Visions and Ashes

My week was pretty standard. The quest for paid work continues, my mood is pretty flat, and I am procrastinating like a fiend.

My weekend, however, was magical.

As some of you might know, I am an aspiring shamanic practitioner. Over the years I have journeyed, struggled to make meaning of the work and of my life, and used various other labels to describe what I am trying to do. But it always comes back to shamanism, as appropriative as that label is.

The problem, I have no formal training.

Emma's prayer tree

Well, it shouldn’t really be a problem. A certificate isn’t going to change what I do, but somehow my practice feels invalid (to me) because I have no lineage, no mentor and no physical ‘proof’ of what is a personal practice. I have looked into training in the past, but it was either prohibitively expensive or involved travelling far from home, something I struggle with.

But a chance came up. There was an “Introduction to Shamanism” course being organised in Glasgow under the auspices of The Three Ravens College of Therapeutic Shamanism. So I signed up and took part.

Although the material covered was all stuff I had learned before in my solitary practice, it was empowering to be able to talk openly about my experiences with a group of real, physical people. It has been a long time since I’ve been amongst spiritually-inclined people.

Over the course of the day, we had the change to do three journeys. I was nervous as I hadn’t journeyed for almost a year, but our instructor took great care to prepare us and ease us into the work. I feel like I have made a real breakthrough, and I am so grateful.

That was my Saturday. My Sunday was spent with family as we scattered my mum’s ashes.

A young oak tree, dedicated to Emma's mum.
Photo by @bekarwar

There was a break in the weather while we gathered at the tree dedicated to mum, and completed the marking of her passing. This time last year was horrible. Mum was in and out of hospitals, and we were trying desperately to find someone to help her. She knew she didn’t have long, but her remaining life goals were modest. The cancer didn’t care. She couldn’t even do the one simple thing anyone in her position would want to do.

This year things are a lot more settled, but for all the wrong reasons.

Mum,I’m so lost without you. It took a long time, but you finally understood me and were my biggest cheerleader even as you lay dying. Life is too hard, too big, and too confusing without you. I miss you so, so much.

Rambling

Writing a blog post when you have nothing to talk about!

Emma wearing her fox ears and tail.

It’s funny.

I have a job. A great job. I get to support a cause I am passionate about, I get to meet some amazing people and I get to go to some fun places.

However, as my job is unpaid my work isn’t considered valuable to our patriarchal capitalist society. Instead I have to look for paid work that doesn’t contribute anything of real value to society, just to satisfy the government. It’s really frustrating, and I’m not smart enough to find a solution to the mess our society is in. Universal Basic Income is a likely way forward, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. UBI could free people from jobs they hate, allowing them to do the work they want to do. Our communities need people to do real work.

I am enjoying my work with OneKind, both as an events assistant and as the Glasgow Team organiser, but I am scared that I will have to give it up to fit in with yet another toxic work culture.

I’m not depressed, I’m just stuck in a world full of folk who value the wrong things!

*

It was the third and final year of my annual fundraising event, the Burpeethon. I am proud to say that over the three years we ran the Burpeethon, 77 volunteers did 27,780 burpees and raised £7,657 in donations. All of that money went straight to Scottish Women’s Aid, supporting their work in ending domestic violence.

There is no way I could have raised that amount of money on my own. I am so grateful to everybody who took part and donated. Thank you.

*

One of Emma's granny squares

My crocheting has slowed down as my class has finished up. I’m not great at doing things myself, under my own steam.

I do have plans to make a granny square blanket, and I want to make a temperature blanket between my 34th and 35th birthday. It’s going to be sweet!

I’m trying to exercise my creative muscles in general. I want to do daily doodles, blog more often (even when I don’t really feel motivated – hence this post) and come up with a new project to replace the Burpeethon.

Harrison Wells doodle

Today’s daily doodle makes me feel so awkward. I don’t draw humans, and I hate showing people anything that I do not consider perfect, but I drew a human and I have shared it online. It’s Dr. Harrison Wells from “The Flash”. After watching “Legends of Tomorrow”, I had to go back and watch it followed by “Arrow”.  It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a TV series as much as these. I think the last time was “Game of Thrones”.

