Thinning of the Veil

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“To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep”

– The Byrds (Lyrics for Turn! Turn! Turn!) (Adapted from the Bible: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

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The days are shortening and the darkness and cold is seeping in slowly like a fog, a little more each day. I no longer feel fresh and new like the first sprouts of spring. This does not sadden or disappoint me. Instead, I feel ripe, potent and intense like the sweet heady scent of decaying leaves with wafts of cinnamon and smoke from burning stubble on farmers’ fields. The air feels crackly and thin giving me shivers and making the little hairs all over my body stand on end, telling me daily that I’m not alone. On the contrary, I am closer to all things than I am during any other season. It is the time of great dying, when Mother Nature transitions from a time of life and growth and prepares for a great sleep after giving us her harvested bounty and moving towards the season of death. All times of transition can be times of great reflection. The darkening days reflect the shadows within our own souls that we must attend to and heal. All of us carry darkness that we must not fear and turn away from, but instead, look deeply into and move through it, like we move through winter towards the light and re-birth on the other side. The fall transition is a time of gratitude for the abundance received all summer and a time of preparation for the dark cold days where we must create our own light and warmth by turning within and projecting outward.

The veil is thinning.

The realms of the living world and spirit world are transitioning and in flux. The memories of loved ones that have passed come to us in dreams. We feel them closer than we tend to at other times of the year. We are reminded of our own mortality. We are reminded that like the seasons, we too are markers of time, change and transition. This is not morbid or negative. It serves as a reminder that we are all an integral part of everything. All life and all death. All lightness and all darkness. Connected.

As we age, we are given signs that we are getting closer to who we actually are, which lays just out of reach on the other side of the veil. Every wrinkle, age spot and change within our physical body is not something to hide, fear or loathe. We miss the point when we do not honour that they are signs that we are coming back to our source. We are getting closer to ourselves. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. This has nothing to do with religion or dogma, it means that our spirit never ages, but gets clearer and clearer as time moves on and our physical form fades. Have you not noticed that as people age, they seem to grow into themselves? When you speak to older people, they tend to talk about how they have become more confident over time, more self assured and have learned to care much less about what other people think of them. They may become more free or eccentric as time marches on. They may take more risks and do things that they never would have done when they were younger. They may become quiet, introspective, thoughtful and peaceful. They are not as rattled or as emotional about things that happen in life. They grow more patient, compassionate and generous with themselves and others.

Aging is a great gift and a mirror reflection of nature all around us. Just like we cannot stop winter from coming, we cannot stop aging, yet there are endless anti-aging products and techniques out there that are sabotaging our personal growth. They teach us to fear and be ashamed of aging. They teach us to hide it and covet youth which carries a great illusion of power. It is one of the great many lies that keep us from our own growth. This is not to say that beauty products or adornment are wrong or do not have their place. On the contrary, they can help us celebrate ourselves and the beauty of our own evolution at every stage of life that we move through. It is when the culture of shame and anti-aging takes over and manipulates us into striving for the illusion of youth that it becomes so damaging to the human spirit. The constant effort and attempts to look younger, spending money, time and energy on a losing battle, instead of on the development of spirit and character is robbing us of so many opportunities to evolve and grow into our potential. It stagnates us, so we are so glamoured by our own reflection, we forget that the true meaning of our life lives on the inside, where no one can see. Aging, like the changing seasons is a great teacher which never stops giving us opportunities to learn and grow until our time earth-side has come to an end. Whether or not we pay attention to the lessons and decide to learn from them becomes a matter of personal choice.

You may have heard the expression “what we resist, persists”. We cannot resist age, just as a flower cannot bloom forever, nor does it try to. Instead, it spends it’s time reaching for the light and growing as vibrant and to it’s fullest potential as it possibly can within the time it has before it’s death. It does not fear death, or try to stop the inevitable. It knows that this would be a waste of it’s energy in the limited time it has. We can learn a lot from a flower. We can learn a lot from the natural cycles of nature. We can learn from the thinning of the veil that occurs every autumn that we are nature, and nature is us, and it is precisely in that place where the physical world and spirit world connect that we find out who we actually are. But only if we choose to pay attention and learn.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: 90’s vintage from head to toe!

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Feminine Fierce

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“When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, and inspiratrice, and intuitive, a maker, a creator, and inventor, and a listener who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer worlds.”

