Valentide – a love affair with The Sea…

Whether you embrace Valentines Day or it makes you feel slightly queasy, perhaps a day on the calendar to celebrate what (not necessarily WHO) you love isn’t such a bad idea!?

My love of the sea has (quite literally) swept me off my feet! I’m bewitched and bewildered by it. It’s true, we’ve known each other for many years, but it is only recently I fell truly, madly, deeply. Now I can’t get enough. I’m besotted, it is all I think about! From the moment I wake, to the moment the moon sets, I am planning the next time we can meet.

The sea has ignited such passion inside me. I feel alive and full of joy. I write poetry; love letters to the sea -giving thanks for all that it’s given me. And in return I feel an overwhelming desire to protect it. To care for it.

My book “Seas The Day – A Year Of Sea Swimming Poetry” celebrates this love affair. And with 10% of profits donated to Surfers Against Sewage this is my way of caring for the ocean and coastlines.

Available in the Valentide Shop £8.50 + P&P

Another way that I show how much I care about the sea is by regularly doing beach cleans. Along with clearing the plastic and rubbish washed up on the shore, I also collect driftwood. These pieces of wood come home with me and are recycled into “Drift Gifts”. I cut, saw and sand the wood by hand to make little tokens of my affection. I burn messages by hand using a pyrography kit and these tokens become gifts for other sea lovers. The gift from the sea that keeps on giving!

I’ll admit it. This love affair is all consuming! It is my “Tide & Joy”! I will tell anyone who listens. But I know I’m not alone in this whirlwind romance… so for 1 week only I am opening the VALENTIDE SHOP! NOW OPEN for sea lovers everywhere to celebrate Valentides Day on the 14th February!

Which one will you choose!?

Girl Gone Wild x

Seas The Day (aka; feel the fear, and do it anyway!)

Yesterday I collected 300 copies of my book from the printers. After months of work “Seas The Day – A Year of Sea Swimming Poetry” is now making its way out into the world to it’s new owners. (Maybe you’re one of them!) So. There’s no turning back. And, despite it being small fry in the publishing world, can I tell you a secret? – I’m scared!

All my self doubts are having a party right now! They’re laughing their heads off. I can hear them …who do I think I am to publish a book of poetry? What if my poems aren’t good enough? What if all the people who have ordered the book are outraged and demand a refund!?

It’s an odd position to be in. I mean, no-one has forced me to publish my poems. I have voluntarily put myself out there knowing the risk. There is every chance that it’ll be a big fat disappointment. So why do it?

Well, honestly?; (and I know I’m not supposed to admit this) I’m not doing it for others. (ok, I am donating profits to Surfers Against Sewage so I am definitely doing some of it for others!) But what I mean to say is; I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this to make me step outside of my comfort zone. But I’m also doing it because I genuinely love every single moment of swimming in the wild, and the inspiration that comes to me, to write these poems as a result, is part of something transformational. And I think I’m feeling braver because of it.

So I’m testing the water! (Excuse the pun). I’m pushing my boundaries, I’m expanding my inner world to see what happens. I’m challenging my negative beliefs, I’m asking them to step up and face me, head on. Not in confrontation necessarily, but more with a sense of curiosity. I want to invite these fears that hide in the shadows, out into the light. I want to look at them, sit with them. Thank them for trying to protect me;

And then carry on regardless.

Because, I want to see what happens if we carry on. What happens if we let ourselves follow that shining light …the sparkly one that catches your eye and suggests magic, possibility, hope. What happens if we stop hiding, and we step out into the light, despite our fears, and show ourselves.

I want to believe it will be ok. I want to stop feeling anxious about the unknown, the “what if’s”. I want to focus on how beautiful the world can be, and to learn to trust in it. I want to adopt “beginners mind”, a mind that views life as if for the first time. That sees no harm in thinking magical things can happen if you believe they can. Above all, I want to prove my negative beliefs to be wrong.

Because, SO WHAT if my poems aren’t good enough? WHAT IF people aren’t pleased with the book? The fact remains I’ve still enjoyed the process of creating. I’ve enjoyed following that sparkly light!. And maybe, (and this is where I become a bit less sure but I’m going with it) Is it possible that it might still be worth it – that something less obvious might shift because of it? Some insight yet to be understood? Something you’d never come to realise unless you tried and failed.

