Keeping It Together

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Shooting in Massbrook Woods. Picture taken by Jack Pinson.

I’m very tired today, after talking to one of my oldest friends Shane half the night, who had stopped by on his way to a course he’s taking in Galway. It was great, the kind of rambling conversation easily drifting from one topic to another, that you can only have with people you know so well that you’re completely comfortable and relaxed around them.

Last Saturday, I spent a lovely evening at the house of Jack and Ziva and their two little hobbits, once again missing out on sleep because we chatted all evening and I had to drive home afterwards. Occasionally, I hear from Inga who’s working her hulderish backside off and intermittently manages to type a quick message and hug to me. And then there’s the email from Andreas in Germany who turned 50 last week and wrote how much he likes my birthday present.

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Andreas and Karola, during my visit in Germany this April

Life is only ever as good as the people in it, don’t let anybody tell you any different. And by these standards, my life is pretty danged spectacular!

I need to say this, and remind myself that it’s the case, because there are some other things which continue to rankle, and demand a solution in the not-too-distant future. I did mention I’ve started to work on my Coaching business in earnest now? It’s what I’m here on this planet to do, and this work is so sorely needed… And yet I find myself stalling, once again, as I did so many times before. I’m not giving in to it this time, don’t worry, I’m serious about doing this, but the fact is that I’m committed to pursing my passions and joy and I refuse to give in to stress ever again in my life. That’s fairly difficult to uphold, though, when I work a full-time job and a business at the same time.

No matter how I slice it, something always falls through the cracks. It’s either the job or the business, or the sleep, or my passions, regular exercise, nourishing my body, or any combination of the above.

And don’t get me started on my living situation and the little sleep it brings with it. By the way: I’m not looking for advice here. This is my process and while I am happy to listen to people’s thoughts, they have to be people who know me and my situation really well. I’m just writing this to let you know what’s going on, and of course good vibes are always appreciated.

The thing is that I’m less and less willing to compromise endlessly. I’m not asking for all that much: Living on my own in a detached place (it’s fine if it’s small) with internet. And a chance to build up this business without having to work 24/7. I’d love to do this in Ireland, but I’m really not sure if it’s possible – this country is fucked up in terms of rents, the availability (or lack thereof) of mortgages, and living costs.

It’s a work in progress and I don’t have to solve the riddle right now, but I’ll have to do it soon-ish. In fact, I’ve set myself a deadline of about three years. By 2020, I want to make it happen. Watch this space.

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New recurve bow. Picture by Jack Pinson.

For now, I intend to enjoy the stillness of the New Moon and get some rest before I venture out again to see people. I’ve got some passions-work to do and a lot of business work as well, to get the message out there, to make sure the people who are awake and conscious and no longer willing to settle (like me), will find me and my website.

One day, I’ll figure out how to keep it all together. I’m working on it!

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Desperately Seeking Hag!

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People have been grumbling at me for not updating my blog more often. In fact, I’ve been grumbling at myself, too, because I actually really love chatting to all those beautiful souls who are too far away to see regularly. And my posts often get conversations going, I get a comment, or a message or email, and suddenly I’m reminded of how lucky I am to know such genuinely lovely folks.

Therefore: I’m sorry. Insert grovelling here!

Oh, and if you’re one of those who always wait for a prompt from me on Facebook: Did ya know you can subscribe to this blog? All you need to do is fill in the form here, and I’ll send you a little email whenever I post. Nobody else is ever going to see your data, obviously. Hagish word of honour.

So what, inquires my captive audience, does the hag do these days when she’s not updating her blog? Why, I’m glad you asked!

You know that freelance Coaching stuff I do? The business I’ve been going on about growing for years? I made several half-hearted attempts, even serious attempts, but then never quite followed through. The handful of clients I had on the side, was wonderful and just about right for me. As you know, I only just got away from some rather miserable years in autumn 2015, and I have sworn off “busy” ever since.

In fact, my healing mostly occurred because of this refusal to be busy or stressed anymore. I took my time, did everything in my stride, and took lots and lots of time for myself. It was beautiful, and necessary. And now I believe I’m actually ready to follow through and grow the business into something a little more substantial. For the last four weeks, I’ve been working on it and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. So far I’ve managed not to get stressed, although it stings a bit having to say “no” to friends because I have very limited, and scheduled, time off these days, usually on Saturdays.

It’s working, though! I don’t feel busy, although I have a lot to do (and get a lot done!). I’ve even managed to keep stress at bay through some fairly tedious tasks of the technical variety, like website SEO (don’t ask!). I’ve interviewed some of my patient and thoroughly amazing friends to get out of my own head and see my potential clients’ needs and questions. The result is a prettier, much clearer website with a new free offer that you can totally sign up for (yay!): A 3-part money training series which kicks ass.