“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

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There is a deep and profound power within femininity. It is a power that is seldom recognized and celebrated within our society. We all have both feminine and masculine traits within each of us to varying degrees and they shift and come forth in different times and situations in our lives. They are both important, necessary and useful, which is why we embody both. Even though this is true, it is undeniable that typically masculine traits are the ones held up as superior in our society. We are taught to value physical strength; assertiveness; independence; action; dominance; logic and ambition. All of which are traditionally considered masculine. We praise these traits so much in our society that many women have learned to develop and focus our attention on the masculine within us in order to be recognized and valued within a patriarchal society. We have also embraced those traits for our own physical safety and protection. I am one of those women.

From a very young age, it became apparent to me that masculine traits were more valued, and if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to focus on the masculine within me. I tended to lean toward the masculine naturally, so it wasn’t difficult for me to lean in all the way. I developed physical strength and I learned to throw a ball and ride a bike aggressively. I learned to be tough, independent and dominant. When I got old enough, I applied for a job as a dish-washer in the back of a restaurant with the guys. They told me I was too pretty to stay in the back, so they made me a hostess. This felt more like a failure to me than a compliment, but I needed a job.  After working for a while, they realized I was surprisingly tough. Being a teenage girl working with men in their twenties will do that to you. So they also put me in charge of turning away the drunks at the bar as an un-suspecting bouncer. I was 16. I then got a series of physical labour jobs and applied for male-dominated science programs at University and then College. Both programs were trying to re-cruite more women in sciences. It landed me a career in an Engineering firm, where I was 1 of only 2 women, other than the all-female secretaries. I became one of the boys for all intents and purposes, aside from my very feminine exterior. This combination of looking feminine while behaving masculine, seemed to get me everywhere. I carried on like this for 10 years, and by most of societies standards I was very successful. Then I got married and had a baby.

Everything changed. Suddenly, all of the traits I had worked so hard to develop and lead my life with became far less important and a whole new set of more feminine traits were being called upon. My family needed nurturing, empathy, sensitivity, intuition and gentleness. It was one of the most confusing and frustrating times in my life. I knew I embodied those traits, but I had been suppressing them for so long because they were not visibly valued by the world in which I lived. I suddenly felt invisible and unimportant to everybody but my children and my Husband. I felt smaller and less powerful than I had ever felt before in my life. It woke me up. It lit a fire deep in my belly that began to rage and burn with determination for this to change.

When we look back at era’s in which women’s liberation was at the height of popularity, you can see the influence of masculinity rise in popular culture. In the 1920’s, it became popular for women to be more androgynous. Waistlines dropped, garments hung loose and women began to lose weight to avoid feminine curves. They cut off their hair and got rid of their corsets that accentuated waists and breasts. They began to smoke and drink and engage in sex before marriage, which previously were activities restricted only to men. They became independent and assertive about their opinions. They grew a thick skin and a tougher exterior so they could walk the streets un chaperoned for the first time. They began to embody more masculine traits because those traits gained them more freedom than feminine traits did. In the 1980’s we saw it again, with the popularity of the power-suit and broad-shoulders. Makeup trends made women look fierce and intimidating. Cocaine, which ramped up aggression and intensity was the drug of choice. Super models were chosen for their strong jawlines and Amazonian body types. The powerful executive Boss Lady became the role-model that all young girls aspired to be. Choosing to be a Mother or be a homemaker was for the weak or oppressed.

I see this trend happening again. Strangely, it’s at a time when I feel my most feminine. Although I still lean toward the masculine, I have struck a balance in my masculine and feminine that I have never achieved before. In honouring the feminine within me, I have gained a deeper respect for women and at the same time, am deeply saddened that even given all that we have been through, and the leaps and bounds that women have made to be recognized in society as valuable and worthy, we are still celebrating the masculine as superior. We are still hiding our feminine traits like they are weaknesses, and trying to be more masculine in order to be noteworthy and appreciated.

I long for a time when gentleness, empathy, intuition and nurturing are valued enough in our society that they become trendy in popular culture and something for young people, boys and girls alike, to aspire to. I long for the world to go mad for a film character who achieves unbelievable things because of these typically feminine traits. I feel inundated by the message we are sending when we continue to celebrate violent, dominating and physically powerful females like Furiosa in Mad Max- Fury Road, and Wonder Woman, Rise of the Warrior, as feminist symbols. Don’t get me wrong, these movies are thrilling and I like to watch an epic ass-kicking female action movie just as much as the next woman, but it seems we never see examples of strong women accomplishing incredible things by using her feminine characteristics. We are deeply imbalanced, and not representing the feminine in an empowering way at all. While I appreciate that the ass-kicking warrior women archetype plays a role in challenging the idea that feminine traits are for females and masculine traits are for males, just like the 1920’s and 1980’s did, we must be aware that they are still celebrating and re-inforcing that masculinity is still how you accomplish things and that women who embody more masculine traits are more powerful. I can’t help but feel like I have been trained to love these movies, because the only time we cheer for a woman is when she is embodying masculinity. The little girls of today, just like the little girl I was in the 1980’s are being taught that their power lies in embracing their masculine, and that they better be beautiful on the outside as well. We show young girls and boys that the world still prefers and celebrates aggressive women. They may be kind-hearted and want to do good in the world, but they achieve that through aggression. We don’t cheer for their more subtle empathy, intuition and nurturing. Those qualities are boring at best, and at the worst, it’s their weakness that they must overcome. We are shown time and again by popular culture, that those feminine traits are not interesting or thrilling enough to warrant a place in a popular Blockbuster movie.

