Away With The Fairies: In Favour of Believing Magic and Dreams

As long as I can remember, I have been 'away with the fairies.' A chronic daydreamer, from a very early age I was constantly floating on a cloud of some kind of whimsy. Whether my fantasies be patched together from Alan Garner, JK Rowling, Eva Ibbotson or even Toy Story (at around 6, I had a thing for Woody the cowboy)…as a child I was always longing to be somewhere I wasn't. The everyday, mundane and minute details of everyday life bored me.  Admittedly, they still do, sometimes. Whilst on the surface throughout my school days I'd be attentive and quiet, mentally I'd be an age way, in a liminal time, a faraway place. I'd be deep in an enchanted forest, running down the spiral staircase of a rich King's castle, hanging out in the Gryffindor common room with Harry (wishful thinking – I am so blatantly a Hufflepuff…), or living with Tolkien's elvish folk in Rivendell. My favourite film today, aged twenty one, is Labyrinth. I am in love with the fantasy art of Brian Froud, Jasmine Beckett Griffith. I own unicorn candles. I have a miniature, mischievous brass Cornish Piskie that I almost unconsciously rub surreptitiously everyday for 'good luck.' I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of the seven chakras, and fully believe in the life-enhancing and calming properties of crystals. I have been described as 'kooky' by friends. I'm not entirely sure it was meant as a compliment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not utterly spaced out 24/7, but I can get so lost in my own thoughts/daydreams that I am rendered oblivious to those around me.  Whilst a vivid imagination can certainly be a blessing, it can also be a curse. I'm self-aware enough to realise that my chronic daydreaming can sometimes make me appear withdrawn, odd, or at worst, rude. I'm not. At least, I hope I'm not. I just don't always have the energy or the practicality reserves required to deal with some interactions, unfortunately. The left side of my brain has always remained firmly in control. Give me a cryptic poem to puzzle over rather than an equation any day. I might be able to think of something vaguely intelligent regarding the poem. The equation would be a lost cause -(Math is my Kyrptonite).

Although it's certainly got it's drawbacks, I think there are a few reasons that I should feel pretty okay about not being quite ready to hang up my fairy wings and plant my feet firmly on the ground quite yet. I think it's a sign of creativity. It shows hope – daydreaming is, to me, daring to believe that the world can be a different place; more magical, a place where anything can happen and dreams can be believed. I wrote earlier that the mundane details of the life bore me. In many ways, this is true. Most of us don't get a thrill out of online baking (unless your account looks like Richard Branson's), and to my knowledge I don't know anyone that particularly enjoys washing the dishes, dealing with energy bills, or hanging out the laundry. I am not a practical person. My head could definitely be screwed on a little more firmly. But crucially, it's the times that we are engaged with dull tasks that we can allow our mind's to wander, that give us the time for the spark of fantasy and wonder to be ignited. I once had a job, aged sixteen, where one of my main tasks was to lick envelopes. I'm not kidding, I was literally paid to sit and seal them up. Money for nothing, certainly, but soul destroyingly dull. I resolutely didn't care – it just gave me more time to daydream, uninterrupted. The rhythmic seal of the envelope, ceremoniously writing out the addresses in block capitals, acted as a kind of soothing backdrop for the riot of fantastical in my daydreams. I'm not suggesting that we all boycott necessary, everyday tasks or lose our grip on reality altogether. Daydreaming can rob us of just being present in the moment, and I'm a huge advocate of being mindful.  I just think it's important that we sometimes allow ourselves occasionally to escape reality, to not be consumed by trivial annoyances of everyday life. I'm a firm proponent of the idea that there is magic all around us, inside us. We must make an effort to see it, to create it, to cultivate the creativity inside us and refuse to let that sprinkling of pixie dust in our souls to rub off during the (sometimes eroding) difficulties of everyday life.

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Getting Snap Happy – A Quick Update

This was initially intended to be a different, longer, more thoroughly researched post. I started a piece focused upon my belief that art – from contemporary pieces produced by artists today to work from the old masters – can help us to appreciate the beauty within ourselves and in the world around us. Art is, after all, a tangible record, a documentation and a visual depiction of an aestheticised subject. It’s an encapsulation of that particular artist’s version of beautiful. 

Portraits are particularly useful in considering the ever transitioning standards of beauty. Body goals for Rubens are quite different to the #fitspo that populates the Instagram feeds of 2017. Botticelli’s Venus probably wouldn’t make it down the runway come New York fashion week. Picasso’s painted ladies would need facial realignment surgeries, but I’m actually not sure that having eyes in the side of your face was a good look back then, either. The point I’m trying clumsily to make is this; there’s no one way to be beautiful – there really is just difference, and that difference should be celebrated.  I will write that piece eventually, when the time is right. It just isn’t right today.