I avoid the stress by consciously taking time off whenever I start feeling that frenzy which accompanies “not being able to stop”. I love Coaching, it’s my calling, but I can’t do just that in my life and nothing else. So I drag myself away. And this weekend, I took Saturday off work and won’t do any work tomorrow either because I am, actually, in New Ross where I’ll participate in the Wexford Archers’ 3D shoot!

Today was a glorious sunny spring day and I took some pictures on the drive down, quite literally, through the front and side windows whilst driving. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful Co Tipperary is:

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New Ross is completely gorgeous, too. I think I must have won the B&B lottery, because this house is on a hill overlooking the river valley which is jaw-droppingly beautiful:

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I took a walk into town and nearly forgot looking for food when I saw the “Dunbrody”, a reproduction of a typical emigrant ship. It’s beautiful but very small and made of wood (cue “shiver me timbers” joke), and to think that people actually sailed all the way across the Atlantic to America in these, is incredible. The pic is above, under the blog post title.

On the way back, I couldn’t put the camera away, until it was almost too dark to take pictures. Here’s a last one, of a beautiful flowering hedge:

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And now to bed! Where I am already, in fact, sitting and typing this on my laptop. I just hope the other guests will be quiet enough for this hypersensitive hag to sleep tonight. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather at tomorrow’s shoot!

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In Which I Reveal A Sheeecret

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It is a truth universally acknowledged… -all right, maybe not, but everybody who knows me, knows that I’m in love with my bow. I adore the sheer sensuality of feeling the living wood in my hands. The other week I got to “meet” the piece of ash which might become my new longbow in time, and I fell in love with that, too. Almost makes me feel like I’m cheating on my current bow, haha! Maybe I’m polyamorous when it comes to bows?

I went to practise at our club’s range in Massbrook Woods today and while I got in a few really good hits, I still lack consistency. I’m working on that! Last year was about being a beginner and getting into the swing of things, this year will be about improving and gaining new experiences, and that includes new field archery courses. I’ve resolved to take part in at least two 3D shoots at other Irish clubs this year, and I’ve also been planning something outrageously adventurous and frankly, rather ridiculous, which I’ve been hinting at on Facebook but never really revealed, and that’s…

… I’ll travel to Canada for a few days in July and among other things, I’ll take part in a 3D shoot there, too!

There are several reasons why this is such monumental news, the most important of which is that ever since my mum’s stroke and then death in 2009/2010, I haven’t been on a proper holiday, other than visiting lovely friends in Athens for a long weekend in 2012 and a weekend in London – literally one night – last year. So this will be the first purely for shits ‘n’ giggles holiday in eight years, and I’m almost painfully excited in anticipation.

Of course, this means that I’ll have to practise and expand. On Sunday I started exploring other ranges by finally shooting with Sandy and Ali and some others around their house in Clare (this is where the title pic was taken).

Today in Massbrook was the first time in months that the sunshine on my large hagish nose actually felt warm, or at least mild. Spring is definitely on its way! If you’d like to see more of Massbrook, I took two short videos this winter – here’s the first one:

 

And the second:

 

I’m happy to report that my shoulder didn’t hurt at all today! This is particularly brilliant because I did the entire course, all 25 pegs with 1-3 targets each. I’ve been very careful to remember basics such as warming up and stretching before and after shooting. This is part of a newly discovered approach which might make a little sense of my recent forearm tendonitis.

I never wrote about it a lot; suffice it to say that it’s been awful. I’d wanted to do HEMA for years and then finally started in April last year, which made me beyond happy. There are few things which feel better than swinging a sword (two, in fact: traditional archery and dancing), and to have that taken away again, and through my own fault for messing it up… it was very hard for me to deal with. At the same time, I always felt there had to be some lesson in there. In part it is definitely an “Upper Limit” problem (if you don’t know what that is, read Gay Hendricks’s The Big Leap. It’s in my top three non-fictional books of all time).

More recently, I realised that a contributing factor was me overdoing it – a classic case of “too much, too soon” – after the years of inertia and bad health gone before. I’m naturally the most impatient person in the world, but now I’m learning to  v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y  build up my muscles, and stop immediately when it starts hurting again. My plan is to eventually start with the beginner basics again and look mostly at technique, really learn correct technique, and listen to my body every step of the way. So what if it takes me five years to get halfway decent at swordfighting? I’m not in this to win tournaments, I’m in it for the sheer wild bliss of it.

