My First International Exhibition Is Happening

A few months ago, an art curator called Jan Van Woensel contacted me. He’d seen my photography and poetry on Instagram, and was interested in exhibiting my work in Belgium.

Needless to say I first thought it was some kind of joke. I mean, my photography on walls? Nah. Wouldn’t happen in real life.

But it wasn’t a joke. It was mightily serious. And I have the photographs to prove that it’s actually happening.

18519700_1389670287769314_632424798281250327_n18485988_1390018434401166_6277293965867479537_n18581884_1389685171101159_1869910344592860424_n

If you happen, for some reason, to be in Genk in Belgium on May 24th, check out the Your Eyes Burn Like Wild Fire show where I and dozens of other artists are having our work on public display.

When You Are Born

Today I was writing an article about terminally ill children. One story was particularly painful, that of an 11 week old boy who was diagnosed with terminal cancer…

I have been thinking about children a lot recently, and having a family so I started something this afternoon…it’s very rough, very rough, but I just needed to get something out.

 
When You Are Born
 
I imagine that I will lose
an ocean of blood
when your time as a hermit ends
and you venture
out from the dark cave
of my womb.
 
But I will hardly notice,
even when they’re sewing
up the holes made by your shoulders
 
Because all the love will disguise
all the pain.
 
I will learn of tiredness
like I’ve never known
and my nipples will become
tall as pyramids, sore as new teeth.
 
I will have gained
a perfect new adventure
in the most beautiful skin
I have ever seen.
 
Everything will be as exact as it should be,
and you will have plenty enough eyelashes
to keep away the dust.
 
I will be forever
imagining your freckles
as star constellations,
and will kiss each one
at dawn and twilight.
 
I will ache for the volcanic eruptions
of your cries, then for your forest lake of silence.
 
I will live to watch you watching me watching you,
I will not be afraid to let you see me cry.

My Arctic Library : Men Of The Frozen North

I had a thought a couple of months ago…’I wonder if I could collect all the books ever published in English about the Arctic?’ The thought made my blood tingle and my heart get all over excited.

Within moments of having the thought, a new dream was born. I decided that, no matter how long it would take me, I WOULD, one day, own every work of Arctic literature published in my native tongue.

I own probably around 60 books about The Arctic – though the number I’ve read reaches into the hundreds. Thank fuck for libraries is all I have to say. I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for libraries. When I say libraries save lives, I really mean it.

Anyway…once I’d had the idea of building up an ultimate Arctic library, I jettisoned myself over to Facebook and Instagram where I put my idea out into the open, and asked if anyone would be willing to part with their own Arctic literature to help me establish my library proper.

I wasn’t too surprised when nobody joined the conversation…I mean, not everyone is so into the Arctic that they have a collection of books dedicated to the northern most part of earth.

But then…then I received a lovely message from one FB friend, Iris, from America. She sent a photo of Men of the Frozen North by Peter Freuchen and said ‘would you like it?’ I was a bit overcome and nearly burst into tears before replying I’d love it! When I asked about the postage to Sweden she said not to worry. My heart wanted to pop out and give her a bloody, juicy hug.

Hardly a week later and there was a package for me. A heavy package. A package that definitely contained more than a book. After breaking through the dense sellotape seal and thick cardboard I found a treasury of gifts.

I pulled them out, one by one. Each was wrapped in black tissue paper and exquisite silver ribbon. There was even a tiny handmade coffin box holding two of the gifts. A handmade coffin box! For me! 

636288174311377869_Afterlight_Edit

My tattoo written in Elder Futhark reads ‘Proceed from the dream outward.’ (Carl Jung)

636285781118531146_Afterlight_Edit

The parrot feather is my book mark for this journey.

I stood there for about ten minutes, looking at this beautiful bounty. I could feel the salt water gathering on my eyeballs. The kindness, the mother freaking kindness was just so much! The package was so exquisitely prepared, the gifts – which included a water buffalo tooth, a parrot feather, several bars of handmade chocolate, a hand made witch patch and several packets of jerky – so lovingly considered.

636285782317683932_Afterlight_Edit636285783413450715_Afterlight_Edit

When I’d gathered myself, I explored Men of the Frozen North. I smelt it. It hummed deliciously of old bookshop and was in immaculate condition for a book that’s older than my mother. (It was published in 1962.) I examined the contents page while squealing excitedly about what I was going to discover. (I was particularly excited about Part IV The Lapps as my knowledge there is a little weak.) I fanned through the pages, my eyes darting over words, illustrations and photographs. You’d have thought I’d never seen a book before.

636285785633683803_Afterlight_Edit

636288188615591849_Afterlight_Edit

Men of the Frozen North was written by Peter Freuchen – his life-worn portrait on the back cover of the book is deeply humbling – a Danish explorer, author and anthropologist. He’s renowned for his role in Arctic exploration, in particular the Thule Expeditions. He was also a serious badass, the sort of badass we rarely see in today’s world.

