Blossom and Ice

The colour is just seeping back in to the day, as the morning snow gives way to more seasonal rain and I’ve settled by the stove to write. Slowly, outside the big window, the delicate prettiness of pink blossom and ice has returned to over saturated green and yellow ( is it a crime to live in the Lake District and not like daffodils? shhh, don’t tell ).  It’s been a day of little tasks, printing order forms and making price labels, sorting out boxes of exhibition “stuff”; the kind of things that make it seem as though I’ve been busy all day but haven’t achieved very much. It was exciting to wake up to snow this morning and the cat was beside herself with joy, skittering about like a kitten, staring wide eyed through the window and asking to go out ( and immediately back in again) at least 20 times. Cat has always loved snow but there seems to be much less of it these days and certainly less than some of the winters  in our old  home. I miss it and the strange excitement and magic it brings. But it’s unseasonal now, and mostly I suppose, unwelcome after all the celebrations of the first day of Spring. Yesterday was so cold I gave in and put the heating on early. I’d spent the morning sharing a chair and a hot water bottle with that cat- neither of us normally so affectionate- until the Archers came on the radio and the sound of hounds sent her clawing herself free to hide under the table.

Some really lovely things have been happening lately. I’m now recognised in Keswick Post Office, or at least the red bear stamp on most of my parcels is, which must mean that sales are getting a bit more regular. This week for the first time since leaving the Herdy shop I earned the same as I would have done had I stayed – a combined income from my own sales and the almost unbelievable treat of a day’s work at Sam Read’s Bookshop in Grasmere. I think you could begin to understand the strangeness of finding myself looking OUT of the bookshop from behind the desk, rather than IN through the postcardy door, if you looked back at previous posts or searched “Grasmere” in the side bar. The happy/sad of being here in the Lakes instead of “home”, the feeling of unreality and uprootedness that comes from building a new life where there are no familiar touchstones, the lack of confidence after various “work” events – sometimes something nice happens out of the blue and you find yourself looking over your shoulder to check for Fairy Godmothers. Anyway, it was a fun day and I’m very grateful to Will for thinking I might be able to help out… especially as we only really know each other through Twitter and there was that time I was in the shop and mentioned the possibility of assassinating him so I could steal his job (social anxiety can make you say the dumbest things).

Well, I’m sure all work can become mundane (and I’ve always resisted applying for jobs in places I really love in case familiarity breeds contempt) but it was so nice to have interesting conversations and learn new things and it seemed auspicious that as I drove over Dunmail Raise, before the signal gave out, someone was reading Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” on the radio.

Back on Witchmountain with less than two weeks until Harrogate I’m busily doing last minute preparations for the show as well as trying to learn how to use my new camera… an early birthday present to myself because I’m suppose to try and take proper product photographs. The wooden jewellery has been really popular and I can’t wait to get some more designs made. The special “design sample” price ends this weekend but I’m sure will still want them at the real RRP. which properly reflects the costs. How I wish I was a hardened business woman with no qualms about pricing, instead of a bit of a hippy idealist with a basic mistrust of Capitalism! Yesterday I listened to a radio programme that talked about spending and “peak stuff” and found that I agreed so much with the philosophy that we all have too much “stuff” and that we buy too much, waste too much. How can I reconcile this with trying to sell my own stuff?! I wanted to call the programme and say that maybe if people chose to buy more from smaller independent businesses, to choose for love rather than being on the “upgrade” treadmill – could that work? Perhaps I need to look for a good book on economics and philosophy…

The hungry stove is asking for another log, the radio’s brought unwelcome news from London and Rupert has just got back from a chilly day at work in the mines across the valley (as an outdoor educator not a miner) so it’s time for tea. Apparently the sun will reappear later this week and the brief brake on Spring will be released.