There’s a rather unhealthy approach to physical fitness in our world. One could sum it up as: “Pain is good! Keep pushing!” It’s kinda the ideal, and looked at with admiration, to ruin one’s body and health in the process. Just look at pro athletes, and that goes from ballerinas who completely fuck up their feet, to footballers whose knees go out of service at the age of 40. The weekend before last, I got to talk to the brilliant Keith Farrell, who was teaching a longsword master class at an event organised by my club. Keith is still in his 20s but told me he trains with a view to still being able to do these things decades from now. I had a bit of an aha-moment there when I realised that this is exactly what I want to do!

Some might argue that my tendonitis has to do with my age, but I call BS. I’m fairly certain that I would have run into the same problems if I were 27 instead of 47, if I’d overdone it after being unhealthy and out of shape for years. A friend of mine, Jack, has had problems with his knees for over a year now, from a slight mistake in his footwork, and he’s nearly 15 years younger than I am. It’s lazy to blame it on age, when really it’s the fundamental, underlying approach that’s wrong.

And there, right there, is my lesson from the injury. Upper Limit – which is basically sabotaging oneself from an erroneous belief that life can’t get “too good” – and an unhealthy approach to getting back into shape. Wow. Maybe I should be grateful that I got the injury heads-up early on, when I’m still able to correct my approach and become more aware. Because I, too, intend to dance, shoot, and do swordfighting for many years to come.

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Pussified

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It’s my birthday! I woke up with my element this morning, the wind blowing all around the house, and because I have the day off, I stayed cuddled into my bed for a while and sang that lovely Cat Stevens song:

“I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. …

I let my music take me where my heart wants to go.”

Tonight, I’ll have some very lovely people over for a small birthday gathering, and I’m all a-tingle looking forward to that.To pass the time, I thought I’d look back over the year since my 46th.

Last year, I’d just started feeling again and was sheer drowning in a tidal wave of the sludge that accumulates in a soul which isn’t cleansed and aired and celebrated for years. It was horrible, but necessary. In the 12 months since, I’ve experienced healing, joy, strengthening, and then injury and the associated lessons.

Mostly, the lesson has been that there’s a price to pay for the abuse I’ve put myself through, both in terms of my soul and my body. That I need to take things slowly and be very, very good to myself for a very, very long time in order to fully heal. That’s what I’m doing now. It’s also a lesson in patience, which I’m not exactly famous for possessing!

Today, I focus on how far I’ve come already. My life is so wonderful right now, with just the right kind of people coming into it and the right kind of experiences unfolding! Here are my plans for the coming year. I will:

  • continue the work of re-connecting with old friends and further connecting with the new ones. This will involve some travel, starting in April when I’ll got to Germany for a little longer than usual to see, not only my dad, but also two of my oldest and dearest friends.
  • further heal and strengthen my body. One of my goals is to attend at least two field archery shoots outside my own club’s. I have three years to go to my middle-term goal of being in top shape and looking my best at 50 (and from there, maintain that for at least 25 years, and then see if I can still improve on it!).
  • take my Coaching business to the next level, overcome my fear of visibility and actually do the work. I’m currently creating a program on “Wild Money” which will be launched soon, and if you want to give me a birthday present, it really really helps if you Like my Facebook page and spread the word.
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At the range in Massbrook woods last month

So what’s going on in my life right now? Huge discoveries, actually. I’m once again bowled over at the impact books can have, and how they often tie in with my life. The more open and connected I am, the more I draw books into my life which exactly match the outside world and are exactly what I need to learn at the time.

Number One is the incredible, absolutely revolutionary, making-sense-of-my-life with one, bright illuminating flash of light Pussy – a reclamation by the amazing Regena Thomashauer (Mama Gena). In fact, its impact is so massive that I think I may require every woman I talk to, to have read this book in future (it wouldn’t go amiss if men read it, too). Basically, it connects women’s power back to their actual pussy – yep – and to the principle of pleasure and enjoyment in every part of their lives. Funny, isn’t it, that I’ve just arrived at the conclusion that joy and our passions, that which lights us up, is not a luxury but central to life, and based my Coaching around that?

The other one I haven’t finished yet: Upper Limit by Gay Hendricks. Only just reading the first chapter made the penny drop. It’s without exaggeration the key to all unhappiness and lack of success in the world, on a personal and more global level. Absolutely mind-blowing and yet sooooo simple! After my birthday, I’ll dive in and finish it, and by the gods, will I put this into practice.

And now I’m off to finish a cake! Have a wonderful time, my dear tribe, this is a time of new beginnings and things are germinating all around. It’s a time of hope. Be a part of it.

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What A Year!

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The high plain where I greeted the rising sun on Solstice morning

It’s become fashionable on Social Media to post about how bad a year was when it’s drawing to an end. This year, it’s particularly poignant, with people honing in on worrying political developments and celebrity deaths in 2016.

