Free Bird

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“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise”   – The Beatles

From the moment you open your eyes for the first time into the light of this world, you are taught how to fit in. As parents and communities, we teach children the rules, the social norms and culture in which they’ve been born into. We are taught how to be appropriate and what behaviour is acceptable in our community. These rules and norms and social structures are different all over the world, and even from household to household. How you are taught to be, largely depends on where you come forth onto this planet. This is one of the reasons I think that travel is so very important. When you see how other people live, in very different cultures than the one you were born into, you see that there are other ways to live this life. You realize that there really is no right way or wrong way, it all just depends on what you were taught based on the rules of your community.

I feel very fortunate to have been born in a country that prides itself on diversity. In Canada I have so many options, and freedoms to decide for myself how I want to live. I never take that for granted. When you are young, you tend to conform to the ideals of the people around you. Your family, teachers, neighbourhood and city. As you get older and you become exposed to more diversity, your influences begin to grow and expand. I was lucky enough to travel across the ocean to England and France for 3 weeks with a group of 20 other students when I was only 17 years old. That was a game changer for me! I saw how much bigger the world actually is. It opened my eyes and my mind to the idea that I have way more options than I ever thought I had. It was the first time that I started to dream about what my life could be, which was a welcome discovery with graduation from High School looming in the near future and the mounting pressure for me to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I have since experienced many twists and turns in this crazy life, but one thing has remained consistent. I have made sure that travel is a part of it, even if only a sprinkle here and there. In addition to visiting England and France, I have been to Turkey, Greece, Mexico, several U.S. States, Costa Rica and all over Canada. While this is really just a small smattering of places on our big beautiful blue planet, it has gained me a knowledge I could not have received had I never left the city I was born in. My experiences with the people of other cultures has given me perspective into what the meaning of freedom is to me, and that’s no small thing. I think that if you really look at all the things that people want, no matter where they are from, it all boils down to one thing, freedom. People want love and acceptance, they want to feel safe and cared for, to have nice things in a comfortable home, they want to find meaning and purpose in their work or whatever they spend their time doing. People want to laugh and feel joyful and give back to others. All of these things added up together really equate to a life where you feel free. Some view freedom as the romanticized concept where you have no ties to anyone or responsibilities, so you can come and go as you please with no accountability. You can travel the world and do what you want without answering to a soul. I have known people who have chosen this life when they were young, mostly to regret it later, when they begin to crave belonging and roots and people around them who love them consistently. That’s not to say that living that romanticized ideal for a while for your own personal growth and self development isn’t a noble pursuit. I just believe that it doesn’t fully capture the full essence of what it is to be free. At some point, you are likely to feel something is missing and then you are no longer free.

“Young man, full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man, going to make a stand
You beg, steal, you borrow
You beg, you steal, you borrow
Dreaming of the day
You’re gonna pack your bags
Put the miles away
Oh, just grab your girl and go
Where no one knows you
What will all the old folks say?
So the home town’s bringing you down
Are you drowning in the small talk and the chatter? Or you gonna step into line like your daddy done
Punching the time and climbing life’s long ladder”

 – Ray LaMontague, Beg Steal or Borrow lyrics

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So what is freedom really then? Well, in my estimation, it’s living a lifestyle where you are allowed to fully be yourself. If you have to change who you are to accommodate those around you, you are not free. If your responsibilities to others outweigh your ability to nurture yourself and your passions, you are not free. If you are spending your days at a job or in a role that doesn’t feed your soul, you are not free. If you are financially strapped because you are living beyond your means to maintain a certain lifestyle, you are not free. All of these things keep you from being true to yourself and fully embracing the person you are meant to be, and I believe they are all symptoms of the same thing, trying to fit in, instead of being yourself. It comes right back to our beginnings when fitting in and following the social rules of engagement was being hammered into us from all directions as children. We spend much of our adult lives realizing that there are many ways to live and we actually have a choice, but choosing differently from those around us may present all kinds of challenges. I think many people are too afraid to face those challenges and choose a life of appealing to others to the detriment of themselves, and possibly to the entire world, because who knows what you are capable of if given the chance to let your talents shine.

My suggested solution to this dilemma is simple. It’s stated in one way or another in every major religion of the world. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you! We all want to feel free. Every. Single. One. Of. Us! So, allow. Allow people to be themselves. Allow people to have their opinions. Allow people to choose their own adventure. Allow people to have the lifestyle that suites them. Allow others, because you want to be allowed, and through our allowing, we remove the need to conform to fit in and belong. This creates an incredible ripple effect of personal freedom. It removes the tendency to compare yourself with others and the need to keep up with the Jones’s. This would save a lot of people from financial debt and living beyond their means. It also removes the insecurity that makes us easily manipulated by advertising and promises of happiness if you just be, live and look a certain way. There is no right way to live. If you don’t believe me, then travel the world. See for yourself. There are millions of people doing it differently who are happy. There are more options than you can possibly imagine and by choosing something different that speaks to your soul, you open up the option for others’ who may not have known they could choose something else. You don’t have to follow the herd, and you may be very surprised to discover that if you have the courage to be true to yourself, you will inspire others to do the same. People you couldn’t have imagined will be encouraged your bravery. Just allow. Stop trying to conform everyone to your one way of living. Sing it’s praises if you love it, but don’t assume it’s right for everyone. Teach the children in your life how incredibly important it is for them to nurture themselves and their interests. Expose them to as much variety as possible so they see how many options there are out there for them. Stop trying to turn children into replicas of each other so they can fit in, or celebrities so they’re cool, and Parent’s, please, oh please, stop trying to mould your kids into mini versions of yourself. Let them unfold. Let them be them. Let their little personalities and quirks and talents reveal themselves and encourage their realness, not their conformity. I’m not saying we need to abandon all the rules and the social contracts. They are a part of the world we live in too and they are important to understand and navigate. But, balance is key and let’s face it, some rules are made to be broken. Our children need to understand all the rules in order to know which ones are arbitrary, or down right damaging, and which ones actually help society. Social rules should never stop us from living our truth and being ourselves.