*

The awkward ending. I really want to improve my blogging skills, rather than just ramble to an awkward close. Ha! I hope you are well, and that the world is being kind to you.

 

 

Depression and daffies

That bastard we know as “depression” has been creeping back into my life this last week. He has been following me around and reminding me how terrible I am in every facet of my life. My response? To avoid people and responsibilities, and spend my days on Reddit and Twitch.

Healthy coping mechanisms.

I did push myself to go out on Thursday evening to my crochet class, which was a lovely thing to do, but it was on my way home that I did something to help myself feel better: I spent £1 on a bunch of daffodils.

Daffodils opening

A cheap bunch of flowers is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but these bright daffodils have made a world of difference to me this week. Each morning, and throughout the day, I have delighted in seeing just how much they have opened up and raised their heads.

Daffodils today

These daffodils are just a wee bit of magic in an otherwise bleak life. I know I’m being melodramatic; that’s how I roll.

 

Imbolc, and the life of the Urbanimal

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Imbolc is the one festival that I do not connect with. I guess it is because here in Scotland, Spring comes later. Heck, we haven’t even had Winter yet! I worry about that. There are early signs, such as budding leaves and crocuses, and I am just waiting for them to be crushed by severe weather. It’s the same every year, but this year the feeling is even more palpable. I hope I am wrong.

Photograph of leaf buds
Spring is making an effort to arrive

I’m not thriving at the moment. Surviving, yes. Thriving, no. While my GP knows that I am still not fit to work, what with my fibromyalgia getting progressively worse and my difficulties in handling my mother’s death, the Department of Work & Pensions has decided that I am, and they know best. *stifles laughter* The immediate issue is that they have taken my benefit from me. Thankfully I am in a place of privilege; I have a loving partner who is willing to support me while I fight this. Not a lot of people have that. It sucks to be in this position, especially because it is due to a government who has waged war on the poor and vulnerable, but I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I’ve just lost some of my independence and autonomy, but I can survive that. Survive, yes. Thrive, no.

Prior to losing my income, I had saved up enough money to do an introduction to crocheting class. I have gotten the hang of scarves, with a single crochet, but I was stumped as to where to go to next! Then my local wool shop announced the class on their Facebook page, and there was much rejoicing. We’re making granny squares! It’s a bit like magic to me. I’ve managed to make one decent looking square, but the rest are misshapen monstrosities.

Photograph of Emma's first two crocheted granny squares.
Granny squares!

I’m not the best person at getting things done. I also love journalling. And so, I have begun experimenting with goal setting, habit tracking and general attempts at being more disciplined. For my goals, I have chosen to work with Leonie Dawson’s My Shining Year workbook. So far I have been inspired by it and its Facebook community, so I have plenty of ideas for what I want to do in 2017. Getting them done is an entirely different beast! I’ve been experimenting with Bullet Journalling to combine my to-do lists, habits, goals, ideas and inspirations. On my good health days it is brilliant, but my good health days are few and far between. Of course I know that a part of me is being lazy too, and using my poor health as an excuse for not doing anything at all. I’m trying to beat that habit.

Photographic portrait of James the cat,
New houseguest

There has been a major upheaval this week; James, my mum’s cat, has moved in with us. Mum passed away in June, but this week my dad decided that he was not able to look after James anymore. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone, but when is life ideal? So on Tuesday James came to our home, much to the confusion and anger of our cat, Lucy. It has been okay so far. Both cats are avoiding each other, and Lucy has the option of going outside if she needs space. When they do come into contact, they have a spat rather than a fight.

I have always wanted to be able to talk with animals, but I have wished so hard for this gift right now just so I can explain to Lucy and James what is going on and why. Childish, right?

Emma doing a burpee
Burpees are fun; look at me smiling!

Finally, it is a week and a half till the Burpeethon. Our third and final event takes place on Saturday, 18th February. We were featured in the Evening Times this week, too, which should give us a boost. You can learn how to support the event by checking out www.burpeethon.co.uk. I have set myself a modest target to 200, which is 50 an hour. That’s 10 every ten minutes with a ten minute break before the next hour. It should be fine, just don’t tell my doctor! Shhh!

Snares: Let’s make the ban happen!