Granted, some very popular people died this year – David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, now George Michael, to name but a few. But the truth is that people die all the time. For me personally, the recent deaths of well-known people which affected me the most, all happened in 2015: Chris Squire most of all (I won’t write about it now or that’ll be all this entry is about), Terry Pratchett, and Lemmy.

I won’t go into political details here – those who know me, know my views, and this isn’t a news outlet – but the shift to the right in countries like the UK and the US didn’t just happen this year, it only manifested in rather concrete election/referendum results now after building up for years. Most of us didn’t want to believe it would actually get this bad, but the writing on the wall has been there all along.

These things are not what this post is about, though. No, I feel the need to share what 2016 meant for me on a personal level.

To spoil the conclusion: It was an incredible year. A year of re-awakening, of dreams coming true and others beginning to take shape on the horizon. A year of strengthening and growth, of ecstasy, joy, and passion. Of starry-eyedness and good sex and just the right dose of drama and hurt as well.

It was the year when I allowed myself to feel again.

At the end of each year, I review the goals I set on New Year’s Eve the previous year. I did that the other day and apart from one area (where I consciously chose to put a goal on hold for another while), I’ve reached every single goal. Some of them I completely blew out of the water. Life has a way of bowling me over, it just loves doing that. It’s part of our ongoing romance, and what keeps me hooked in a way I’ve never been permanently hooked by a human partner.

Here’s my review:

January

I started this year writing. My story was what brought me back to feeling my emotions. It was an intense and often sad time, but such a relief to be FEELING again. I’m proud to have finished the story (it’s the length of a novel), and it means the world to me.

February

The focus was my health, mainly by finding more foods I love and which are good for me, and beginning to strengthen my body. It was slow going but I stuck with it and saw some progress eventually.

March

This is when I started reaching out to what has become my archery club and my swordfighting club. In the last days of March, I started archery again and bought my bow. Almost instantly, I couldn’t believe I’d ever lived without shooting.

April

Finally started the longsword beginners’ course. Also participated in the Mayo Archery Club’s shoot after only two weeks of training, which was my first visit to Massbrook Woods, my favourite place in the whole world. So much happiness!

May

Life just kept unfolding like a fairytale. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones. The uncontested highlight of the month was an enchanted weekend in London with my wonderful Inga.

June

Midsummer, new friends, a beautiful affair, all senses a-tingle. Love, love, love. More archery and swordfighting, too, and those luminous nights full of promise.

July

Finally, finally got my tattoo, went to the club’s tournament weekend in Clare and met the rest of the absolutely loveable people there. I felt like a sponge soaking up all the human connections that month, together with good music, ecstatic dancing, and more archery and swordfighting.

August

More re-connection with old friends, lots of love and some sexiness as well. I also looked for a new place to live and said good-bye to Mayo. And I broke my rib, which was a huge challenge as it prevented me from honouring that kinetic energy of mine.

September

Moved to Gort, with Inga over here to visit, feeling incredibly right about it in spite of leaving behind Mayo. Otherwise, challenges began to pile up: my rib was healing but I injured my forearm and the resulting tendonitis still plagues me to this day.

October

An echo of the state of withdrawal I’d been in before this year, which I fought but couldn’t quite escape for a while. At the same time, I still met new people around here and managed to keep up at least a minimum of physical exercise.

November

A fairly dark month. Struggling with the tendonitis and a general absence of wellness, whole-ness, which I tried to numb – the worst thing I could have done, really! I didn’t even go to Mayo for archery practice.

December

Back in bliss. It’s been a month of renewed feeling and a demonstration of how much has changed this year. I’m getting out, I’m doing the things I love (with the exception of swordfighting right now, but I’ll get that back!) and I get to spend time with friends.

And here I am. The solstice was a celebration of love and gratitude for 2016. I was off work on Solstice Eve and made the rounds of friends’ houses, dispensing hugs and (healthy) cookies, and then I went home to decorate the tree and have my ritual. As usual, I took the Christmas days for myself to close off the year and prepare for 2017, and now I’m looking forward to actually getting there!

This entry has become long already, so I’ll write about my plans next time. Until then, I hope you’re having the holidays you dreamed of and wish you a lovely start into 2017.

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Life-Saving Checklist

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People love stories like the one about my “coming back to life”. After being withdrawn and in a state of at least mild depression for over 5 years, I downsized my life and moved back West. I began to heal, wrote a novel-length story, and finally started to feel the full range of my emotions again. It was an uphill path, with lots of ugliness bubbling up, but also joy and ecstasy and love, so much love. Bathing in sensuality. Physical activity, kinetic energy – sheer bliss.