Reading:- “Basic Nest Architecture” Polly Atkin ( from Grasmere – poems that have kept me awake at night searching the internet for Moon pianos and memories of home) and “Swell, A Waterbiography” Jenny Landreth ( to be published on May 4th )

“Relax and Formulate a Plan”

This  beautiful, wiggly wall over Lingmoor Fell is an allegory of the way my week – and emotional state – has been fluctuating since we walked that way on Monday. At one point on I was surrounded by botched printed vases, newly created landfill to prick my conscience, a mountain of useless greyscale printouts after my printer forgot how to do colour, no lights downstairs after all the fuses went (I looked in the fusebox but it seemed to be very windy and cold in there which is odd) and the DPD delivery driver stuck up to his axels in the mud outside. It has felt at times like I’m living in a kind of Krypton Factor game show for dummies, where every task has involved a massive hassle and steep learning curve; still, it’s much more satisfying when something goes right at last if it has driven you to tears for hours beforehand. Walking in the brittle spring sunshine, arms pinkening and prickling with unaccustomed exposure to sunlight and tummy rumbling with too much coffee and not enough cake, we climbed to the summit of Lingmoor and learned some lessons from the survival bag we used as a picnic blanket. These lessons, and the continuing sunshine, probably helped prevent meltdown and/or murder later on- and besides, what reason do I have to complain? Imagine building that wall… it was immaculate, with each header stone at the same angle despite the terrain.

I love the idea that you would ever be able to “relax and formulate a plan” should you ever find yourself actually needing to get inside an orange plastic bag for survival. Further down it suggested something to do with dried leaves, I can’t remember exactly what. I think this winter there have been a few cases of people whose lives have been saved by these bags though so I shouldn’t joke.

So as Friday night turns into Saturday, I’m sitting by the stove, with the cat dangerously close to my feet, feeling a little bit of the same sense of achievement I get on reaching the top of a hill. I’ve rebuilt my evil website, after many tears and it even has a shop. It’s a big improvement on the previous one so even though it’s more expensive and drove me nuts, I’m actually really glad that Flavors.me closed down and forced me to do it. I’m playing shops and it seems so much more exciting than Etsy because it’s my very own. The first two sales made me feel like a tycoon and I could never take for granted the magic of being able to do that without leaving my nest, from home, in the middle of nowhere.

Most things seem to be slowly coming together in preparation for BCTF but it’s frightening how much money you can spend on services and materials without even leaving the house; and how you think you’ve worked out the costs of things but then remember you need to factor in the sellotape, Paypal fees, tissue paper or sticky labels. Its fair to say I have felt huge ups and downs of mood and confidence this week and have been trying to be more careful about dealing with the downs. Sometimes it really is important just to relax and formulate a plan, to go for a walk or take time to read a book and not feel guilty; because the upside of being self employed, to balance out having no money, is that I have that freedom at the moment and I’ve noticed I work best in the evenings anyway. I’m like that annoying hamster you probably once had that slept all day, got vicious if you tried to wake it up and then suddenly started rushing about on it’s treadmill at bedtime- making a sound like squeaking bedsprings (the rushing about is me, not the squeaking).

And sometimes it’s tempting to sew up the scraps and offcuts to make something new, because, at the risk of sounding like an infuriating meme, failure is often just a state of mind or a view from a certain angle, it just depends how you frame it. Well, it’s time I let you go, thank you for reading and also for all the survey responses. I need to look at the results properly and apply my amazing analytical skills, before finalising my master plan, so for now it’s back to relaxing and dreaming of more days like these. Dipping toes into achingly cold water till the blood fizzes like champagne, winter dimmed eyes blinking in the light and you can almost feel the vitamin D soaking through your skin.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir

 