636285784469259391_Afterlight_Edit636288177885899028_Afterlight_Edit

The 6ft 7 Dane wore a coat made from the skin of a polar bear he’d killed himself, he amputated his own toes with no anesthesia and once, when trapped in a tomb of ice after being caught in a blizzard, made a knife out of his own shit and carved his way out to safety. Needless to say, I’m pretty fucking excited about what’s going to unfold when I start powering my way through Men of the Frozen North.

If you think you might be able to contribute to my Arctic Library and be a part of this ambitious dream, let me know in the comments or you can send a note to katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk I would be ever so grateful!

 

Why I Am Going To ‘Woman The Fuck Up’ About Money

I don’t know when or why I became sensitive about money. I  do remember when I opened my bank account though…I was 12 and had £10 to put in that I’d received for my birthday. And believe me, I was dead set that that £10 wasn’t going anywhere.

Every time I could put something in there – be it £2 or £20 – I felt like I was accomplishing something really fucking significant. I felt no shame in going up to the cashier and saying ‘I’d like to put this £2.50 into my bank account please.’

As a family of six, money was never something we had much of, and while my friends were rocking their new Nike trainers, I was wearing my aunties hand-me-down mid 80’s Reeboks that were three times too big. While my friends were crossing the sea to Greece, my siblings and I stayed with my Grandmother in a caravan on the blustery North East coast of England. While my friends brought in licorice and chocolate to school for break time, I brought in half a jam and margarine sandwich made with Safeway Own Value white bread. Despite our frugal living, we were happy and my childhood was one I wouldn’t change, it was impossibly rich in creativity, adventure and love.

My mum would welcome in all the kids from the street, and give them the food she worked two jobs for. Our homes during the years – we moved a few times – became refuges for kids whose parents didn’t give two shits about them, or kids who just wanted to get away and discovered that they found peace at our house. It was a very rare occasion that mum made anyone go on back home. Some would stay for days, others weeks. Our house was always a buzz of activity with new faces appearing every five minutes.

“It’s hard enough to give fearlessly, and it’s even harder to receive fearlessly.
But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame.
And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them.
Just to let them.” – Amanda Palmer

I was seventeen and in collage when I got my first job. I worked the weekends as a catering assistant at a KP Foods factory and brought home £47.60 a week. I hated my job. I hated getting up while the rest of my family were sleeping and cycling in the dark to a factory whose smell made me gag from even a mile away. I hated the fact I was always given the shitty jobs ‘Katie, clean out the smokers room…’

I hated that 80% of the people I cooked, served and cleaned up after were spiteful and rude and seemingly unable to eat a cooked breakfast without half of it ending up smeared all over their table. I’m sure they did it because it would mean I’d have a nightmare scraping it up once they’d left, and the bean juice and egg yolk had dried. I hated the bitching and the behind the back talking. I hated that my skin and hair smelt like I’d been dipped in the deep fat fryer whenever I was finished for the day. If I’d been able to smell my bones, I think they would have stank too.

Much of the time I’d go home and cry. But I didn’t quit. I worked every weekend for three years at that place before packing it in. What would get me through wasn’t thinking about what I’d spend my money on, rather what I’d write when I got home. I was working on my second book and it took up almost all the hours when I wasn’t at college or work. It was my everything. It was what made me get up in the morning.

Several other jobs followed this one, none of them enjoyable, none of them satisfying, none of them made me think ‘hell, I want to do this instead of writing as a career!’ My mental health meant that I wasn’t as ‘on the ball’ I should have been. My anxiety meant I was afraid to confront customers. My values and how I’d been brought up left me unable to pressurize people into buying things I knew they probably couldn’t afford.

“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.” – Amanda Palmer

I never ‘fitted in’ with any of my work teams and was always the ‘weird one.’ I didn’t mind being the weird one, but I did mind the gossip, I did mind the laughing, I did mind the ‘quiet word in my office’ moments where I was told I ‘had to come out of myself.’ I couldn’t come out of my self. Hell, I was enough out of myself by turning up when fatigue made my body heavy as an iron lady. But it was always the thought that ‘when I get home I can write’ that got me through.

I’d known, since I was a kid that I’d ‘have to work a normal job’ while waiting for my writing career ‘to take off.’ And I’ve worked enough ‘normal jobs’ to know I don’t cut it, that it’s not for me. My bi-polar and anxiety means that to get to my ‘normal job’ is hard enough as it is. Many don’t realize that managing to get through the day when you have bi-polar is achievement worthy of reward. This quote from Carrie Fisher sums it up quite perfectly:

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” Wishful Drinking, her 2008 memoir about her mental illness and prescription drug addiction

I’m a lone wolf who thrives in solitude, and feels weakened when she’s crowded or put under the rule of someone else. I’ve never wanted to work for anyone but myself. I found my life’s meaning when I was four years old, and I’ve never strayed from that path, not even for a second. But to keep on that path, I need to do something which, at first, made me feel ashamed because I’m a fucking proud woman…

Since being in Sweden I’ve been living off my savings, freelance writing work, hand outs from my parents and by the support of my partner. But the savings are gone now. The work doesn’t pay well, and the discussion of ‘getting a real job’ has been raging for months. I’ve been working harder, faster, but the money never seems to catch up.