Until recently I was unaware that snaring was legal in Scotland, having only come across snares set by poachers. However my volunteer work with OneKind has made me aware of how big of a problem snaring is, while remaining legal in many instances. OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports have worked together to produce Cruel and Indiscriminate: Why Scotland must become snare-free, a report that clearly explains why the practice of snaring needs to come to an end.

Earth Fox
Earth Fox

Why snares have got to go

Snaring is an inhumane way of trapping animals. A frightened animal will struggle to free itself from a snare causing itself injury or to strangle itself, both can potentially lead to a slow and painful death. By law snares have to be checked every 24 hours, but imagine 24 hours of being held in place, unable to fully understand what is happening and why your attempts to free yourself are making things worse.

Snares lack the ability to discriminate between species, or between individuals of a species. Typically, snares are used to trap animals labelled as “vermin”, such as rabbits, foxes and brown hares. However, research from the Scottish SPCA, DEFRA, and OneKind show that the majority of animals who become ensnared are other species – including protected species, like badgers and Scottish wildcats, and companion animals. When a snare does catch its target species, they regularly trap youngsters, pregnant animals, and mothers who still have young to tend to. One death can then lead to many others.

Snares are often counterproductive. Legal snares are mainly used on shooting estates to stop foxes from preying on game birds. But like many species, when foxes are culled the remaining foxes move into the territory and make use of the extra resources to do what animals do – breed! There is also a myth that animals considered pests are increasing in number, but research says otherwise, with rabbits declining by 59% and foxes by 34% (from 1996-2014). These animals that are considered “vermin” are vital parts of the local ecosystem, and need to be treated as such.

Finally, if evidence suggests that the population has to be controlled then there are plenty of alternatives to snares that are less indiscriminate and less inhumane. For foxes, these include cage trapping, adding llamas to sheep flocks, and lamping. For rabbits, there is live trapping and shooting. These require more effort, but laziness is not an adequate excuse for cruelty.

Those who defend the use of snares claim that they are necessary, and an important part of conservation work. However if this were true, then Scottish conservation charities and the Scottish government would rely on snares too. They don’t. All are very much against snares, and never use snaring on their land.

The Moon and Her Children
The Moon and Her Children

You can take action to make Scotland snare-free

What I have written is a very brief review of what I learned from Cruel and Indiscriminate: Why Scotland must become snare-free. It is worth reading for yourself, and at 36 pages it should not take too long. If you feel as passionate about banning snares as I do, then here are some things you can do:

  • Write to your MSP: OneKind have created an e-action tool that will allow you to contact your MSPs and ask then to support a ban on snares in Scotland. Click here!
  • Report any snares you find: OneKind keeps a record of snares and snaring events at snarewatch.org. If you come across a snare, please add your report to the site. Click here!
  • Support OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports: Join, donate, fundraise, volunteer or stay informed about their valuable work! Every small action really does snowball into change! Click here to visit OneKind and click here to visit the League Against Cruel Sports.
I AM A VOLUNTEER FOR ONEKIND, BUT MY THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.

 

Join us at the Burpeethon!

Poster for the Burpeethon 2017Yes, my friends! It is that time of year again! Time for me to babble about the Burpeethon!

In its third and final year, the Burpeethon is a fitness challenge where we ask volunteers to come along and do as many burpees as possible to raise funds for charity. Once again, all the money raised will be going to Scottish Women’s Aid to help them bring about an end to domestic violence against women. With austerity being forced upon us, domestic violence becomes a bigger threat and is something we need to work together to combat.

As horrible burpees are, the Burpeethon is a fun day and it is suitable for most fitness levels. You go at your own pace. I have fibromyalgia and hypermobility, but I don’t let that stop me from doing what I can.

The Burpeethon is taking place on Saturday, 18th February, 2017 at the Arc, Glasgow Caledonian University. You can register at www.burpeethon.co.uk. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Crochet lumps and scarves

A taxidermy wildcat wearing a crochet scarf and a Santa hat/
My first crochet scarf. Hat is model’s own.

The crochet lumps… they have evolved!

For those of you following me on Instagram, you will have seen the ups and downs of my crochet adventure. Mostly the downs. It all began earlier this year, when I decided I should learn a craft skill. Ignoring the sewing machine that has been lying alone and abandoned in my cupboard just crying out for attention, I went to the craft section of Waterstones to choose a project.

