Here Comes The Sun…

Witnessing the sun rise at any time of year is a magical thing to see. The drama of it will always make my heart sing, but in winter, with the dark mornings and sparkling frosts, it somehow feels even more magical when dawn breaks.

Yesterday morning as I was setting off for a sea swim my youngest son was up earlier than usual and I asked if he’d like to come and watch the sun rise with me. Now, my children aren’t known for being very enthusiastic about outdoor activities in the mornings so I was somewhat surprised when he said “yes”!

Delighted to have unexpected company I failed to check the weather conditions and simply bundled together a bag of swim stuff for myself, and a rucksack with some warm layers for my son. It wasn’t until we were driving down to the beach that I realised the sky (and any hint of dawn) was obscured by dense cloud.

Now, if you have kids you’ll know that in order for a new experience to be something they’ll enjoy, then it simply has to be a good one. If it’s a negative experience then it’s unlikely they’ll want to stay, let alone repeat it! (I guess we’re all like this really). So I was cursing myself for inviting him to watch what I promised to be a “magical event”, when I hadn’t checked if the magic was likely to show up.

We arrived at the beach to a grey sky, cold north wind and no visible sunrise. My heart sank. Still, I gave my Dryrobe and hot water bottle to my son while I had a quick dip. He scowled at me from the shore, making it clear he was less than impressed!

We drove home, me trying to convince him it was a great way to start the day, him disagreeing. I told him that this was actually part of the magic. That I’d been wrong to promise it because it’s not guaranteed. And because you can never really know what kind of beauty you’ll see, this is why Nature is so amazing. This is why when you DO see the magic, it feels really special. Like it’s revealed something to you that not everyone can see. And it’s done this because you made the effort to look, and take notice.

No response.

Later that day I asked my son if he’d like to come again the following morning? To which he shook his head.

And so it was this morning, I made my way to the beach at dawn on my own. And of course, there before me, in jaw dropping splendour , was THE most beautiful scene. The moon still up in the sky while the sun rose and golden light spilled across the ocean. With not a breath of wind the water was completely still. Stepping into the sea was like stepping into a clear, cold bath. I felt like crying! It was stunning and yet all I could think of was my son, and what he had missed!

But I suppose, deep down I know he will see it when the time is right. Maybe what makes a sunrise magical is that you seek and find it for yourself. It is your reward for trying. Perhaps trying to create this magic for someone else simply won’t work?

And yet, I think this what I want for everyone! What I experience in Nature is so profound, it makes me want to share it. I want to know if others see it and feel it, and are boosted in the same way. Is this so wrong?

Surely this is why we create? We feel moved by something. Inspired by something. Isn’t this why we write, or paint, or cook, or teach… we want to share something. To invite the participant to experience something and enjoy it. Maybe even inspire them to go create their own magic, their own way.

I guess there’s nothing wrong in trying to create a bit of magic. Maybe you’ll just never be able to guarantee the result!

And so, as I swam in the sea this morning, I captured every detail of the moment in my mind. Full of inspiration I returned home and wild words poured out of me, describing what I’d seen. I wrote a poem. (Below) To capture the magic so I can remember it, but also so I can share it with those that missed it. To try and create a bit of the magic that was there in that moment. To encourage my son, to encourage you, to encourage everyone of us that there is always magic to be found. You just have to keep looking.

Quiet morning light.
The moon lingers a while
Holding the space between night and day
The sky holds its breath.
While the sea lies undisturbed,
A silent lake
slipping beneath the horizon.
The break of dawn spilling liquid
gold upon glistening glass.
I float beneath the surface
Bathed in a golden sea
My mind, body and soul awash with the new day

Where The Wild Things Are; Finding Creativity In Wild Places

My passion for spending time in nature originated as a child. Like most of us discover from an early age, the outdoors offers up an exciting playground. Trees to climb, rivers to paddle, clouds to watch. These are all things that ignite sparks of imagination for a child.

Growing up in rural Dorset sounds like the perfect idyll doesn’t it? We lived in the lush green countryside next to a dairy farm. I had dens all over the place; in an old pig sty, in the barn where the bats lived, in the hayloft where the swallows nested. I used to sit and read our pigs stories, convinced that their grunts were in appreciation of my characterful voice.

But in truth my childhood wasn’t a happy one. I was a troubled child, never quite fitting in, preferring my own company. Perhaps it was because of the abuse I was subjected to by my Stepdad. I will never know what kind of child I might have been had he not come into my life. But what I do know is that despite the trauma I experienced, my solace was found outdoors. I used the one ticket I had to escape; my imagination.