What’s not so sexy is the fact that life is rarely as straightforward and clean-cut. I wasn’t always in a state of depression over those years (after all I did my Coaching diploma during that time and those weekends of learning and practising were a blessing, full of insight and gentle touch of human souls). And when I came out of it all and started to grow stronger physically and get into shape again, as well as stabilising emotionally, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there on in, either.

It began with my broken rib in August and got worse when I managed to get tendonitis in my forearms in mid September. I haven’t been able to hold, let alone swing, a sword or other weapon since – nothing heavier than a teacup, in fact. And it’s been eating away at me. I hardly worked out anymore and rarely danced. I didn’t keep in touch with newfound friends or those old friends I’d just re-connected with again. I ate crap that doesn’t do my body good, out of sheer frustration. And I noticed what was happening and tried to pull myself out, but only occasionally was I successful for a day or two.

The breakthrough came on Friday. You see, I’d known all this time that having pain in my forearms wasn’t really a reason not to dance. I also knew that my problems are in no way the end of the world. However, it’s not helpful if you already feel crap about yourself, to also feel like you are really bad at dealing with it. On Friday, I finally realised what the missing piece was: I’ve been feeling like I constantly had a slight cold for a while. I wake up every morning with a stuffy nose, I am exhausted all the time and could sleep nine hours a night (but rarely get more than seven, being in a semi-detached house with neighbours again). I feel bad and just, well, off, and have done since – wait for it – the last week of September. Co-incidence? I think not.

I can’t prove a connection, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that having a constant inflammation in my body – tendonitis – could have something to do with feeling feverish and groggy all the time. I concluded that it might be time to stop beating myself up about it and allow myself the rest I need to heal. I also resolved to finally do something about the tendonitis in a consistent fashion, so today I went to Galway and got a re-usable cold pack (frozen peas or ice cubes are nice, but not if you need an ice pack three times a day), an omega 3 supplement, and a bandage for the time when I’ll slowly start handling a sword again.

More importantly, I started crying and finally truly feeling my helpless desperation about being inactive, with its horrible similarity to the bad years. It hurts, but even that feels wonderful because I’m feeeeeeeeling! Almost instantly, all the bad food cravings and self-loathing fell away and the joy came through once again. I spent the rest of Friday dancing, and yesterday evening I went out despite not getting much sleep again, and ended up having a great time at a fundraiser dance for Haiti. I danced in my socks which felt amazing. All evening, I felt like a sponge soaking up all the wonderful human connection to real people, people who are alive and present. I had deep, funny, meaningful conversations with several people I know and others I’d just met, and hugs aplenty. When I drove home a good hour and a half after I’d meant to, all my senses were tingling, and the feeling hasn’t left me.

So, I’m back. Again. Apologies if it gets boring to read about it; I assure you, there’s nothing boring about repeatedly living it! And I thought, after experiencing how the state of being cut off can sneak up on me, that I’d put together a list of things I need to watch out for.

  • Music. I’d all but stopped listening to “high-emotion music” in the past two months, music like early Marillion (probably the most raw, ravishingly emotional music I know).
  • Emotion. If I don’t cry, or laugh until my sides hurt, for a week, it’s a warning sign. I really need to remember this one, as it’s probably the most immediately recognisable red flag.
  • Sensuality. When I stop savouring vibrant whole foods, sighing with pleasure at the softness of my silly hideous Tesco slippers, or cuddle into my bed practically moaning with delight, there’s something amiss. Yes, I really do these things, all the time, at least when all’s well with me. It’s my “normal”. As is desire and sexuality, dance and movement. A prolonged absence of any of these things, means trouble

There will always be fluctuations, of course, times when I’m more intensely joyful and in love with life and with people, and that’s why it can be hard to recognise symptoms of deeper problems. Hence the list. It’s something I can refer back to in times of need.

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Exhausted. And happy.
For now, I’m deeply grateful that the veil has lifted once again. Life is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful. There are so many things I want to do and create and make happen. I floated through Galway today, getting instant radiant smiles from every last shop assistant and person I met, because I was just oozing with love. I don’t usually like big crowds, but today I purposely immersed myself, which works when I am not in any rush and not staying too long – a couple hours usually do it for me, at least on a pre-Christmas weekend day in the city!

I got the supplies to treat my tendonitis with, I bought a present for a friend who reached out to me over those difficult two months, and I bought myself a beautiful, soft black velvet tunic, just because. Then I drove home crying and laughing and singing along to “Clutching at Straws”.

Overflowing joy? Check. Explosive dancing? Check. Happy, silly, cuddly hag? Check, check, check. All’s well.