A Secret Garden

Newlands Valley , the garden in Spring

March is upon us; the wheel is turning again, creaking at first as the brave new buds appear but before you know it we’ll be rushing headlong towards summer and taking it all for granted. Do you ever wish you could slow it down, press pause at a certain point; the first snowdrops maybe, or bluebell time? In melancholy mood I want to savour every moment, my 50th spring; when you put it like that each new season has a greater value – how many times will I see the wild garlic or the willow flowers?-  and I know I’m so lucky to live in a place where those seasonal signposts are a daily joy. My dad recently told my brother he had lost his feeling for where he was in the year, unsure if it was snowdrop time yet, since moving from the farm to the town and so spending less time outside. As for me, I’ve been in the next door garden this week, discovering the Victorian “Barley Twist” edges of the lawn which I doubt have been seen for years under the overgrown borders and tumbled rockeries. The garden isn’t mine, it has strange plants that I don’t recognise and it makes me miss “home” and my own lost garden again, but it’s a haven and I’m glad of it. I’m never happier than when I’m lost in a garden.

reflection , design by Kim Tillyer

Apart from my occasional trips in to the garden, to gather sticks or hack through the undergrowth, I’ve been busy with all sorts of odd BCTF preparations, whilst wrestling with guilt trips about my lack of a regular income. I call myself so many mean names before I’ve even got out of bed that it’s not surprising confidence is low… but so far I’m managing to meet all the targets I’ve set for myself, new work is happening every day, spread sheets, catalogues and even the odd drawing are being created and I’m starting to really look forward to April.

polar bear lantern by Kim Tillyer

One useful thing I discovered whilst filling in last month’s sections of The Makers Business Toolkit planner was that many of the people who buy from me via my Etsy shop or Facebook are people who have followed Witchmountain in one way or another for a long time. I really love that I feel as though I’ve known some of you for years, what would I do without you?! But, in trying to train myself to be more businesslike, I realise that I need to reach new people too; BCTF will hopefully do that but I wonder how else to do it? I’ve made a little survey just for fun and it would be great if you could take the time to fill it in , it’s multiple choice, anonymous  and very quick. Thank you.

SURVEY

display by Kim Tillyer

Now the night has crept upon me and the fire has got low, it’s time to think about sleeping and talk to the cat about her plans for the evening; it’s raining outside but I don’t want waking up at 4am by beast scratching at the bedroom door like a demon.

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Reading: “Dip” by Andrew FusekPeters Listening To: “Dead in the Boot” elbow

Website: Wooden-boy the arty adventures of musician Sycamore Sykes, including my favourite greetings card of the moment for book lovers and introverts everywhere 🙂

Setbacks and Sideways Stars …

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Today I have spent quite a lot of time standing next to the wood stove with my hands on the tin kettle, trying to warm them up enough to type or attempt another cyanotype print. Cold paws are really upsetting when you want to do things with them other than cradle mugs of hot coffee or rest them on the smooth kettle which radiates heat like a warm, bald head. I know I should go outside and brave the icy wind and occasional snow flurry so that I feel warm in contrast on my return… but my outdoor motivator is in Scotland doing winter mountain things and, since I have the house to myself, the plan was to get a lot of work done. Cheerfully, this blog post is about work, vulnerability and failure… because I recently heard someone on the radio say something along the lines of ” Success teaches you nothing, failure is valuable because that is how you learn”.

love owls design by Kim Tillyer

Perhaps it’s something about January and February … all the muses are stubbornly hibernating and those over optimistic resolutions made in the warm flush of New Year seem forgotten, especially in the disturbing dawn of the Trump era. For a long time – as long as I’ve been keeping this blog/journal/thing – I’ve been conflicted about the need to present a jolly, polite, professional public face, so that I might sell work/get a job and pay bills, and the real desire to share the gritty, uncomfortable bits because they are real life, they are the “cracks that let the light in” according to Leonard Cohen. I’ve talked about it before… the fear of over sharing, of being to open, of being the one who doesn’t realise their skirt is tucked in their knickers until they get home from the party. Anyway this week I had the rare treat of spending a lot of time with other artists, in various real life, coffee -and -cake situations. Lots of talking and sharing, encouraging and admitting to hopes and fears as well as comparing the realities of working days and financial concerns lurking behind the forced grin of social media profiles. I also read this wonderful blog by The Pale Rook which I only hesitate to share because it’s so good you’ll probably forget to come back and read my jumbled offerings.