Wandering the land around the farm certainly gave me a sense of physical freedom and it was here that I could imagine another world. I could escape into a world of stories, poems and pictures. I would write and draw about the adventure and magic of the land; Wild horses, woodland witches and magic happenings. I still have the books that I wrote and illustrated, and sometimes read them to my own children. It gives me great comfort to know that I had this form of escapism when I was a child.

This creativity followed me through life; art, music, poetry became an important way for me to express myself. I was drawn to other creatives, and when I left school I ran away with a group of circus performers and travelled Europe for several months. It was to be a life changing experience, to live like circus gypsies on the road, using our imagination and creativity to earn a living. I learnt to stilt walk, ran children’s workshops and busked on the streets using dance improvisation and costume. But although I enjoyed the freedom, I felt as though I was living someone else’s idea of a creative life.

It was during this trip that I met an artist whose outlook on the world taught me a great deal about what motivates us creatively. His commitment to his own path inspired me to continue with what came naturally to me; My writing. We had a brief love affair when we returned to Bristol in the UK. We spent time together talking about what inspired us and would often sit together, in our own seperate worlds while I wrote and he sketched. He went on to become one of the most well known graffiti artists in the world; Banksy.

However, I went on to become a much lesser known alchemist; converting poetry into lyrics and stories into songs, I wrote music to set the scene. This became my life and I eventually became a singer/songwriter. But by this time I was battling with my mental health; depression and anxiety often sabotaging any potential opportunities that came my way. My lack of self confidence eventually resulted in me withdrawing from performance, and after 20 years working hard at a career in the music industry I turned my back on music all together.

Having children was also a big part of this decision. My life in music just didn’t seem to fit around being a mum. I retrained, got a ‘proper’ job working as a bookkeeper which was flexible enought to fit around family life. But, in short, being disconnected from my wild, creative side while continuing to battle with my mental health was like a form of self neglect. I’d silenced my own inner voice, and hidden the only true way for me to express myself. Eventually, after years of trying to be someone else, I suffered a complete burn out. Panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares and an overwhelming anxiety that threatened to engulf me, all raged at me. It was at this point, at the age of 42, that I was diagnosed with CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). A condition that I now realise I have probably been living with all my adult life.

And so, I began a journey of trauma recovery which not only required immediate NHS therapy, but now includes my own form of nature therapy. Getting out into nature is, like when I was a child, the only place I can feel free. I find a sense of calm that I’m so in need of. Wild swimming, trail running and walking is all making me physically healthier and noticeably less stressed. But more than this, the most wonderful, unexpected thing has happened; I feel wildly inspired by my surroundings. I feel creative again!

It began as a flicker of a flame deep inside me. The way that nature makes me feel is so transformative that I feel I must respond. This flame of desire has grown inside me and I feel driven to reply to the wild in the only way I know how – to write, to draw, to try and capture these incredible experiences and try to express how grateful I am, and what it means to me.

And so, this deeply buried form of expression has begun to resurface. Wild words are again on the tip of my tongue; poetry has begun to spill out of me, artistic ideas and creations are all coming to me, and I am inspired to create! And this river of creativity that started as a small mountain spring at first, now flows like a torrent, into an ocean of possibility. A celebration of where the wild things are, describing the beauty and magic that it bestows upon the world!

And in doing so, there is a synchronicity that takes place between me, the world, and my inner child. We are one again. I have something to believe in, and trust again, something that is GOOD and PURE. It seems that the power of nature is not only that it can show us how to grow and adapt, but it reminds us that we too are a part of something great, something natural and good. That by connecting with nature, we are connecting to a life source; a gift, a belonging, and our true authentic selves.

I feel this is the way things were meant to be, and this is the key to a happy future. We just have to keep looking for where the wild things are. And when we are lucky enough to find it, we mustn’t turn our backs on it, we must embrace it and tend to it, because THIS is what makes the world a magical place to live in.

Girl Gone Wild xx

Cold Water Therapy & Creativity

We hear so much about the benefits of cold water therapy. How outdoor swimming is great for the immune system and even our mental health. I for one have fallen under it’s spell and I unashamedly need to get my fix again and again. I know without doubt that the moment I enter the water, my mind will become clear, I will feel boosted and invigorated, my soul will feel nourished. But aside from the positive effect it has on my well-being, something unexpected has happened; my creativity has risen to the surface. Lying dormant and neglected for years now, it has been re-awakened and with a clarity I’ve not felt for such a long time, my mind is now wildly inspired.