Could it mean that by taking a risk, that our fears (and come on, we all have them!) could actually turn out to be just that. Just fear. That they’ve been calling our bluff this whole time? That maybe if we meet them, and hang out with them a while (not hook up, just hang out; there’s a difference!) then MAYBE we can live a life beyond them. Maybe we can trust ourselves, and the universe enough that EVEN IF the worst happens, we can still overcome it. Better yet; learn something from it. Even if it hurts, even if it feels uncomfortable, even if there’s loss, maybe there’s still a part of you that benefits from taking that risk? Maybe that sparkly light you followed lit up your soul, and made it possible to feel free for a while.

So, What is it for you? What risk have you taken lately, no matter how small? What were your fears? Did you think you might not, were you surprised you did? Or maybe you didn’t and you’ve been regretting it ever since?. What lessons can we learn about the limitations we put upon our own lives. What kind of personal lockdowns do we put ourselves in?

And if we can push past these; imagine what else there is to experience!. Imagine what freedom there is to be found. If we choose to just feel the fear, and do it anyway? Regardless of the outcome. In fact, IN SPITE of the outcome!

So there we have it, confession over. I still feel scared, but that’s ok. I’m hanging out with that feeling for a while. I guess I just wanted to figure out why I’m putting myself in this position. And now I know! (Thanks for sticking with me this far – This is what I love about writing – it’s so cathartic!)

I’m basically doing this because I’m not confident about my book, and because I’m worried it’ll be crap. But I’m carrying on regardless because my fears are telling me NOT TO! And quite frankly I’d rather trip over and fall flat on my face as I chase that shiny sparkly light, than be stuck in the dark with my (slightly annoying and over protective) fears for the rest of my life.

And to celebrate this fact, let’s just stop for a moment and contemplate another “WHAT IF”…

As my friend Emma said to me the other day;

“WHAT IF the Hokey Cokey IS what it’s all about!??”

Imagine that!

“Seas The Day – A Year Of Sea Swimming Poetry” is OUT NOW £8.50 + PP

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

With a little bit of wild magic, I’ve written a book!

“Seas The Day – A Year of Sea Swimming Poetry” will be available at the end of November priced £8.50 + postage.

10% of profits will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage

Set on the stunning Jurassic Coast in Dorset, inspired by a year of sea swimming in lockdown, this collection of poems, journal extracts and photographs is the diary of a Dorset Sea Swimmer.

Each poem was written shortly after the swim. Accompanied by a journal extract from the day, it gives the reader an insight into what it felt like to be there at the time.

With swims taking place throughout the year, you are invited to dive in and share the experience of sea swimming all year round.

These poems are like love letters to the wild. Showing gratitude for the sea and the seasons. A little book that celebrates the power of nature, and the positive effect that cold water swimming can have on our wellbeing.

Here is the story behind how this little book came to be…

When I was a little girl I wanted to be an author. I imagined sitting at a writing desk, at a window that looked out to sea. I wanted to write about adventure and magic; beautiful stories of escape, hope and happiness…

I remember this now, but in all honesty I’d forgotten about that little girl and her dream, until recently.

I’ve written a journal for the past few years. Beginning with short, awkward, self-conscious entries, they soon became a daily ritual for me; a time to reflect and a space to reveal. This journal was just for me, and I never thought it would be more than that.

But when we suffered a global pandemic that enforced a lockdown on our lives, my daily ritual of writing a journal felt as though it had perhaps been a sort of preparation. A “drip drip drip” way of writing, that would eventually begin to flow, once I had more time to do so. And then the time came.

It was during this time that I was also inexplicably drawn to the sea. Having been diagnosed with PTSD earlier in the year (a result of past trauma), I had been spending more and more time in nature. The wild was where I felt my anxieties slip away, and with the coast being so near, it was as if I could hear the sea calling to me.

And so began my sea swimming journey...

Entering the sea at sunrise – West Bay, Dorset

We all hear about the benefits of cold water swimming; how it can improve our mood, boost our immune system, but at the time I had no idea about this. I simply found myself beside the water’s edge in October, knowing that I needed to be in the water. I have written about this many times since, and how it has had an incredibly positive effect on my mental health, but what I hadn’t expected was that it would inspire me to write. How could I ever have predicted that swimming in the sea would help me to reconnect with my love of words!?