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Here are some of the things we asked ourselves (in the context of our creative practises) … if you had a million pounds to invest and guaranteed success, what would you choose to do? If you didn’t have to think about selling your work to make a living what kind of work would you make? Is it harder for women to be artists in a single minded way or are we hobbled by some weird domestic guilt that persists even though we can apparently “have it all”? and even the dreaded question “are you an artist?”

Well I didn’t say there were any answers but in having the conversations I reflected on how I feel about where I am at the moment. In a world where there is too much of everything (except peace and kindness) and a bombardment of visual images from all directions, is there room for me and is it important to have a message – are the “decorative arts” just as valid?

from the winter garden

And so to failure… in an upbeat way. Have you ever had a cup of Yogi tea? The teabags all have little words of wisdom on them and the one taped into my planner says “Share your strengths not your weaknesses” (which may contradict everything I just said but never mind this isn’t a dissertation) I’m writing this down so that I don’t forget this lesson … it is strength that takes you back to your work over and over again, despite setbacks and minor disasters; what makes artists weird and superhuman is that they don’t stop, and can’t even if they wanted too. What is visible to the outside world, whether it’s a masterpiece of modern art, a book of poems, a hand thrown pot or a greetings card with a sketchy fox on it, is only the tip of a huge iceberg. Under the surface are a thousand failures, experiments with technique, frustrated walks when the landscape seems to taunt you with your lack of ability to capture what you want to say. Days when the coffee tipped on the drawing board or, for me this week, when a whole batch of prints on fabric washed completely away for no apparent reason leaving me with cracked dry hands and a pile of soggy calico. A whole day’s work crumpled in the sink, a new idea potentially on the scrap heap. I beat myself up and feel like a useless creature, tell myself nobody else is as hopeless, look at other people’s beautiful flawless work and weep…  but the next day I’ll do it all again, solve the problem (a batch of calico with a coating of some sort that reacted with the cyanotype chemicals) and try to take heart from what I know to be true; it takes a kind stubborn courage to keep putting yourself through this. That is why creative people, in all disceplines, are a valuable asset to society, even when they keep odd hours or struggle with tax returns or appear to be constantly barking up the wrong tree …they are the ones who look at life sideways and glimpse the stars you can’t see if you look at them directly.

Jump for Joy Etsy Greetings C

And so, today instead of feeling guilty because I haven’t made a print or finished editing the catalogue for BCTF, or sold the week’s quota of cards on Etsy, I’m going to accept that sitting by the fire on a freezing Sunday in February is perfectly acceptable thing to do.

Reading:-“Swing Time” Zadie Smith ListeningTo: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett on Radio4.  Inspiring Websites: Two of the artists who I spent time with last week were Penny Hunt and Jane Carlisle Bellerby

 

Walls and Bridges

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I’ve had the title of that John Lennon album in my head a lot lately,”Walls and Bridges”. It’s hard not to be amazed and mystified by apparently pointless walls when you’re out on the Cumbrian fells and other upland bits of the North of England. As I’m labouring up a hill puffing and panting, I often wonder at the poor soul who had to build the miles and miles of drystone walls, often heading up the most vertiginous slopes, that drape over the landscape like strings of dirty grey and green pearls. The walls have been there for centuries and often mark the boundary between fertile land, intake and the open fell side -the boundaries must be mainly symbolic as sheep are very good at ignoring them. Recently there were protests all over the world against Trump’s border wall plans and since I didn’t have a banner or a nearby bridge I made a little paper banner for the bridge in a sketch I’d made last year and added my tiny voice to the others who were saying #BridgesNotWalls. Since then the stream of outrageous announcements from the USA has grown into a torrent and I watch horrified from my corner of a small valley in the Lake District and feel helpless, wishing yet again that I could DO something or at least articulate the opposing view without getting over emotional and crying “Why can’t we just be nice to each other?” like a foot stamping child.