I greatly enjoy writing poems about wild swimming, and one such poem “Summer Surrender” has recently been included in Swimzine, the magazine with “Swimspiration for the Soul”. The curators of the magazine are both wild swimmers and by producing Swimzine they have brought together so many creative souls in the outdoor swimming community. Artists, writers, poets and more. What I particularly love is seeing the impact that cold water therapy has on people’s creativity. How it inspires, and captures the imagination. Which leads me to ponder about how time in nature can unlock creativity, and in doing so, it invites others to connect, and appreciate the power of nature.

In a past life I was a singer/songwriter. My 20’s was an ambitious decade of my life; my dream was to write music and tour the world. Sadly, although I may have had (some) talent for writing lyrics and songs, I never really enjoyed performing them. (A bit of a deal breaker in the music industry!) Determined to follow my dream I made myself do it. I appeared confident to audiences (so I’m told!), but on the inside I was way out of my comfort zone. After years of “faking it” on stage, I eventually admitted defeat. I shut down. I locked away my music and told myself that a shy, introverted person such as myself could never have a successful music career. My creativity and the person required to deliver it to the world just weren’t one and the same.

On reflection I don’t think I fully realised how important being creative was to me. It is no wonder that my mental health really took a turn for the worse. Making music was the only thing that kept me sane! It was a form of escapism, an alternative reality that was infinitely better than my “real” life. Having experienced abuse and trauma as an adolescent, the post traumatic stress in adult life was only bearable if I was being creative. When I turned my back on my creative side, (forcing myself to get a “proper” job as an accountant) I became completely out of touch with what was important to me. Worse still, I was left with the reality of how much it all hurt.

My passion for cold water therapy, and nature as a healer, began as a need to find inner peace, the need to find a space where I can just “be me”. When I read poems or look at artwork produced by other wild swimmers, I recognise that this may also be the case for them. That behind these creations there is a life story. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, although regular therapy was proving successful, I found that no matter how crap, or low or angry or scared I was feeling; I could access nature whenever I needed it. It didn’t judge, didn’t expect, didn’t want anything of me. Nature allowed me to be my true authentic self. To fall apart, to heal, to recover, and rebuild my life story with a new, more gentle subtext.

What I didn’t expect is that not only does this “therapy” bring me a sense of peace, it has provided me with the space to truly reconnect with myself. Miraculously, here, in this space, where my negative self beliefs are silenced, it is here that I have rediscovered creativity.

The creatives of this world; the artists, musicians, writers, designers, chefs, they are so often inspired by the natural world around them. The ability to capture a moment is not only compelling for the creator but it invites the third party to connect with it too. We, the recipients are drawn to these creations, responding to it in our own way; to appreciate the experience and engage with it, making it our own. For if we are unable to be in nature, we can engage with an image or story to evoke a feeling or memory that transports us there. To connect with nature, through art, music, or even taste, no matter how far removed we are from it, is a truly wonderful gift.

So, that moment in time when my worries are washed away by the waves, or when the beauty of a sunrise on the beach ignites a fire in my belly, I want to capture it, to honor it and commit it to memory. Primarily this is a self indulgent act, born of the simple truth that it makes me feel happy, and I want to remember that feeling, forever. I feel driven to create. Not music now, but to write words, a love letter to the wild to communicate the way it makes me feel.

But on a deeper level, it feels important, significant somehow, as if there is something far greater happening than just the impact it had on “little old me”. That the power of nature is something we must not forget, we must not lose sight of. In this fast paced, modern, consumer driven world, we must not forget. It is important that we don’t take for granted our beautiful planet, or to lose knowledge of our humble beginnings in the wild.

Perhaps then, cold water therapy, nature therapy, is not just something we “benefit” from. Perhaps it isn’t just something that can heal us, boost us and make us feel good. Perhaps it inspires us to dive beneath the surface. To fully immerse. A therapy, that invites us to engage and connect with our natural world, and strengthen our relationship with it. To find ways to celebrate it, to support it, to save and sustain it in whatever way we can; through words, campaigns, music or art. Perhaps this is the power of nature. The power to remind us of why it is important.

“Summer Surrender”

I walked in the hot summer sun
to the cool shade of the woodland.
Baked earth beneath my feet,
Warm air on my bare skin.
Dappled sunlight falling around me like delicate gold leaf.
I stand a while, eyes closed heart open.
There you are.
I hear you.
River running like freedom flowing, your sound seeps into my soul….
I follow, senses keen
Arriving at the waters edge,
An elemental meeting of water, air and earth beneath the fire of the June sun, and the joy in my heart.
As I enter the water, I stumble, current tugging at my waist, I surrender to the flow.
Take me there.
And held by the power of nature, I gaze up at the emerald canopy of the ancient trees as I gently float down river.
Soul quenched.

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