I began to write poems after my swims. I wanted to speak of the magic I’d experienced in the sea. To try to capture the feeling, and share it with others. I’d sit on the beach and write love letters to the wild. Showing my gratitude for what it had given me.

On Christmas morning 2020, I left driftwood gifts beneath the pier. I’d made them for those that would find them. My fellow sea swimmers who had gotten up early in the morning, to head for the sea. I burnt a message onto these gifts; “Seas The Day”.

Driftwood Gift “Seas The Day”

I had no idea at the time that this would be the title for my book a year later. But I knew that it was significant.

After months of writing poetry with a passion, I realised I had written a whole year’s worth! One for every month of the year. Celebrating the sea throughout the seasons. Each one telling the tale of a swim. And somewhere during this process my inner wild child began to speak to me. She whispered that she still wanted to write a book…

And so it is, that these poems inspired by the sea, together with my private journal entries on those days have become a book! By accident almost. I’d never intended to create a book, but somehow it has come to be. With no plan or intention other than to write about the magic and adventure, the escape, hope and happiness that the sea has given me.

Seas The Day – A Year of Sea Swimming Poetry” also features a beautiful linocut illustration by the talented Nicole Purdie (Prints By The Bay)

I think we can safely say that you CAN judge this book by it’s cover! Inspired by a photograph of me entering the sea at sunrise at West Bay, this really does sum up the magic of this little book and I can’t thank Nicole enough for working with me on this!

“Seas The Day” Book Cover – Lincut Illustration: Prints By The Bay

So now YOU are invited into the very moment each swim took place, to hear the story, and to share the experience. Perhaps it will resonate with you, perhaps it will inspire you, above all my hope is that it might speak to you of the magic that can happen in cold water, and the powerful effect that the natural world can bestow upon us.

Which leaves me with nothing more to say other than;

It is the writer who begins the story. But it is the reader who finishes it”.

Girl Gone Wild x

If you would like to pre-order your copy please click below! 10% of profits will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage so you will also be supporting their work to protect our oceans, coastlines and marine life.

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

My top 3 ways to rewild yourself #3 Haiku Up A Hill

Over the last few days I’ve been looking at ways we can rewild ourselves. The first was wild swimming, the second was taking a walk in the woods, and here is my third……

Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking I meant to write Hike Up A Hill. (which is of course, a perfectly acceptable thing to do in the quest for rewilding yourself!). But Haiku, for those who haven’t come across it, is a type of short poem originally from Japan. What is wonderful about this little gem is that you don’t have to be a poet to know it! Composed as three non rhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables, this simple format invites you to focus on a moment in time, and to capture it’s essence in words.

“Fir cones rest lightly,

On a bed of soft needles,

Fallen from their tree”

Rachael Boughton

A Haiku poem is traditionally associated with nature. Evoking images of the natural world, it invites you to focus on the moment and mindfully experience it. In writing a Haiku you have an objective and an outlet that requires you to engage with your senses; to notice what you hear, see, smell or feel in the present moment. To pay attention to the smallest of details; The sun glistening on a cobweb or the sound of a blackbird at dusk. Not only do you stop to take notice, you ask yourself “What is it that has specifically caught my attention, and how can I describe this?”.

One of my favourite places to compose a Haiku is on top of a hill. Knowing that the intention is there before you climb, you can make your way up to the top taking notice of all that surrounds you. When you reach the top you have already practiced paying attention, and combined with the sense that you’ve reached the top and can sit back and relax, it can bring great clarity and effortless inspiration.

But you don’t have to hike up a hill for a Haiku! You can take this simple exercise anywhere you go. You don’t even need paper and pen, just compose one in your head as you go; walking to work, sitting in the garden, even waiting in a queue for a coffee, simply take notice of nature around you; a butterfly, the sound of rain, the shape of a cloud… and see if you can really hone in on it, capture it. Have fun with it…..It’s easier than you think!

I’d love to read your Haiku if you’d like to share. Leave a comment below or post on Instagram and tag @girlgonewild_dorset

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