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Nine Years Of Love

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Before I say anything else: Did you know that you can subscribe to this blog? This means that you’ll get a quick email notification when I post a new entry (which usually happens somewhere between once a week and once a month). Your details are safe with me and I’ll never email you about anything else. Go on, fill in the short form here!

On to what I meant to tell you about. As some of you know, I’ve had a hard time with my budgies this past year and a half. After five years of bliss, with no bird ever sick for even a day, several of them died due to things I had no influence over – tumors, an incurable sickness one of them carried into the flock (it was dormant for years and broke out when he was under stress from losing his mate), old age. I was left with only two birds, one of whom was a young budgie who, as a chick, had had a horrible disease which left him unable to fly. Budgies who survive this disease are left infertile and generally weakened. Laeas’s sister Miko died at six months old, from a horrible tumor on her back.

I never told anyone – I honestly couldn’t deal with explaining it – but about a month ago, Laeas also developed a tumor, on his right wing. I recognised it immediately, and when it started growing, I knew what I had to do. I didn’t want to wait until it caused him pain, and since I don’t believe in surgery on budgies – it’s very risky on such a small organism, just consider that a budgie has about one spoonful of blood in his entire body – I got an appointment at the vet’s on Wednesday morning, who gently put him to sleep. I held him as he fell unconscious.

When he was gone, we had a look at him and found a second tumor under his other wing. The vet just looked at me and said: “You made the right decision.” It’s good to know but I still miss my Laeas so much, and what’s worse is that Tracey was left all alone, she who had known a flock all her life.

I couldn’t face going through it all again, so I asked around for anyone with an aviary or at least two other budgies, who could take my Tracey-girlie. But there is nobody. It convinced me more than ever that a sanctuary for pet birds is truly necessary in this country! I’ll keep looking for a new home for her, but I couldn’t leave her alone all this time, and so today, I went out and got a young male budgie. If I find them a new place, they’ll both go together. This is him in the picture above (and below). Meet Tino!

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Isn’t he a cutie? Tracey seems to think so, although he’s a little too in-your-face for her in his youthful enthusiasm, and she has been biting him, but not in a bad way. They are in their separate cages for now (I got a smaller cage for him that I’ll be able to use as a “hospital cage” and for transport in the future) but the doors are open and they’ve been flying through the room together. I think Tino is very good for Tracey, who never flew to the bookshelves or the wardrobe when Laeas was there, because he couldn’t follow her. Now she has an incentive to explore, and to move around more.

Looks like I’m going to have to get my act together and find a place to buy, and start my sanctuary. I’m going to have to get help to do this, because I want to stay mobile and be able to travel without worrying, and I’m going to need funds as well. But all in good time. This dream has been long in the making, and it’ll be another few years yet before it becomes reality.

What’s important now is that Tracey has company again, and both her and my heart will heal. We still miss our unquenchable, cheerful, mad hatter Laeas, but now that we can fall in love with Tino, things will be easier.

More pictures – and videos! – to follow!

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Tell Me Why / I Don’t Like…

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Nature art in Coole Park

… Halloween.

Before you start throwing things: I think it’s completely fine to enjoy Halloween, and all the dressing up and decorating and whatnot. I’m not one of those people who think something should be banned just because I don’t like it! I know a lot of people, including many pagan friends, who love this time of the year, and I love seeing my friends happy so I’m not going to complain.

What I am going to say is that the way old customs are watered down beyond recognition these days, doesn’t sit well with me. I feel the same discomfort around the way “goddess” seems to have become a general term for femininity and the names of ancient goddesses are thrown around carelessly by just about any unicorn-dust and fairy-wands wielding New Age enthusiast. I like the fact it empowers women, and people in general. I don’t like how most of them are clueless as to what powerful entities they are dealing with, and that magic isn’t just a word or a fun idea.

There is so much more to this. And to get back to the subject of Halloween, it’s essentially the christianised version of the old Samhain, one of the two times of the year when the veil between the worlds is particularly thin (the other being the eve of Bealtaine). We’re talking about a time when having your child stolen by the fairies and replaced by a soulless changeling was a very real fear. People put scary disguises on their kids to fool the fairies.

The transparency of the veil was also used to contact and commune with the dead. It’s a great night to honour our ancestors and to tell our beloved dead what we never got to tell them while they were still alive. It is this association with death which has been adopted by Christianity in the shape of All Hallows (31st October) and All Souls (1st of November). My Catholic mum used to take us to visit the graves of departed family members on the 1st of November, and one of my earliest childhood memories is the sight of a graveyard with “wind lights” (as they are called in German) on every grave, candles in red plastic cups to keep the wind from extinguishing them.