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Lying awake and worrying about the world isn’t very useful for anyone when you’re meant to be preparing to conquer the world ( peacefully) at BCTF in just 2 months time! Yes I decided at the last minute that it was important to take part again this year, despite the financial hit, as there is no doubt that it really helped to get my work seen (and sold) in lots of wonderful places last year and probably more usefully, focussed my thoughts on what it is I’m trying to do. I’ve learned some hard lessons and being a sensitive creature I’ve been on a real roller coaster at times ( and if you know me in person you’ll know that I would never get on a roller coaster willingly… it would involve chloroform and heavy lifting gear of some sort). Despite all my reservations I’m really looking forward to it now that it’s booked and I’m thinking of it as a bit of an early birthday treat…it’s not often I get to stay in hotels so I’ve booked one with a pool so that Sara and I can float about relaxing after a hard day selling.

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This year I’m thinking of moving away from some of the smaller, time consuming (and therefore less profitable) things such as the printed and embroidered notebooks and I’ve been enjoying working with larger pieces of one off cyanotype prints, on fabric, to make lamps, shades and candle lanterns; these as well as the original framed work and some new greetings cards will be the main part of my collection. I’ve also been making some patterns to have digitally printed after getting hooked on Photoshop again. I made a pair of pyjamas last week using a pattern printed directly onto one of my Spoonflower fabric designs and I had enough fabric left over to make a tortoise fabric table lamp too; there are so many exciting possibilities.

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To get more organised and terrify myself to a jelly with figures, profit margins and sales targets I’ve just received my copy of the Makers Business Toolkit Yearbook which is a great idea from Nicola Taylor a photographer who I met when I lived in Yorkshire. I’m running a month behind, as I only got it this week, but already it’s forcing me to look at some questions that you will probably find it surprising and foolish ( but not uncommon) that I hadn’t already asked, such as “How many mugs or lamps or prints or current buns would I have to sell to actually make any money and pay the rent?” Well, pass me the chloroform, I’m off to get on board that rickety roller coaster to do the maths and then tick the boxes in the planner that state my tasks for today are complete  1. make cyanotypes. 2.write blog  3.look at numbers

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Thank you for reading. By the way you still have 24 hours to take advantage of the 20% discount code SNOWDROPS in my Easy shop 🙂

Reading:- “Swing Time” Zadie Smith                                                            Listening To:- Mind Games – John Lennon   Shop/Web:- Fat and the Moon I came across this via an Instagram post this week. Rachel had just found out that her home had burnt down while she was travelling and she’d lost everything. Her attitude was a revelation to me, so positive and strong.

“Here’s to the ones that dream…”

winter view from Brantwood

Here I am, finally sitting down to write my first blog post of 2017 almost a month late and on the day when everyone will probably be too busy planning their Trump Armageddon survival strategy to bother reading about what I’ve been up too. Thinking back to how excited and optimistic I felt when Obama was elected I got nostalgic and read lots of old posts  which in turn reminded me what a really, really long time I’ve been doing this blogging thing and how it has been a constant throughout all the ups and downs of the past NINE years. I’ve made friends (and a few bizarre enemies), sold work, shared things I love,  tested ideas and got on my soap box plenty of times. So, I’m belatedly raising a glass (well a mug of coffee) to 2017 and all the creative adventures it might hold … but also hoping that somewhere there’s some hippy love magic, thats been lying dormant in the world since 1967, strong enough to overpower the hate and division that feels so evident at the moment (well there has to be something good about turning 50 this year! 50!)