Truth is, I started writing, and I felt like an utter fraud. I’ve been having a few rough days body-image wise, analysing my reflection in the mirror far too often. What kind of hypocrite was I? How could I possibly preach about the importance of seeing beauty in all things when I can’t even find peace or acceptance in regards to my own body? I haven’t weighed myself in an age, but I can see changes starting, slowly. As I’m trying to become less rigid in my eating habits and rules (I’ve documented my body/food issues in much more detail in an earlier post, in the unlikely event that you’re interested), allowing myself to eat delicious food with my family, and not documenting every single calorie that passes my lips, I’m slowly but surely becoming less bony, less fragile looking. The bones in my hands and feet are becoming less pronounced. I’m finding that I’m bloating in my belly after eating, but my rib-cage is still pronounced, giving me a shape that I feel is reminiscent of a pregnant stick-insect. Attractive. I’m still thin – too thin for my natural weight. I will undoubtedly gain more weight, and should. I know this, but these perceived changes, real or imaginary, unavoidably send me hurtling down a rabbit-hole of ruminations on my body fueled by self-doubt and insecurity. I find myself spiraling, ridiculously, annoyingly, for not much reason at all, into a pretty damn anxious state. I need to be drawn out of myself, distracted from my preoccupation with thoughts about my own looks. One thing that’s really helped these past couple of days has been photography.

My fabulous mum and dad bought me an DSLR Camera for my birthday, and they really generously presented it to me a little early. I really enjoy taking snaps while I’m out and about, but as of yet have been sticking with the trusty iPhone. Although a lot more cumbersome, there’s something just inherently more satisfying about hearing the click of a full-size, proper camera. I’m still very, very, very much an amateur photographer – I can barely even get the camera to focus. Yet it makes me happy. I’m finding myself looking at the world around me from a new perspective, thinking about something other than myself and seeing the beauty in the small details. Through a photographer’s eyes, I’m noticing the drops of dew on a spiderweb, the symmetry of a ladybird’s spots, the spectrum of colours in a magpie’s wings. I’m looking for beauty in places I wouldn’t have before and finding it. Although this is a slightly rambling, confused kind of post, (admittedly, I am often both rambling and confused myself), I hope it just conveys, in a kind of round-about-way, that we can find something lovely in just about most things. Photography is helping me to become less wrapped up in my own head – instead of wandering around outside, zombie-like and engrossed in thought, I’m actively looking at my surroundings, searching for a chance to get snap happy. Nature is awesome, and the universe seems to be generally pretty willing to provide some kind of photo opportunity. I’d encourage anyone to find an activity that keeps you mindful, even if it isn’t photography. It’s so necessary for our overall well being to be brought back to the present moment, distracted from incessant ‘what-if’s’ and worries. Sometimes, we just have to look up, view life through a rose-tinted camera lens, and appreciate a pretty goddamn flower. There’s so much beauty in the small things – we just need to be willing to see it.

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For more excessive pictures of flowers (and a few awkward selfies…), check out my personal Instagram account @lornsmae

Reflections On Flowers and Weeds: The Objective Nature Of Beauty

“I did not decide which were the weeds and which were the flowers, my child.” These words were not, surprisingly, uttered by Tolkien’s Gandalf and ripped straight from the pages of ‘Fellowship Of The Ring.’ They were, in fact, proclaimed mystically by mother over an otherwise fairly normal phone conversation. I paused, impressed by the profound theological impact of this statement. “Wow,” I said, “that was wise.” “Hmm,” she replied, unruffled. “Well, I’m sick of your dad digging all my nice flowers up.”

Spiky, but sweet. Images from personal Instagram account @lornsmae
I have to say, I align with my dad on this one – I have on more than one occasion dug up some of mum’s bulbs in the garden under the mistaken impression that they were weeds. I found that whilst helping out in what I privately like to dub my ‘Paddington Style’, i.e ‘doing a magnificent job of well-meaningly f**king everything up’, it was actually really difficult to differentiate between a weed ripe for plucking and a sprout in need of cultivation. As much as I adore photographing, smelling and being generally appreciative of the existence of flowers (and some weeds, in fact) as a concept, Alan Titchmarsh will not be calling me up for gardening tips any time soon.

I actually find that the flower analogy is incredibly useful in thinking about our own beauty. An orchid doesn’t look much like a lily, and yet both are beautiful. People have different preferences, much as they are likely to in terms of physical appearance. Where someone else sees a weed to be eradicated, you may see a flower. You may prefer poppies to sunflowers. That doesn’t negate the fact that someone else might wish to fill every available surface in their home with the jolly yellow flower. (Disclaimer – the sunflower method is not necessarily a recommended style of interior design – the way my year 8 art teacher told it, it didn’t seem to cheer Van Gogh up much, unfortunately). A bluebell, I recently discovered, is technically a weed. I would actually argue that it’s my favourite wildflower. It’s all a matter of perception.

Model and actress Cara Delevingne mused on the subjective nature of beauty on a thought-provoking recent Instagram post. Her previously long, sleek, Barbie-esque blonde locks shaved off completely for her latest role, she looks powerful and starkly beautiful. This new, raw aesthetic is a complete departure from her previously carefully cultivated appearance.

“Its exhausting to be told what beauty should look like,” writes Delevingne. “I am tired of society defining beauty for us. Strip away the clothes, Wipe Off the make up, cut off the hair. Remove all the material possessions. Who are we? How are we defining beauty? What do we see as beautiful?”