I challenge that idea. I challenge you to ask yourself why we all cheer for the fierce, warrior woman? I have cheered for her all my life, but I’m starting to question why that is exactly, and if it’s time for a change? Questioning why we think the way we do is a good thing. It’s important to challenge ourselves on the ideas we have accepted for a long time as just how it is. So, I challenge myself and I challenge you. I challenge the creative writers, actors and movie makers to tap into the feminine phenomenon that is missing. I agree that capturing the deep power of the subtleties of the feminine will be more than a little difficult. When I have seen it attempted in movies or books, these traits are typically embodied by a witch or sorceress who is either the villain, or a victim. Just like the female orgasm, the complexities of the feminine are deeply misunderstood, so inevitably become feared and represented in popular culture as evil. If you ask me, I think the abilities of the feminine are closer to super-human than any violent super-hero could ever be. Women create life. The feminine has the uncanny ability to heal people and create the foundations that help people and things grow. The feminine is empathic and understands the transformative power of emotion and communication. The feminine carries traditions, knowledge and culture forth from generation to generation that aren’t represented in history books or school curriculums. The feminine understands intuitively the power of connection between all living things. I think those characteristics are the basis for a new kind of hero. The kind that nurtures and protects. The kind that doesn’t resort to violence or aggression to save the world, but embodies a deeper sense of peace and compassion. I’m ready for a hero or role model that is tapped into the natural rythmes of life. An intuitive observer and loving healer.

Cheering for the warrior women has had more than it’s time to shine in the sun. It has served it’s purpose in bringing women into the fold and giving them position, visibility and power within a very masculine world that doesn’t understand or value the feminine yet. I will always cherish the fierce warrior women within and I’m sure she will come forth when needed, but I feel it’s time for us to educate ourselves about the feminine, and celebrate it for the deep strength and power it holds. I think it’s time for the pendulum to swing back into a more balanced feminine and masculine. I think it’s time to cheer for the compassionate, intuitive, loving nurturer that resides within both women and men. I think it’s time that the feminine is encouraged to rise. Don’t you?

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & ART DIRECTION BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

MODELS: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

FASHION: Leather vests, arm cuffs, furs and sheep skins by Rampant Design

 

 

Down the Rabbit Hole

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
― Lewis Carroll (Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland)

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“Have I gone mad? I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.” – Lewis Carroll (The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland)

There is a deep seeded part of me which knows intuitively that our purpose here as human beings is to create, and in doing so, expand and grow like the universe itself. Every single person on our planet is a creator, and together we are co-creators who are continually influencing and impacting one another’s creations. Some people are working with us and feeding our expansion and as a result the expansion of the world. Other’s are impeding our progress to the detriment and delay of individual development and therefore the evolution of humanity. This is not to say that all of us are artists or wish to pursue the arts as a lifestyle choice. It is to say that every single one of us is continually having ideas that begin small in our minds and then become reality as they grow and we create them into being. Every day you decide what to wear; what to make for dinner; creative solutions to problems at work; how to decorate your home; how to cut your hair; or how to plan your vegetable garden. There is really no way to get through a single day without creating. We are hard-wired to create things and share them. This is fact. This is our collective human experience.