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My excuses for not writing sooner are mostly to do with the Great MacBook Disaster which happened just before New Year’s Eve as I snuggled up with my daughter to watch Jonathan Creek. She’d been working all through Christmas (getting hilariously bad, uncalled for Trip Advisor reviews for not being smiley enough whilst serving rude people their food on Christmas Day) so this was our little treat…only the screen went all psychedelic before going blue and that was the end of “The Kneewarmer” as I fondly called it. All my important things were -and still are – trapped inside it so I felt incredibly stressed until I decided to bite the bull on the horns and take the bullet which meant parting with £1,000 just days after leaving my job and driving back from Workington clutching a small cardboard box, feeling slightly sick. Anyway, as it turns out it was sort of a good thing, a new start, like opening a fresh sketchbook or tidying the cutlery drawer. I feel more organised and much less precious about some of those important things. Nothing else works…the sewing machine foot pedal melted to my sock this afternoon, my Wacom pen tablet is incompatible with the new Mac, the cutlery drawer keeps getting jammed and my phone is becoming obsolete but for now everything is lovely in the computer world…even that weird New Apple smell that is a little bit like curry.

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I’m looking forward to being able to make some more interesting repeat designs for fabric prints now that I can in theory run a more up to date version of Photoshop. In theory because it costs real money and so far the free trial has made me realise I have a lot of learning to catch up on. I felt a bit angry with myself for not keeping up with all the changes and continuing to learn ( especially Illustrator which I’ve always wanted to use more but found quite annoying).

I didn’t really make any resolutions but I have decided to be a lot more committed to trying to make Etsy and online selling work for me; it has to.  I got some good tips from a friend of Sara’s who came to stay, and the initial results have been quite promising. Even after all these years I’m still not sure how to really crack that system and constantly slide into doubts about my work…if so many people like it why hasn’t it sold? I think the reality might be that I’m uncomfortable about money and placing a cash value on something that is essentially – me. I know I’m not the only one to feel this way about their creative work. (Except by the way there is a 20%discount code in my Etsy shop until the 31st … SNOWDROPS)

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While Sara and Sophie were here we went to see La La Land, each with our own traumas and trigger points, three Art School graduates, one a little more crinkley and weather beaten, two newly single, all holding it together quite well in the circumstances! The bit that got to me was the sentiment behind these lyrics :-  “Here’s to the ones that dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make”. Whatever you think of the film, the thing I took from it was that maybe the world needs the people who have a dream to follow and don’t fit into the boxes expected of them.

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Oh dear, if you’ve read this far then you’re wonderful because it’s been a bit self indulgent, sorry. I think the start of the year (and the approach of a milestone) does lead to introspection and re-assesment but out walking today I wanted to write about other things. The mist cleared in the afternoon and when the sewing machine melted I took myself up the valley, plodding like an aged donkey, to look at the black water  where we swam in in the summer, avoiding the bleaching bones of a long dead sheep. I dipped my hands in the water and tried to imagine jumping in today. Coming back down I was full of energy, bouncing along like a furry fell pony, enjoying the splash of boots through wet peat and loose stone paths running with water. Blencathra summit was floating like an island in the sky, separated from its truncated lower slopes by pastel clouds (or clods as my keyboard would prefer). Can you see it?

And then a smell you could bottle and I’d buy the whole batch …something like wet earth and dead bracken mixed with woodsmoke and moorland sedges, causing a sudden jolt of remembering, a physical reaction to the places in the past; bittersweet.

