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

Wild Swimming With Wolves

I feel the need for space right now. It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I prefer the peace and quiet when I’m on my own. I can relax, completely. No need to state, or answer, or navigate the “to and fro” of a conversation. These things may come naturally to some, but to me it is something I have to practice. It takes time. It takes effort. To be alone is to take time out, time off. I revel in it.

I have been going to the beach with the dogs. The company of animals never draws on my energy. It is effortless. We happily fall into a rhythm of walking, stopping, looking, running. We are a pack. But when I peel away my clothes and walk to the water’s edge to swim, this is where we part company a while. They watch from the shore, alert and interested. But then – I am alone out there in the water. Separated by the elements, we are still in each other’s company. I am alone, but in the company of wolves. Our dogs, and their wolf ancestors.

On Monday night it was the January full moon. Known as the Wolf Moon it is named after the wolves that are active during the early part of the year. As the breeding season approaches wolves are likely to be heard howling to their pack mates. If there was ever a full moon to swim in the company of wolves, this is it.

So I took the dogs with me to swim beneath the rising moon, their wolf blood and I. Although our oldest lurcher “Yanto” is suspicious of water, our younger dog “Spook” is known to launch himself into rivers and lakes. But this night “Spook” was suspicious of the sea, warily backing away. Whining as I slipped beneath the waves and swam away from him. There beneath the Wolf Moon I drifted with the tide while they tracked and followed me along the shore.

Since the full moon I’ve been watching it’s waning phase. Standing in the garden at night, crisp and clear and quiet, it’s beam shines bright defining silhouettes and shadows. At dawn it shines on, hanging bright in the west, casting an eerie light as the eastern sky changes.

This morning I woke early to swim beneath the waning Wolf Moon. With stars still plotting the sky. The moon sinking, making way for the emerging dawn. The dogs, sensing my movement within the house began to whine, alert to the possibility that something interesting might be afoot! I gathered my swim kit; hot water bottle, gloves, warm clothes. The only signal the dogs need for confirmation of adventure. Their eyes bright, with dancing paws, they weaved between my legs whipping me with their tails. As we fell out the house into the cold air, the wind chill was -1. Breathe hung in cloud around us.

Arriving at the beach, a layer of peach and purple emerged on the horizon. The tide pulling deep while the moon begins to bid farewell. The sun rising as the world turned. We stood a while, wolf blood and I. The world to ourselves. A vast solitary silence, but for the sound of the waves and the lone cry of a gull.

These transitory moments, between two worlds, the dark and light of a new day and the past night, is so significant. I often miss the depth of this when I’m with others. Like skimming a stone across the surface, the fleeting moment is there to see, but there is so much more happening as the weight of it collides. When I am alone I see beneath the surface. A knowing that sinks deep into my soul. A greedy soaking of wild. I am saturated in my solitude.

As I enter the water the violence of the sharp biting cold is electrifying. I sense every single cell in my body jolt awake, alert and alive, ready for the fight. As I swim east with stern intention, the sun begins to rise. A burst of blood orange bleeds across the water, kissing my bare skin, soothing my soul. As I soften to soak it all up, I feel a blissful happiness hard to describe. I cast my gaze to the shore where the dogs stand still. Motionless. Then as they lift their heads towards the sun, they scent the air as the warm light floods the landscape, reflecting in their eyes.

Together then, we greet the day. Our spirits soar; wolf blood and I.

Sunrise swim as the wolf moon wanes

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

Monday morning with a girl gone wild

This morning began with an early walk with the dog. With the sun shining and a heavy dew it was a magical walk along the river. Spiderwebs and seedheads were kissed with sparkling drops of dew and, in the bright sunshine they were illuminated like miniature sculptures draped in silver. Inspired by what I saw I composed a Haiku in my head as we walked;

“Autumn morning dew

Sparkles in the bright sunshine

Like silver treasure”

A little further along the river, the dog stopped and stared at something in the tree. Assuming it was a squirrel I chuckled knowing how they tease him with their chatter while safely out of reach. But as I drew closer I realised it was in fact an Egret. It perched on a branch, looking quite elegant with it’s long legs and pure white feathers. We stood a while; dog, bird and I, until it gracefully launched itself into the air and flew across the meadow. The dog bounded along beneath it, excitedly trying to keep up.

The Egret silently sits on a branch on the opposite side of the river

With the walk coming to an end, and the sun feeling quite warm now my thoughts turn to the sea. “Perhaps I should make the most of this glorious weather?” October sea swims are like a bridge between the warmer temperatures of September and the transition into winter swimming. When the sun is shining and winds are low at this time of year, it is the ideal time to swim, and begin acclimatising the body to the colder water.

So within half an hour I am in the sea. The sun on my face, body immersed in cold water, I swim out towards the mast off shore where the cormorants like to gather. A boat is slowly making it’s way along the shore, closer than usual. As it nears I call to the crew who reveal they are doing a seabed survey. I swim back to shore to avoid getting in their way.

With a flask of coffee, I join the local sea swimmers at our regular spot by the pier. The sea is beautifully calm, and the cliffs look golden in the sunlight. I notice a huge piece of driftwood has been washed up beneath the pier, a few yards from where I sit. I briefly consider it’s size and whether I would be able to get it home with me. Driftwood is a gift from the sea and is my preferred material for my pyrography creations.

I mention to my fellow swimmers my idea and before I know it, I have volunteers to help me carry it up the beach! I would never have been able to carry it on my own, and yet again I feel lucky to be part of such a supportive sea swimming community. Using a Silky saw that I happen to have with me I take off some of the branches in order for it to fit into the back of the truck. But it still hangs out the back, meaning it will be a slow, careful journey home!

The driftwood now lies in the yard outside the workshop. I love knowing that by using this wood, it won’t go to waste. All that time it took to grow will not be without purpose. Despite it’s unfortunate uprooting due to coastal corrosion, and the aimless drifting at sea, it has landed as a gift on the shore. I will use this wood to create; to bring a new purpose to it’s form and in this process it not only reminds me that not all endings are final, but that gifts can be found in the simplest of things