A Thrifty Witch Haul : Just Like New Converse

I was one of those people who reacted to Converse boots like Nosferatu reacted to sunlight – I despised them. I can recall saying, on more than one occasion,  ‘I would rather die than wear Converse.’

Remember when there was that Converse craze a few years back? My sister and I used to march around town, and count the amount of people wearing Cons. The number would always sicken me and I’d take an active dislike to the stranger wearing them. Then my sister started wearing them, green ones, and I needed to be bitter all by myself. I don’t know why I felt so strongly, I mean fuck, they’re shoes. 

Anyway, the other week the man and I were thrifting and I noticed a pair of black and grey converse in immaculate condition. Before I could think about what I was doing, I was taking them off the shelf and trying them on. Comments came gushing from the man, and he motioned to his own Converse, implying we could be Con buddies.

They fit beautifully and I was surprised at how damn good they actually looked. But, like a smack around the face, I was reminded that I was supposed to hate these shoes. So I put them back. We left the store and I was empty handed…

…but just an hour or so later I returned. I returned and I picked up those fucking boots and I took them to the counter and I parted with 85 Krona and I went home. And, I felt good. I felt really, really good. I’d done something I could never have envisaged myself doing, I’d broken a style chain I’d been strangling myself with for years.

I’ve been wearing my boots almost daily since I bought them. I was imagining that I’d miss my Ranger Army Boots like I’d miss a limb or an eye, but, as it turns out, I haven’t! What, might I ask, is happening to me? I’m still a little bewildered about the whole experience. Could I, perchance, be growing the fuck up?

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Reading Myself Better

I am in England at the moment, visiting my folks and the first thing on the agenda today was to visit my old thrifting grounds.

It was my every intention to overhaul my wardrobe. So convinced was I that I would stagger back to my parents house with my body weight in second-hand threads, that I very nearly bunged all the clothes I’d brought with me – and which I’m sick of the sight of – into a black bag ready to be given away.

Thankfully though, I didn’t, because I found NOTHING worthy of buying and wearing. Which is shocking because Stockton, the town where I wander, is the charity shop capital of England.

I also found that one of my favourite second-hand hangouts has increased the price of their threads by £1. (Pretty much everything in store used to be £1.50…now, thanks to the conservatives no doubt, they’ve have to up their prices to £2.50.) Pleased I was not. £1 is a lot of money.

However the tides turned when it came to book hunting. While I wasn’t able to find anything Arctic related that I wasn’t already in possession of (FUCKING DAMMIT!), I did actually find two books which I’d gone out with the intention of finding. And what was the likelihood of that happening!?

The two books I was out hunting are actually in my mother’s possession already, but if I were to take them back to Sweden, it would be over her dead body. The two books I’m rambling about are The Nature Doctor by Dr H.C.A. Vogel (which I paid £1.50 for) and Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal by Reader’s Digest (which I paid £2 for) – two of the best tomes you can own if you’re interested in safe, healthy eating and complementary medicine.

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Over the past several years I’ve always turned to these two books when I’ve needed health advice of the natural kind. (Fuck you Google, you got nothing on these!) I’ve always felt better turning to books for advice on my body and what I’m putting inside it. When I was suffering from hypochondria several years ago, I stupidly lived on Google, believing all it told me – that I was, in fact, dying from everything.

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What I LOVE about Food That Harm, Foods That Heal is that, like all Reader’s Digest books, it’s a sturdy tome that could survive a world war. It’s gorgeously illustrated, all of the topics have been thoroughly researched and the writing is SOLID. It’s laid out in a useful A-Z format and before (nearly every) entry there’s a bullet pointed list telling you about the benefits and drawbacks of each food stuff. I’ve read this book from cover to cover – it’s really that interesting – and I’ve dipped in and out of it when I’ve needed advice on a certain something.

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What I LOVE about The Nature Doctor is that it’s exhaustive, sublimely written and, while it’s quite an old book now – this edition, the 50th was published in 1989, the original in 1952 – much of the advice trumps the majority of advice about traditional and contemporary medicine today. Though you have to take some of Vogel’s opinions with a pinch of salt and remember he was writing in a different time.

As a pagan witch, if I can heal myself naturally – mentally, physically and emotionally – I’m going to do it…and this book provides much the guidance I need to be able to do so. Tonight I will be consulting both books for an insight into the lymphatic system – mine is sluggish and I need to devise a plan to remedy that.

If you’re interested in natural healing or are even heavily experienced in healing yourself with the help of mother nature, I highly highly recommend you track these down post haste.

Witch In The Kitchen : Turmeric Smoothie

I haven’t been treating my body very well recently. And that’s not like me at all. I’ve been devouring excessive amounts of sweets because I’ve felt like ‘I’ve deserved it…’ also because I’ve been trying to make up for all the years I denied myself pick n mix.