Newlands Valley

Time to feed the fire and brew more coffee. I’m adding a new bit to the end of these posts; as well as books and music, the website of a maker/ artist/ inspirational person who I admire for various reasons. That’s why we’re here isn’t it…the internet should be about sharing the love. Happy New Year x

Reading:- Winter re-reading of all the Moomin books  Listening to:- City of Stars from La La Land  Shop/Web/Link:– A good friend from college who is always helpful, funny, strong and brave especially at the moment. She’s also cracked the Etsyy thing so is pretty inspirational.  Nutmeg and Arlo

 

 

 

 

Swimming in Clouds/Flying in Water

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I’m curled up by the fire with my new favourite mug full of coffee and a stack of mince pies; its been dark since 2 o’clock and wildly windy but here I am, cozy in my nest, just the comfortable sound of the stove chimney moaning slightly and the rain bubbling in the gutters. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about our carefully curated, aesthetically pleasing virtual lives and how we project ourselves to the outside world…a world where people are struggling just to exist, never mind taking pictures of their latest baking triumph or immaculate room decor. Sometimes the world just seems to be so full of  craziness and greed and violence that writing a blog or drawing a bear or trying to sell the last pack of Christmas cards feels totally self-indulgent. Guilt and impotence in the face of world events can be quite paralysing, I want to DO something to help but I haven’t the skills…or the money to salve my conscience. So many of the artists, makers and creative people I’ve “met” online have similar concerns (and I know that a group of people here in Keswick are organising themselves to try and offer practical  help to Syrian refugees) that maybe we all just have to do what we can, try not to let compassion fatigue numb us and hope that small actions of peace and generosity can influence the bigger ones.

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Well, even in the darkest times there has to be a little light and sitting here on the eve of Winter Solstice I’m taking the time to think about the coming year and how to be more positive, wondering what I can actually contribute to this swirly blue planet and also what I would like to achieve for myself in the year I turn 50 (oh good grief how soon that happened!). It is an introspective time, the deepest dark of midwinter-  maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow with a clear idea of what I want to be when I grow up, perhaps I’ll get up early and toast the sunrise at Castlerigg with a flask of hot something…

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Apart from all the worrying about the world this week I’ve been out in the outdoors where I climbed up above the mist and fog to emerge on the top of the highest mountain on the planet (it is a strange thing that it always feels like the highest mountain even when it’s just a tall hill) I felt momentarily dizzy as the whole aspect changed suddenly and different parts of the landscape were revealed like a theatrical set. The mist rose and fell like a living thing and the surface of the cloud lake went from smooth opaque pool to stormy cauldron and back as the sun set. A cloud inversion like another reality where the mountains are islands and distance is impossible to judge. We would all have to live in tall houses above the storm line.

Back down in the thick fog and fading light we decided to have another go at swimming (last week we’d managed a quick dip in Loughrigg Tarn leaping about on the shore like nutters in gimp suits, doing the Floral Dance to warm up our screaming fingers and toes). This felt exciting and reckless but since we had no intention of swimming more than a few metres in the shallows of Rydal Water  it also felt safe… hidden by the fog. I can’t explain how magical it felt to plunge in to milky water that blended into the sky so perfectly there was no horizon; I imagine it would be terrifying if we’d gone too far from shore but the cold drove us back after about 10 seconds to dance a warm up jig before doing it all again. It was pitch dark by the time we trotted back through the wood, the mist so heavy that the water droplets hung in the beams of our head torches and our foggy breath bounced the light back in our eyes. Obviously I didn’t take any pictures but I saw this on Instagram, taken on the same day, and it seemed too beautiful not to share. Its a picture by Paul Scully of Jenny Rice (who is clearly a lot braver and more photogenic than me- in a bikini rather than wetsuit); they were recently featured on the BBC’s Open Country programme about the Lake District and Wordsworth.

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So dear readers, tomorrow the nights will slowly slowly start to get shorter and already I can see snowdrop shoots where the birds have scuffled the fallen leaves away under the feeder. Still I’m hoping for snow and some brighter days before the rush of Spring. Right, it’s time for me to remove my Polar Bear bobble hat and rinse off the henna mud that is plastered on my hair, my one misguided concession to hair styling, also I need to stop getting distracted and do some drawing  (If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know I’ve been posting a bear drawing for every day in December and I’m running out).

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Happy Winter Solstice wherever you are, thank you for reading x

Reading: “Waterlog” ~Roger Deakin and The Barefoot Diaries