Home adventures….. Reader Cafes…

Loving York Library reader cafes this summer. We picked up a leaflet in Rowntree Park Reader Cafe encouraging us to get a stamp from all six reader cafes this summer to win a goodie bag.

It worked! We have two left to go. It’s cost me a small fortune in posh lemonade and hot chocolate – but we made it a teddy bears picnic event and the whole family have got back into reading in a major way. (Result!)

I’ve made some great unexpected finds for my PhD. Nothing better than running your (sanitised) hand along a book shelf and seeing and seeing what speaks to you right?

And we have discovered some great new resources under our noses.

For those of you interested in the bears… they are all rescue bears from charity shops ❤️ Mr Snoots (in the leopard print) only likes to be decent and clothed. Tom Traveller (strange green colour) doesn’t really give a damn. Bez the bear (in his lion onesie) is my replacement bear (top pic) after Mr Snoots surprisingly migrated from my room to my daughters.

Taking a leap of faith…

In indigenous cultures nature is full of meaning and symbolism. We can learn from this and follow our own intuition using nature as a guide. Using nature for reflection is a useful tool.

Recently on my allotment we found a very docile grasshopper. We were able to get close up and inspect him / her and the wonderful markings.

As is usual for me, I became intrigued with grasshoppers and crickets (and the differences between them) if you want to know more follow this link. It certainly gave me plenty of inspiration for my field notes.

Whilst researching I also came across a fun page on animal totems and spiritual connections. Apparently if you encounter a cricket you can expect good fortune and you should decide whether to take a leap of faith. It is also representative of finding your true voice.

Having spent some wonderful days delving into books, writing poetry and working on prose for my PhD recently, I will take this as a sign that I am on the right track!

A journey I can not take.

Often blogs give the impression of a rosy, perfect life. We post only the edited things we want people to see. A magazine imprint of our lives.

Sometimes it is important to know that behind the scenes we are all human, we all have challenges and ups and downs.

This week my sister relapsed in mental health and was admitted to hospital. This has been a heart breaking journey, and one where I have had to realise I can support but I can not rescue. Like a traveller on a foreign shore, I am sending her love and support from a distance until a time when I am able to reach her in person and give her the biggest hug.

I am posting flowers daily on my social media so that at some point she will know that she is in my thoughts every day. Mental health is hard on so many levels. Devastating for the individual experiencing it, devastating for the family left behind. My heart goes out to anyone reading this with lived experience of mental health and anyone supporting or caring for someone in this situation. A big shout out also to all the health professionals helping in very stretched services.

For any other siblings in a similar situation: Rethink run a fantastic Sibling Network you can find here.

The River Nidd Gorge…

This weeks adventure from Base Camp was to The River Nidd Gorge. Shallow enough for river swimming and quiet enough to hear nothing but bird song and rushing water.

We like to go in the early evening when the day walkers are returning home. I love the way the evening light filters through the trees. This week it was misty when we arrived adding an ethereal feel to the valley.

For more info about the Nidd Gorge click here.

Discovery of the week: Mysterious Toadstone Amulets

This week I was delighted when my daughter found a baby toad under a patch of grass on the allotment. A beautiful little creature, satisfyingly compact and full of character. (Don’t worry he was safely returned to his hiding place a few moments later).

I was doubly delighted to discover the poem Toad by Norman MacCaig via a Twitter feed. The last verse of the poem reads:

A jewel in your head? Toad,
you've put one in mine,
a tiny radiance in a dark place.

I love a poem that raises questions. ‘A jewel in the head?’ had me intrigued. A quick google later I discovered there is such a thing as a ‘toadstone’ a highly polished stone which was thought in medieval times to hold magical powers and act as an amulet. They are in fact fossilised fish teeth! There is a great article here if you want the technical fossil info.

A toad stone was thought to sweat if venom or poison was detected and protect the wearer from the effects. My favourite part of the information on the ‘Wartski’ web page is that in ‘1658 the English cleric Edward Topsell suggested a method of harvesting toadstones by placing a toad on a red cloth and waiting for it to cough up the stone.’

Fascinating!

I once read of a toad that lived in an enclosed courtyard in France for 50 years, quite happily, it sounds like an urban myth, if only I could find the article again! Ah well 🙂 I will satisfy myself with the thought of magical toadstone amulets instead.

This mornings adventure…creative writing inspiration.

There’s nothing like a car boot as inspiration to create a story. A rich resource for creativity and writing prompts, although I find myself pondering human life and our detachment from the natural world. If only we realised how transient life is, our attachment to ‘stuff’ is quite strange.

The verges on the way home to base camp were where I found the real treasures.

Wednesday’s Trend…

Today was the second to last creative writing course that I will be running for St Nicks in York.

A bitter sweet day this is where my writing journey began six years ago and where I have worked with such an inspiring and lovely group of people.

I’m leaving to give more time to my independent freelance writing and PhD, but I will certainly miss it. This morning our creative writing tasks reflected the experience of writing at St Nicks. One of my lovely participants wrote that coming every week is his ‘Wednesday Trend’ to be in nature. I love those words.

Going forward I am going to continue the Wednesday Trend of connection with nature – taking a break from studying and writing to connect with the natural world.

The class will continue to run and will be hosted by my amazing colleague / friend Griselda who is also an artist and writer, so York friends please do get in touch with St Nicks if you are interested in joining them.

Here are some beautiful pics from St Nicks this morning… take care! Em 🙂

21.02.21 World Building…

Hello…..My name is Emma,

In February 2020 I set off on a personal journey to complete a PhD using my skills in writing to create a contemporary Choose Your Own Adventure book, taking a reader through the experience of a mental health journey.

Why am I doing this?

I have worked in the NHS since 2001 as an occupational therapist, specialising in mental health and vocational rehabilitation. A lot of my job involves re-sparking inspiration in life and supporting people to re-structure personal narratives and perceptions of the world.

I want to write something that conveys the human experience of mental health illness and also aims to challenge the way we think and feel about mental health experiences. I am particularly interested in the way that the stories we tell about ourselves, and others tell about us, shape our identity and how we think and feel about ourselves in the world.

So far my research has taken me back to the beginning of mental health care, looking at historical aspects and also narrative theory in relation to my writing. I’ve been using auto ethnography to explore my own personal experiences and to begin to consider characters and structures that I would like to include in my writing.

In essence I’m at the beginning of world building. Something we all do in the creation and making of stories. My biggest challenge setting out in this journey is fitting in my job, research and home schooling during lock down.

I’ve been buying myself some time at Base Camp by setting the kids off creating their own fantasy worlds (see pics at the top of the blog) for anyone interested in doing this with their kids I can recommend this excellent book which gave us our inspiration: Fantasy Mapping, Drawing Worlds by Wesley Jones.

Goals for this week:

  • Daily reading.
  • Getting to grips with One Note (reccomended by a fellow researcher).
  • To write 500 words. (One small step at a time)