I’ve not drinking enough water, and have been staying up until dawn to finish work. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And I know it. I really, really know it, and that’s what makes it so bloody ridiculous that I’ve allowed myself to get to this state! But it happened so fast, that I started to feel shitty I mean. Like, a few days of eating some some sweets has done this to me. Sweets can be bad magic if you abuse them!

My energy has dribbled away, leaving me slow to move my limbs, slow to respond to life and irritable. So fucking irritable. My flesh isn’t used to being treated like this. It’s used to being looked after like the temple I need to remember it is.

My sleep has been poor too. When I’ve been able to drift off that is. My thoughts have been racing more than usual, my brain firing random, useless bullshit at me. Stuff that I really don’t need to be thinking about ever.

If I do manage to get some sleep nowadays, I’m hounded by dreams more complicated and long-winded than Gormenghast. They leave me feeling more knackered when I wake up than I felt before I went to bed. My health isn’t right at the moment, and it’s getting to me. I know food is one of the main reasons I’m feeling shitty, so I’m putting the candy aside to pay more attention to what’s fueling me.

I’ve been slowly filling up our spice shelves slowly, and turmeric is the latest addition. When I was growing up, my mother always had an impressive spice collection going on. I always thought there was something magical about it, and I wasn’t wrong…spices are the magic in our kitchens.

Sometimes I’d just go through them, the jars of spices, one by one, and sniff them out of curiosity. Sometimes a bit too hard and my little nostrils would set on fire. Some things never change – I still sniff spices, and my mother still has an eclectic collection of spices, some with names I’ll never be able to pronounce. If I’m going to someone’s house, and find they have more spices than cinnamon and nutmeg, I’m always impressed.

I was writing about Turmeric – also know as Indian Saffron – recently, and have become a convert to India’s golden spice. This superfood which makes our cooking dazzle, is capable of so much more than just flavouring and colouring our food – it can actually work immediately to better our physical, emotional and psychological health. Fucking perfect!

Curcumin, the stuff in turmeric which makes it golden, can actually help to ease anxiety and has shown promise as an anti-depressant. As well as being capable of improving your mood, turmeric is also a miracle healer for pain. It is, however, difficult for the body to absorb, so it’s advised to always add a dash of black pepper to whatever you’re using the turmeric with, as it greatly enhances absorption. I didn’t on this occasion, but I’m going to add a dash next time and see how it works.

I just cobbled this turmeric smoothie together using some a dash of common sense and some of my favourite smoothie ingredients – no processed sugar, no bad shit at all! And it turned out to be…really, really fucking good! I mean genuinely, this is going to be something I’ll be having several times a week. It’s surprisingly sweet, perfectly spicy, comes out with this delicious frothy topping. It also drinks down so smooth it’s like having a desert…but what that’s good for you in a hundred different ways.

I’m not saying give up sweets all together. Hell no. Just be more conscious…for example maybe get a bar of organic chocolate and savour it properly, instead of getting a bag of pick n mix and just putting it into your body without even engaging your senses into what it is you’re eating.

Let me know how it turns out for you, and if you start to reap the turmeric rewards! I’ll be posting some more turmeric recipes soon, so if you enjoyed this one, keep an eye out.

*I had my smoothie with some Valdosta Pecans – Glazed Mix that a friend kindly sent me from the states. DIVINE combination.

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Ingredients

  • 1 banana (frozen if you wish, though mine was just refrigerated)
  • 250 ml of skimmed milk (though you can semi skimmed, full fat or soya)
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Small handful of oats

Directions

  • Place all your ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Drink slowly and really enjoy.

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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The original Luna…

…and the ways I interpreted her…

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

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Effect : Paper Folding

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

— George Carlin

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Effect – Frost

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

– Sylvia Plath

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Effect – Dark

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

— Allen Ginsberg

 

Wyrd Things For Wyrd People

My shop A Living Witch is a treasure trove of wyrd things for wyrd people. Some of the things I part ways with have been found during thrifting adventures…

I was on my way to the library the other day when  my heart said ‘stop by the thrift store…’ Never one to ignore my precious organ, I made a detour. Once inside, my sixth sense led me to the home ware section, where I found three Konge-Tinn napkin ring holders in immaculate condition. I scooped them up, knowing that I’d found something very fucking special.

My research told me Konge-Tinn translates to King’s Pewter, and this special, Viking era pattern circulating the holders had been in use – and celebrated in Norway and across the world – since 1958. One source told me these date back to the 1960’s…though another one said the 1980’s. Either way, they’re probably the most epic looking napkin ring holders you’re going to find. Buy them here!

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As well as thrifting for my shop, I also made things. We’re hardly out of winter and already I’m missing it’s chilly breath on my neck. To cope with my loss, I’ve been wearing snowflake earrings, so I can always carry a little bit of winter with me.