A funky little box called “Granny Squares” caught my eye. It contained everything I needed to crochet some granny squares of my own. “Perfect,” I thought, “that is a great place to start learning to crochet.”

NOPE.

All of the instructions were in Double Dutch! This was not the Crochet 101 project I was looking for, so I was left upset and disappointed. I was also left with a crochet hook and a stash of yarn that I could not return to the store. Not to be defeated, I turned to YouTube for some advice and tutorials. Goddammit, I *was* going to learn how to crochet!

As you can see, over the course of two months I gradually figured out how to do a single crochet. I had to experiment with different yarns and hooks, and watch videos over and over again before it finally clicked. And when it clicked, a scarf happened. They just happen spontaneously when you crochet!

I have mastered the single crochet, and I feel marvellous about it. It is amazing how relaxed I feel when I’m moving the yarn and hook in my hands. I have started taking them everywhere with me; the train, the pub, hospital waiting rooms, the Robot Wars studio … crochet is just so addictive.

I am not so sure what to do next though. Just now I am making another scarf with some cotton yarn. I am wondering if there are any projects I can do with just a single crochet, or if I should move on and learn another type. I’m keen to make something other than scarves, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself! For the time being, you can find me chilling with my yarn and hook.

 

Weekend at Vegfest Scotland

Emma is wearing a fox onsie and standing beside a Vegfest poster

On the 3rd and 4th December Vegfest Scotland took place at the SECC. From what I’ve been told, it was the biggest gathering of vegan-friendly folk in Scotland. With a mix of good food, education, campaigning, art and retail therapy, there was something for everyone. I was volunteering for much of the event so I didn’t get to see everyone, but I want to share with you all the amazing stuff I did see!

OneKInd logoOneKind – Of course, these guys will be at the top of my list – I was volunteering at their stall! The stall was focused on the campaign to end the culling of mountain hare, and in selling some lovely Christmas cards and gift memberships. If you missed out, you can click here to visit the OneKind online store. OneKind have also launched a brand new educational resource over at onekind.org.

Give a Dog a Bone logo

Give a Dog a Bone – A new charity that I had not heard of before. Give a Dog a Bone helps the over 60s adopt a companion animal by helping to meet adoption fees, and some ongoing costs. I think this is a brilliant idea! For humans, animals can provide much needed friendship and purpose, and for animals, humans can provide a loving home away from a rescue centre.

Wear Your Voice Logo

Wear Your Voice – An awesome clothing retailer who specialises in social justice and animal rights designs. I bought two of their t-shirts over the weekend and the quality is fantastic. The icing on the cake is that around 15% of their profits go to support good causes AND they run The Hoodie Project – to give out hoodies to the homeless during winter. Good vibes all round.

blitz

Blitz Patisserie – Vegan fares are the best place for cake, and the best place for cake at a vegan fare is Blitz Patisserie! I was very late in the day when I found their stall, and the Vegfest patrons had virtually wiped them out! Luckily I was able to nab a slice of apple crumble cake and a raw mince pie. Oh. My. God. Both were delicious! Keep an eye out for them at vegan events, or follow them on Facebook to see when they are doing home deliveries in Falkirk, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Photograph of the OneKInd Stall at Vegfest Scotland

Being at Vegfest Scotland gave me a lot to think about. I know that vegetarianism and veganism are not right for me (been there, done that!), but I do want to reaffirm my commitment to a dairy-free lifestyle. I’ll maybe write about that in a separate post. I do wish more non-veg*ns had come along, just to see how great the lifestyle can be for mind, body and spirit. It also made me think about how important activism is. Many of the events I go to are focused on the lifestyle, but without the activism behind it veg*nism could just be another consumer fad. The activists bear witness, and remind us why we do what we do. But it’s also important to cut loose and have fun too!

Mountain Hare Masks

Mountain Hare Masks (2016)

Inspired by Nanayena’s Arcanine cosplay, I decided to experiment with EVA foam. With an upcoming rally to raise awareness of the plight of mountain hares, I decided to make hare masks.

A fuller post on the process will follow.