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Image sourced from Cara’s Instagram @caradelevingne. Cara advises in her Bio: “Don’t worry, be happy ❤️ Embrace your weirdness 💥 STOP LABELLING, START LIVING.”
Indeed. How are we defining beauty? Why should we be given rigid, and often paradoxical, standards to conform to in terms of how we should look? Why should we let society decide for us what is a weed and what is a flower?

Ultimately, as trite and cliché as the saying is, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. The tulip doesn’t wish it were small and dainty like the daisy, and the rose doesn’t berate itself for the existence of its thorns. They just bloom where they are planted. We shouldn’t waste our time comparing ourselves to others, or view someone else’s body/smile/general appearance as ‘goals’. As hard as it is, we should aim to appreciate another’s beauty without questioning our own, without wishing that we were beautiful in the same way. As Miranda Kerr states; “All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s like women too. I want to encourage women to embrace their own uniqueness.”

Like the flower, we all need sunlight, water, and space to spread our roots in order to flourish. Live a life that nourishes you, and you will undoubtedly bloom.

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Images: @lornsmae

I am Grateful for…

“Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”  Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

Sometimes the world can seem dark. Sometimes there’s a reason that everything is suddenly looking more grey-scale Kansas than glorious, technicolor Oz. But sometimes, perhaps even more frighteningly, there isn’t. Nothing is wrong. And yet nothing feels right. This fear is often vague, and sparked by everything and nothing at the same time. Sometimes I’m so consumed by irrational fears and worries that it feels as though there’s a ten-ton weight sitting on my chest. I feel like I’m suffocating, drowning in a spiral of ‘what-ifs’. It’s hard not to blame ourselves and feel somehow deficient when these sort of emotions plague us, particularly when on the exterior, we are under no actual threat. When I feel this weight settling on my chest on dark days, one thing I’ve found to be helpful is making a mental checklist of some of the things that I am most grateful for. This is a brief list of things that, to me, make the world a beautiful place, and make me happy to be alive.

  • My family. Every single one of them. Especially my incredible parents. I am grateful every day for their health and their happiness.
  • Birdsong. Flowers. Blossom on the trees in Spring. The feel of sunshine on my back. The smell of freshly cut grass in the summer. The first taste of salt in the clean air at the seaside. Rich colours of fallen leaves and warm fires in Autumn. The freshness of the air and the dusting of snow on cars in the Winter. Hearing my own footfall in the peace of the forest.
  • My friends. Listening to someone talk about something they’re passionate about and noticing the light grow in their eyes. Being the one to put that light there. Having someone else incite that glow of excitement in me. Finding common ground and shared interests in unexpected places. The feel of a happy blush spreading across my cheeks when someone pays me an unexpected compliment.
  • Art. Music. Books that stop time because they weave you into a spell of magic and are capable of transporting you to a whole other world. Being introduced to art, music and books that others love, even if it’s not my thing.
  • Laughter. Any laughter, all laughter, as long as it’s sincere and kind. Tinkling, delicate giggles. Belly gusting roars. Ugly laughs, shouty laughs. Babies laughter. Suppressed snorts of laughter in inappropriate situations. Hearing my parents laugh at something from another room.
  • Feeling beautiful. Smiling and truly meaning it. Making someone else feel beautiful. Making someone else smile.
  • Travelling to a new place and seeing something that takes my breath away. Finding beauty in the wonders of the world. Finding beauty in the fields near my home. The fact that my father can see a house I find irredeemably ugly and he can make me look for what makes it unique. Listening to my mother tell me what kind of bird is in the garden.
  • The fact that my body and brain are capable of noticing and enjoying these things. I can see. I can smell. I can hear. I can walk. These are all blessings that largely grow unnoticed everyday. Every so often, I make a conscious effort to acknowledge them.

 

 

So yes, sometimes the world can look dark. Bad things happen. Sometimes we are afraid. But the world is also filled with light. This post probably sounds trite and cliched. I don’t care, much. I think it’s so important to remember how blessed we are. I know that I am often guilty of being blindsided, of being dismissive of the tiny facets of life that prove to be what makes it worth living. I am trying to reduce the amount of times I complain that ‘I have nothing going for me.’  Life can sometimes feel like one chore and effort and disappointment after another. Yet, as I type this, babies around the globe are being born. Flowers are blooming. Someone is laughing and meaning it, people are falling in love. One person is looking at another and realising that they’re a little less alone than they thought they were. As hard as it can be to see sometimes, every day is a blessing and a miracle. There is good in every moment. So, hard as it is, I’m going to try not to get so hung up on issues that seem terrifying at the time, but in the long run will fade into insignificance. I am learning that I am not going to be happy every second of everyday. To expect to be so is unreasonable and unattainable and will only lead to further feelings of dissatisfaction. You and I will be happy and we will be sad. Sometimes we will feel nothing, sometimes we will feel as though we have so many emotions that our body can’t possibly contain them all. All of this is okay.

I am going to try so hard to quash my irrational sense of dread when it rears its ugly head, to leave my comfort zone, and to push myself to live a life I’m proud of. I want to live a life not ruled by fear, but rather one filled with gratitude, love and the knowledge that dawn arrives even after the darkest of nights.