It was a cosy, quiet time, full of contemplation and mystery. Maybe that’s one reason why I dislike the loud, in-yer-face dressing up and partying on Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I have on occasion participated and enjoyed myself too. Two years ago I dressed up as a pirate for my then workplace and I had fun, but I remember the tons of decorations we pulled down weeks later, most of which were too damaged or worn out to be saved and reused. My costume has been in a box ever since. There is so much unnecessary waste produced and sold in the commercialisation of this holiday, it makes me no less uncomfortable than the overload of plastic Christmas decorations in the shops a few weeks later.

But enough with the grumpy hag now. I have stocked up on conventional chocolate for the trick-or-treaters tomorrow evening, and after that quietens down, I’ll have my Samhain ritual. I’ll be feasting on mead and apple pie, as this is one of two occasions in the year when I eat sugar. Come to think of it, a lot of things happen on Samhain and Bealtaine respectively for me, as they are also the two times of the year when I thoroughly clean my house (I try to keep it reasonably clean at all times, but on these two occasions I do the corners I never usually touch, like the insides of kitchen cupboards and the blinds on the windows).

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And I’ll prepare for the “dark weeks”, the time between now and the Winter Solstice when the light returns. That’s probably the main reason why I feel a little gloomy: I look ahead to the cold season and the discomfort I always feel then, and just wish I could fast-forward to spring. Ah well, all things in balance, right? At least I’ll celebrate and make the most of it.

To top it all off, I’ll go up to Massbrook on my day off Tuesday for some archery, complete with lunch at my favourite cafe in Ballinrobe along the way. And whatever you may get up to, I wish you a blessed Samhain!

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Non-Violent Martial Arts Hag?

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Picture by Harald Hoellrigl
Woah, what happened to the “blogging regularly” thing? It’s not that I don’t want to share, or don’t have anything to tell you, there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day sometimes! Tonight I’m finally reaching out again.

The moon is full and I feel all twitchy from all the energy flowing through me. One of the things which happened since my last blog post is that I’ve arrived in Gort safely and love my new home, although having a wall-to-wall neighbour once again is as challenging as it has always been for me, as in, I have trouble sleeping (although they are awfully nice and are really trying to be quiet!).

What I was going to say is, the moon shines into my new bedroom window and it’s the best thing ever. I have blinds, which I keep tilted just enough to allow me to see Her in the sky whenever it’s not too cloudy. And then I lie there in my heavenly comfortable bed, all cuddled up and warm and with Her gentle light on my face, magic pulsing through me. I love it so much!

Gort is lovely in other ways as well: I’m that much closer to many people I know and have already had more visitors in my first month here than I had in an entire year in Ballinrobe. Coming here was definitely the right thing to do! I also have Coole Park right next door, one of the central places of the Celtic Revival around the likes of Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats, and the first thing I did on my first morning here was visit the park and admire the famous signature tree with my wonderful Inga, who had come over to help me move in (because I had a broken rib. Yes, that happened too in the nearly two months since the last blog post!):

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I’m definitely going to write more about my new home and what’s been going on, but my main subject today is something I’ve been sitting on for a while, so to speak. It concerns the way people seem to be confused about how I can describe myself as a non-violent pacifist and anti-militarist whilst practising historical martial arts and field archery. Why, I’m glad you asked!

Before I proceed to share my views, though, I will answer the other question, the unspoken one: How can a peace-loving hippy like me have friends who are in the military, or hunt live animals? Simple, because of tolerance. None of my “military friends” are in their respective country’s army for reasons of power gain; they are there because they believe in things like honour and responsibility. These are values I share. We may disagree in our approach, but the underlying values are the same, and therefore tolerance allows us to be friends. In other words, I don’t expect all the world to agree with me on life choices, but I do expect those I call friends to be decent people – and they are.

Now as for me… You might know that I am an omnivore but I tend towards veganism. In practice, I eat about 80% vegan food, about 15% ovo-lacto (meaning about once or twice a week) and 5% meat (once or twice a month). So I don’t judge anyone, I just reserve the right to eat what makes my own body happy and energetic.

At the same time, I practice archery on 3D plastic targets, which have a circle called the “kill” roughly where the heart would be in a real animal. So you could say that I practice how to kill. I do this first of all because it’s way more fun crawling through the forest and kneeling down, shooting near and far, up- and downhill instead of the ever-same distance at the ever-same targets the way olympic archers do. But I also do it because to me, it makes sense to learn how to kill an animal if my choice not to do so is to carry any actual meaning. If I have no clue how to kill, it’s easy to say that I won’t – it’s like the tale of the sour grapes. Learning the skill makes non-violence an actual choice.