I’ve always thought it magic that no two snowflakes are the same, and that singularly they’re so fragile, but when collected together are powerful beyond imagining.

This earring set, composed of two unique pewter snowflakes, embodies the fascination, and respect I hold for the crystals of the cold.

I made three sets to sell for other winter craving creatures. You can find them here!

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April’s Reading Stack

Is there really anything more beautiful than a stack of books you haven’t read yet? More beautiful than those unturned pages? More beautiful than the adventure of a new beginning? In my head, nothing can come close.

Living in Sweden means I don’t have immediate access to my entire book collection (I have 1% of it here with me…need to bring it in dribs and drabs) which fucking hurts. It also means that only a tiny portion of books in Borås library are available for me to inhale. Though I can’t complain. I should be grateful they have any at all.

April’s ambitious stack is a smorgasbord of all my favourite things –  Arctic nature, Scandinavian culture, black metal, magic in the everyday, polar exploration and horror.

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The Ghastling Edited By Rebecca Parfitt

‘Our fears take on many shapes and forms; from the intangible – the lurking shadows in the periphery of the mind; to our own mortality and fear of what comes after and will it come back for us?’ – From the editor’s letter.

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Black Metal Into The Abyss By Dayal Patterson

Features exclusive interviews withFURIA • MASSEMORD • 1349 • FORGOTTEN WOODS • TSJUDER • NOCTURNAL DEPRESSION • VEMOD • ONE TAIL • ONE HEAD • MYSTIFIER • BLACK ALTAR • BESATT • MORD ‘A’ STIGMATA • TRIST • HELHEIM • HYPOTHERMIA • LOITS • DEINONYCHUS • PSYCHONAUT 4 • KOLDBRANN • URGEHAL • SACRILEGIUM • BLAZE OF PERDITION

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The Little Book Of Hygge By Meik Wiking

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to the cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight.’ – From the back cover.

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What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi

‘Jill Akkerman’s husband had been wanting to have a talk with her for weeks, and she was two hundred percent certain that it was going to be an unpleasant one.’ – The first sentence in the short story Presence.

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The Abominable By Dan Simmons

‘June 1924 : On the brutal North East Ridge of Mount Everest, famous adventurer George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanish into the snow whipped night. Daredevil explorer Richard Deacon devises a plan to follow in the men’s footsteps, accompanied by two friends. Off piste and with almost no support tea, the three men strike for Everest’s peak and the most vicious climate on earth. As the winds rise and the temperature and oxygen levels drop, Deacon and his companions hear howls in the distance…’ – From the book jacket.

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Islands Of The Arctic By Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey

‘The Arctic islands are characterized by beautiful mountains and glaciers, in which the wildlife lives in delicate balance with its environment. It is a fragile region with a long history of exploration and exploitation that is now experiencing rapid environmental change. All of these themes are explored in Islands of the Arctic, a richly illustrated volume with superb photographs from the Canadian Arctic archipelago, Greenland, Svalbard and the Russian Arctic.’ – From the back cover.

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At The Mercy Of The Winds By David Hempleman-Adams

‘It is instructive to write here that on his doomed attempt to fly a hydrogen balloon across the North Pole in 1896, the explorer Andree took along with him a dinner jacket in case he was obliged to feast with the king of some as yet undiscovered arctic country.’ – From chapter one.

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Which book here is grappling with your attention, and what do you find yourself reading this month?

 

On Mondays We Walk For Wellbeing

It didn’t matter that I’d only caught five hours of sleep, this morning (I was writing about reasons why home birth is best until 3am…and watching YouTube videos of bear attacks. I have an odd fascination with people meeting their ends at the jaws of animals…) outside was too beautifully gloomy to miss. I was just as lucky last week too.

I’d like to say I know the forest well, but eventhough I’ve been navigating it for over 12 months, I know I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.

I try to have all of my senses awake when I’m out in the forest, but often my mind wanders to places I’d rather it fucking didn’t, and I find myself wanting to back track to take in everything again with a clear head.

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The finely spun spiderwebs were so finespun, that I could only see them when I angled my head a certain way.

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I’ve trudged past these views hundreds of times before. But they always have a new magic waiting for me.

Spring has started to shake herself awake – all the signs were there. My mittens remained tucked away in my bag, and the birds were so ecstatic it was catching.

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The frogs have come out of their winter hibernation, and are making babies…by the thousands. I haven’t lost that childlike sense of wonder when it comes to frogspawn. I still crouch down to get a better look and am mystified by the little jellied embryos.

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Much of the time, the forest requires you to have your adult head on…to be wary of where you are standing and to not loose your bearings. But there are times that it also lets you drop the weight of adulthood for a while, and recapture what it meant to be little, curious and open to magic.