I’ve signed on at what’s essentially the Swedish Job Centre, but I don’t get any hand outs nor do I get any actual useful help. My partner thinks that, despite me having a 1st class degree, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll have to work as a cleaner or something. To think of this makes my heart become as heavy as a handful of wet sand. It makes me feel weak and helpless and vulnerable. It makes me worry about the hours that I’ll have left to create and do what I need to do to keep my spirit from rotting.

The contents of my bank account have always been a secret. I haven’t wanted to share its numbers with my family or anyone else. And when someone has asked ‘how much is in there?’ I’ve become deeply offended and angry. A large part of me feels I’ve let myself down by not being a fully self-sufficient writer by the age of 30.

“There’s really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders. And…it’s lonely” – Amanda Palmer

But not I’m letting my guard down. I’m not going to be secretive about money because if I want to make it I need to ask for help. I need people willing to support me in my journey to becoming a fully self-sufficient writer. I’m not only asking for help with this because writing is what makes me happy, I’m asking for help because writing is what helps me keep my sanity.

So I’ve established a Patreon page. There’s the option for you to pledge as much or as little as you would like to, and with each pledge comes a reward. By setting up a Patreon page, I’ve let go of my sensitivity to money and am openly asking for support in my life’s mission.  I’ll leave you with this uber poignant quote from the incredible Amanda Palmer whose book The Art Of Asking I highly recommend.

“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.”  ― Amanda Palmer

Become my

Strength Is Around Here Somewhere

I’m feeling weak today. My self-esteem is somewhere out of sight, and the temptation to flee the internet is almost overwhelming. I’ve been having panic attacks about love heart emojis, and comparing the size of my breasts to someone elses, someone I don’t even know and whom I will never meet.

I’ve been bullying myself for not being able to stop overthinking and overthinking and overthinking. I’ve been bullying the one I love because I was struggling to love myself. Looking in the mirror today was impossible because I felt too disgusted with myself, with my appearance, with my thoughts and actions.

I’m wishing we were still in winter. I’m wishing I could go to ground with a brown mother bear, and hibernate in her massive arms. I wish I could regurgitate the berries I’d eaten during the autumn months and feed on them when I was hungry. I wish I could come back to earth’s surface strong and capable of fighting off anything that tried to go for my jugular.

In an attempt to gather back some strength, I’ve been looking at some self-portraits where I try and epitomize what it is to be a strong woman. I’ve also rounded up some quotes that bring me comfort and fire. I’ve fallen, but it’s time to woman the fuck up.

15781149_10154852812493088_1464061417819018019_n

The people
who consider you weak
have not yet noticed
the wolf hiding
behind your eyes,
nor the flames
inside your soul.

Let them think
you are weak
and do what
wolves and fire
do best.

Surprise them
when they least expect it.

– Nikita Gill

636268441023932366_Afterlight_Edit

It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible. Yet I would have to agree, there is in many women a ‘hungry’ one inside. But rather than hungry to be a certain size, shape, or height, rather than hungry to fit the stereotype; women are hungry for basic regard from the culture surrounding them. The ‘hungry’ one inside is longing to be treated respectfully, to be accepted and in the very least, to be met without stereotyping.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés

636259639752017521_Afterlight_Edit

A strong woman is a woman who craves love like oxygen or she turns blue choking.  A strong woman is a woman who loves strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong in words, in action, in connection, in feeling; she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

— Marge Piercy

636111231635299357_Afterlight_Edit

Operation Self-Esteem–Day Fucking One. ― Elizabeth Gilbert

Interpreting The Moon

While she wasn’t quite yet full, the moon last night was watching over me.  Anxiety was eating away at my good mood, so to calm the fuck down and move forward with my evening I decided on some ‘down time’ photographing and editing, and who better to be my model but Luna? When my anxiety is so rife it hurts to breathe, creating is the way to re-discovering peace. Always. The following quote illustrates what I mean beautifully…

“Art is a wound turned into light.” – Georges Braque

One of my favourite free editing programs to use is Lunapic and recently I’ve uncovered a whole other world of features. The next few hours were happy ones, as they ought to be on a Saturday night. I also gathered together some of my favourite moon quotes from some people I happen to like rather a lot.

636272850405832705_Afterlight_Edit

The original Luna…

…and the ways I interpreted her…

All of these effects can be found in the drop down menu under ‘Art.’

imageedit_54_9552448734

Effect : Paper Folding

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

— George Carlin

imageedit_55_2018511664

Effect – Frost

If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.

– Sylvia Plath

imageedit_59_3990201033

Effect – Dark

Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.

— Allen Ginsberg