work part time in a fish and chip shop.  That's just paying the bills, freeing your mind to focus on your creative enterprise, whatever it might be.  As an entrepreneur you can be and do anything you like - take that night class, write that blog, start that You Tube channel, paint your masterpiece, open up a boutique selling sun hats for Chihuahuas...the possibilities are endless.  The only limits are the ones you place upon yourself. So why wouldn't you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Yes it can be tough and financially precarious, but it's a life of endless possibility and that can only be a good thing. 
Bon Chance!




Monday, 4 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Home Study - PTSD Counselling


The new academic year begins this week, but not for me, since I have now finished my four year diploma - thank goodness!  For the first time in five years I am not going back to college in September. I can't say that I will miss it.  On the contrary, it is nice to finally be free of 4 1/2  hour long lectures, bombastic rhetoric and autocratic leadership from belligerent faculty members.  I'm glad I did the diploma, but I am not sorry that it's over.

Although I won't be returning to classes, I don't want to lose the habit of learning.  I really enjoy studying, but I am a very autonomous person and I work best when working alone, in a quiet environment.  This wasn't always possible during the diploma - much of it involves group work and sometimes the groups would get so loud I'd have to leave class and nip to the ladies for a few moments peace, just to clear my head.  Every Tuesday night I would leave college with a raging headache...just another aspect of night school that I don't miss. 

The good thing about being a member of the BACP is that they frequently advertise further courses in their journal Therapy Today. This is to encourage counsellors to pursue CPD or Continued Professional Development.  These courses are aimed at clinical practitioners working as counsellors, either in private practice, or with an organisation such as Cruse Bereavement Care, and some of these courses are delivered online.

This type of online learning really suits me because I can study at home in my own time, as and when I want to.  I am not held to a strict timetable of classes that I must attend, no matter what.  I can just go into my cosy little study, light a couple of scented candles, fire up the laptop and log on to the course module I am currently working on.  At the end of the course, if I have passed, I get my certificate in the post.  And as so much of my college diploma was put onto Google Classroom anyway, some weeks it hardly seemed worth going into class at all!

Home studying has always appealed to me.  In my early twenties I took correspondence courses in creative writing and freelance journalism. At the time, my ex-fiance thought they were a complete waste of money - he thought I'd been conned and we had a huge row about it, even though it was all my own money that I used to pay for them! But then, I soon made my living as a freelance writer, author and journalist, so I guess the courses worked!

Some of the first full length writing I ever had published were home-study courses for BSY and The Regent Academy - both leading correspondence schools here in the UK. I wrote their courses on Wicca and Angels which are still selling well, all these years later.  It was a way for me to give a little bit back - correspondence courses had helped to get me published, so it was a natural step for me to take, to write magical correspondence courses that in turn would help others.   

So even though I am not returning to college this month I am already deeply involved in more course work.  I am undertaking more training in different kinds of counselling, namely in counselling clients with PTSD.  I have really enjoyed this course and I have learned such a lot from it.  I am looking forward to getting my certificate for it, as it will add to my portfolio. For now its enough to know I've done the course.  Between that, my formal education diploma in Therapeutic Counselling and the certificates I have in Grief Counselling and Business Etiquette, my CPD is looking good so far. 

Studying something that interests you, in the comfort of your own home, is a lovely way to spend an evening as the nights begin to draw in and autumn is upon us.  I have my Placement Report to start writing soon, plus I will be taking another online course in the winter months.  I also have tasks to complete with regards to moving my writing career from MBS, over into mainstream self-help and psychotherapy projects...but that's another blog post!

Remember that you are your own educator and nowadays learning is so accessible there really is no excuse for boredom or ignorance. So grab a cup of hot chocolate, light an autumnal candle and join with me in embarking upon a dark season of home study, because... 

"Knowledge is power"