It is strange to me that so many people seem unaware of their own creativity and how they take for granted all the many things they create each day, which each began as a simple thought.  What’s even stranger is how devastatingly hard society is on those who have embraced their creativity fully and choose more elaborate and intentional creative ideas thereby honouring their human ability to think a thought and create it into being. It seems in fact, that our society is not set up at all to support creativity as a pursuit, even though it is such an undeniable and significant part of every human being.  Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. Those of us who call ourselves artists or creatives who have accepted making things as our life’s purpose, have been simultaneously held up as inspirational or groundbreaking, while at the same time being criticized for being too different, too impractical, or out of touch with reality. It’s a conundrum. Somewhere along the line, we have created a very limited view of how creative we are allowed to be while still being socially accepted and not considered weird, un-relatable, or crazy.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The more I have allowed my creativity to flow and be seen, the more myself I have felt than ever before in my life. It seems that the more myself I feel, the less the mainstream world is able to accept me and the less I am able to accept it. Now it seems as though what I once thought was real and normal appears like total madness to me, and what appears like madness to mainstream popular culture is what is real and true. It’s as though by being true to myself and embracing my natural instincts to create and expand, the veil of bullshit has lifted and I see the cage called normal or reality for what it is. It’s a terrible trap, crafted and upheld by those whose hearts are riddled with scars from past hurts that have them blinded by fear, insecurity and a deep desire for external acceptance and approval. Their fear mongering and criticisms are there to keep you insecure, ashamed and fearful of yourself and your desire to expand, by judging and shaming you back into your cage over and over again.

Freeing myself of this cage is an on-going process, which I now understand, will be a lifetime effort. What makes it easier and more joyful is the wonderful collection of other creative people I have had the pleasure of co-creating with. We do indeed attract those of like mind to us, and we inspire one another to do better, be better and at all costs to stay free with our creativity and grow. I have heard it said, that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. If I look back over my life’s path, I can see clear evidence that this is indeed true. As I noted before, some people feed our natural drive towards expansion by being supportive, but more importantly, by being creative themselves. Others impede our progress by having narrow views of potential and staying small and fearful and as a result, keeping others around them small too. People don’t always realize they are doing this because they are so misguided by their own fear and insecurities that they have not been able to find themselves and be free. No one can free another, we must free ourselves and find our way back to who we actually are, not who others want us to be. If we surround ourselves with those who want to see us grow and are actively pursuing their own growth, together we tap into the natural momentum and flow we are all meant to experience, and we become unstoppable.

Embrace the creator that you are. Don’t limit your creative potential to the elaborate order you place at Starbucks. Allow yourself to attempt that complex recipe that’s been rattling around inside your head. Sit down and just write that story idea you’ve had since you were 16. Pick up that guitar you’ve been ignoring in the corner, or dust off Grandma’s piano. Grab whatever camera you’ve got now and go shoot! For the love of yourself, accept that you create naturally every single day and you have the capacity to give it your full attention and do something spectacular with it. You don’t have to devote your life to it, just stop trying to convince yourself and everyone else that you are not creative, and that creative people are somehow special, and you are just a regular person. Poppycock! Give yourself permission to create what comes naturally to you and you may feel, possibly for the first time in your life, the seed of your truest self. The seed that if allowed to grow, will blossom into originality. Your originality is precisely what this mad world needs, but, you have to be brave enough to go down the rabbit hole.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, STAGING and CREATIVE DIRECTION BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

MODELS: GMB Chomichuk (Mad Hatter, a.k.a. my Husband), Leanne Sanders (The Red Queen), and Tara Cole-McCaffrey (Alice)

SPECIAL NOTE: A few days before this shoot, I posted on Instagram that I was looking forward to seeing what Mother Nature had in store for us this time. It has become my regular experience that when we shoot outdoors, as we often do, we are always graced by some unexpected addition from Mother Nature that always adds something spectacular that there’s no way we could possibly produce ourselves. We once had a group of snakes show up for a fairytale witch shoot; a storm roll in over the lake creating huge waves and moody skies for a beach shoot; giant magical snowflakes for a New Year’s shoot, and a whole herd of deer that just hung out during a Bavarian Alpine shoot. When we arrived at the cabin in the woods to shoot this Alice in Wonderland theme, we were greeted by the largest infestation of fish-flies I have ever seen in my life. At first I was disappointed (not to mention grossed out), since having them in the shots would be un-avoidable. I soon realized, that if crazy, weird and whimsical was really what I was going for, than Mother Nature had indeed outdone herself once again by taking the madness up several notches for us. I am learning to trust the process and to place my trust and faith in my greatest co-creator yet, Mother Nature herself.

 

Atlantis

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“Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.” -Plato (from Timaeus, 360 BC)

“Fair Atlantis, peerless country,
Lulled within the ocean’s arms,
Lying beautiful and shining
Far beneath the storm’s alarms;
Never war or plague came near thee;
In thy halls were love and ease;
Now above thee, lost Atlantis,
Roll the ever restless seas.”