It’s similar with my practice of martial arts. Simply put, what we’re practising there is based on old training manuals used for people who went to war, who learned to kill others in order to stay alive. Now I don’t really expect to ever use these in an actual combat situation but it’s a good feeling to develop strength and skills, especially as a woman living on my own. Even if the best defence in a real-life situation would still be running away, it feels good and gives me confidence to get some experience in fighting and defending myself.

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Picture by Caroline Walsh

Again: If I know how to hurt someone, I can make a real choice to stay non-violent. It won’t just be the default option because I couldn’t defend myself anyway. See the difference?

It might not make sense to everyone, but it’s important to me. Call me a weird hag.

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Where My Soul Originates

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Mayo

One of Ireland’s best-kept secrets is that it’s actually MORE beautiful in bad weather. Much as I – and everyone else here – grumbles about it, something about the deep grey of the sky brings out the colours of the landscape, most particularly the many shades of green here in the West. They look like they are illuminated from within when it’s overcast.

I meant to go shooting today, but the forecast showers had turned into incessant, lashing rain by the time I arrived in the North of Mayo. I spent some time with Harry, picking up a few new arrows and bits and bobs, and then decided to do a good-bye tour through my county, although it is a bit silly really – after all I’m not moving to Tibet or Africa next month but only a county away (no, I still don’t have anything definite, but there will be a decision in the next few days). My eyes teared up anyway on a few occasions, and I’m sorry but I didn’t photograph the most breathtaking views along the journey, mostly because I couldn’t stop the car on the small country roads.

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Horses and sheep on a hillside

Mayo is heart-wrenchingly gorgeous. I love all of the West, but the likes of Clare have a more sweet, “tame” kind of beauty. Mayo is rough and wild with its stark, bare brown hills and windswept coastline. It’s the county of Grace O’Malley (if you don’t know who that was, look her up. Do it. I’ll wait here). Parts of it look like they could be on the moon, like a wide plain of not much of anything, that I drove past today. Others are dramatic, lush, and green. There are loughs so huge they have waves almost like the sea, there are forests and streams, and especially in the North-West, the sea intrudes everywhere.

Something happens to me in Mayo. It happens more in some places than others, for example the stretch of road between Castlebar and Pontoon, which is never as beautiful as it is in August with the heather blooming. It’s where I suddenly hear the wind whispering: “This. This is where you belong.” Every time, without fail, from the first time I set foot here over 27 years ago. Don’t even bother asking, I have nothing resembling a rational explanation, only a bone-deep knowledge:

This is where my soul originates.

I’ve always gone to Mayo to heal. At 21, I was heartbroken by the end of a relationship with someone I’d loved very much. I got sick with bronchitis and the cough settled in my chest and wouldn’t budge even two months later. I knew what I needed to do but I was a broke university student and so I begged life for 1,000 DM (German Marks). The next day, I got a letter about a student job completed two months earlier, that I had forgotten about. It contained the pay: 1,018 DM.

A week later I was on a plane, and then I stayed in a youth hostel on the North coast of Mayo as their only guest (it was March) and walked 4-5 hours every day, in the rain and wind, to the rocky beach in my wellies and wax jacket. I found a small cave which wasn’t flooded when the tide was out, and there I’d sit reading Lord of the Rings. After four days, I forgot to cough. A week later, I had recovered completely, and left to travel the county some more.

You may remember me writing that I was coming here to heal, last year when I moved to Ballinrobe. And did I ever! My life is completely unrecognisable, and so is my health. Therefore, much as it hurts to admit, there might be a reason why I can’t stay now.

I can absolutely see myself living here when I’m old, a weird hag gloriously on her own, wandering amongst the trees and talking to birds. It’ll be brilliant. One day! But, as Aragorn put it, it is not this day. My soul may originate in Mayo, but my tribe (new people I’ve connected with recently, as well as some older friends) are in Galway, Clare, and Tipperary. I have so much life to live yet, people to love, and love some more, songs to sing, swords to swing, dances to dance, and conversations to have. That’s why I’m leaving. I hope I’ll end up not too far away, but in any case I’ll come back to shoot in Massbrook Woods as often as I can.

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Windswept hag!

Not being able to shoot today made me grumpy at first, but then it turned out to be a perfect afternoon surrounded by all this beauty. Eventually I stopped in Newport and fled from the rain into a gorgeous, cosy craft shop / cafe where I met a wise, beautiful soul. We ended up talking for ages, discovering so many things we have in common (Amanda, if you read this: Your shop really IS magic. When I stepped outside, the sun was shining, and my Googlemaps started working again, haha!).

I drove home smiling.

 

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