– Edith Willis Linn Forbes (1865-1945) (excerpt: The Lost Atlantis)

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If Atlantis did indeed exist, what do you think it was like? What is utopia to you? What would your ideal world be like? How would it look, smell, sound? How would it it feel? What would your life be like there? How would you spend your days? Why would these things make it ideal to you?

When was the last time you asked yourself these questions? Or, have you ever asked yourself these questions? We spend so much of our time and energy reacting and responding to experiences and stimulus as life unfolds before us. It can be overwhelming to constantly be taken on the roller coaster ride of circumstances and all the emotions that go along with them. The world right now, as it stands, is in turmoil. We are as divided as ever, in politics, religion, and social structures, and we are lacking human connection to an astonishing degree. More than ever it seems, we have so much information coming at us from all directions that we are responding and reacting to at enormous rates, and some of the stimulus is down right terrifying. If ever there was a time in history to ask yourself some hard questions about what it is you really want, now is it!

If we are to be the change that we want to see in the world, as Ghandi suggests, why do many of us not spend even a few moments sitting and asking ourselves what change that is exactly? We ask ourselves questions, like “how can I be more environmentally concious?”, “what can I do to give back to my community?” And while these are really good and important questions too, they have no larger framework. They just nicely fit within our existing system. We settle for doing as little as possible so as to not rock the boat, but still make a positive contribution. I’m guilty of this too. In such a tumultuous time in history, should we not be asking ourselves the bigger questions? The ones that children aren’t inhibited to ask. “If I was the Queen of the World, what would I do? How would I change things?” “If I could wave my magic wand and make the world however I wanted it to be, how would it be?” “If I could do anything, what would I do?” Children ask these questions of themselves because they don’t feel the gravity of the consequences.  They might make all the clouds marshmallows and have chocolate growing on trees. They may wish for endless summer afternoons and never needing to go to bed. Children don’t carry the weight of responsibility that an adult does when they consider the entire population of the planet and all the creatures upon it. This may be why we don’t ask this question of ourselves, but isn’t it precisely why we should?

If change is what you truly want for this world and yourself, isn’t it worth your time to really think about the big picture? Instead of starting with small ideas and trying to fit them into an existing societal structure, why not think on a larger scale first and then work our way into the details. I understand how overwhelming this idea can be, but if we keep our thinking too practical, to realistic and ultimately, average, we don’t open ourselves up to true inspirational and innovative ideas. If ever out of the box thinking was called for, now is the time, and one can not truly think outside of that box while they are still firmly planted within it.

If you think that the ideas you may come up with are just too big, or too out there, and no one would ever take you seriously, I implore you to take a moment to look back at history and see that most of the great change makers applied outside of the box thinking, and that was what changed the world as we know it. Think of ancient Greece when Pythagoras shared his theory that the world was round. Can you even imagine the reaction he must have gotten in that time when everyone believed the world to be flat? Can you imagine how different things would be if he hadn’t been brave enough to present a new, and deeply unpopular idea to the world? What about Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison creating the lightbulb? Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s discovery that lightning and tiny electric sparks were the same thing, and could be harnessed and used to create an electrical charge that could create light. Can you even imagine the kinds of things people must have been saying about what impossible and ridiculous ideas those were? What about Kate Sheppard? Can you imagine leading the women’s suffrage movement and being responsible for New Zealand becoming the first self-governing colony in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections? Just think about that for a minute. Women’s right to vote did not exist anywhere in the world at that time and one woman had the idea and the gumption to directly oppose a world-wide view and accepted societal standard around the globe in order to change it! I mean, holy shit! Amidst enormous opposition, doubt, fear and hoards of haters, she sparked a global shift that we are still benefitting from to this day.

We are all capable of so much more than we ever allow ourselves to consider. We are all too busy trying to find a way to fit into the existing systems and standards and eek out a place for ourselves in a world that many of us are deeply at odds with. We want change and we are more than capable of change, but we are going to have to get passionate, take a break from Netflix, get past the fear and doubt and do the work. We are going to have to get re-aquainted with our bravery and grit. That may seem daunting, but if each of us went after it, I mean really went after it, and we helped each other and supported each other along the way, instead of doubting new ideas that are difficult to comprehend, we could indeed be the change and create our new world together._MG_5945

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: Tunic top (swiped from my Mother’s closet when I was a teenager), and skirt from Ruby Slipper. Rajasthani textile belt, Kuchi necklace, cuffs and Turkish rings from my travels.

CONTEMPORARY FASHION: Gladiator sandals by Gypsy Soul Designs, Clear quartz Mystic Phantom Necklace by BCP Jewelry (Barbara Pellegrino). Faux septum ring, nose ring and triple stone ring from Urban Waves.

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