So be yourself and help others do the same. We can only open the bars of all the cages and set one another free if we support each another. Live and let live. Be brave enough to follow your own path while allowing others to follow theirs. Just spread your wings and fly. Be free to be you.

“I’ve always been fascinated by everything with wings.” – Dolly Parton

Introducing, THE SALVAGE HEART!!!

These crazy-fun, winged earrings are created by The Salvage Heart, using up-cycled leather, faux leather and other found materials, right here in Manitoba, Canada. I love designer, Nadia Kuhl’s work because she has so many options! There is literally a pair of earrings for every type of person in every colour and texture, and I am ecstatic when I discover fashion or jewellery that is ethically and sustainably made. There is nothing better than supporting businesses that are making our planet a priority. Nadia is an incredible artist, who also up-cycles and re-works denim and other fashion too. You can find her beautiful creations for sale on-line at thesalvageheart.com, as well as in person at Poor Michaels Emporium in Onanole, Manitoba.

Coming up next! Where you can find The Salvage Heart:

  • June 9-10, 2018 just west of Winnipeg Beach as part of Proutopia, a weekend art village featuring 25 artists.
  • July 5-8, 2018 at The Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Provincial Park in the Hand Made Village.

“Owned by Manitoba prairie based artist Nadia Kuhl
The Salvage Heart ~ is born from the desire to create something new
from found, salvaged & re-purposed treasures.
All of our creations are 100% hand-made in Manitoba
from items that were destined to end up in landfills.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, recreate.” –The Salvage Heart Website

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

THRIFTED FASHION: Wonder Woman t-shirt, hot-pink satin slip, cowboy boots and black suede fringe jacket.

VINTAGE FASHION: Velvet pants from Shop Take Care.

CURRENT FASHION: Up-cycled earrings from The Salvage Heart. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Special note: Huge thank you to Carey Coffin and her Parents for providing this incredible teal 1966 Beaumont Convertible for this shoot! Many. many thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Who Decides the Culture of Our Time? Us or Future Generations?

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What is culture? Well, it’s complicated. We seem to have cultures within cultures, within cultures, and it only seems to be getting more complex and difficult to define. To my understanding, it’s the art, music, food, aesthetic, values and beliefs of a particular group of people, at a particular time in history. Culture is not static, it is ever changing along with the people who are immersed in it. It is people that decide culture. They decide what changes and what doesn’t. What parts to keep and what parts to discard, and what new ideas to include. Culture tends to shift from one generation to the next as each group of youth challenges the ideas and values of their Parent’s generation. Let’s also not ignore how our history has shown us our potential for self proclaimed superiority over another culture. An people of one culture may all but eradicate the culture of another in order to grow their own, in the name of righteousness, or progress. People have done horrific things in the name of expanding their beliefs and way of life. Culture continues to adapt over time, whether we cling to the past or not. To be cultured is to be enlightened, educated and knowledgable about the time in which we live. When we describe someone as cultured we often mean they are refined, well educated and have good taste, whatever that is, from one moment to the next?

It is interesting to me that something that is clearly so deeply valued by people, is made up of components such as art, books and music that never seem to get the recognition, validation or support they require to sustain themselves. People fight to preserve and maintain art, books and music with fierce protectiveness. We put it in museums and libraries, display it in our homes and public buildings. We spend immense amounts of money keeping it safe. We talk about it, write about it and make documentary films about it. Yet, most of the people I know who are making art, music and writing books are are struggling for recognition and to make a living wage. Centuries and centuries of people creating the art, music and books that are the essence of the culture of the time in which they were created with little to no real appreciation or support while they were actually alive and creating. Why is this? And why does it still continue to happen today?

Well, the simple answer to my mind, is that people can’t seem to see past the end of their own noses, and hind-sight is 20/20. The more complicated answer is that art captures the essence of culture in a moment in time and nobody is fully aware of what precisely the culture is while they are living it. They are quite literally caught up in the moment and continual upheaval and evolution of culture and not aware of what will be significant to their cultural time until they look back and see it clearly portrayed through the great artistic minds of the time. Nobody knew Woodstock, just a three day music festival in a farmer’s field would become the climax of what would be later known as a defining moment in our history and significant cultural marker of the 1960’s. Many of the performers that played Woodstock, like Joe Cocker (Have a Little Help From My Friends) and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) (It was only their second time ever playing live), were barely known at the time and they were catapulted to stardom and cultural significance. What about all the creative minds who defined our cultural history? I would love to go back in time and ask Socrates, Mozart and Frida Kahlo about their life experience and whether or not they felt valued and supported by their community in their artistic endeavours? Books, documentaries and essays about their lives seem to suggest that no, they did not in fact get that support when they needed it. They struggled significantly and did not get the recognition they truly deserved until well after they were dead. They were not appreciated fully until they were gone. But yet, they still created because they were compelled to do so. Their work allowed them to process and understand the world around them and helped them make sense of living, even if they felt isolated and found it difficult to relate to the masses.

The truth is, that all art, music and writing is capturing the essence of culture as it is happening. It would be impossible not to. We are all living it and all trying to make sense of what is going on around us and within us, and the artistic community is often slightly removed from mainstream culture and being on the fringe tends to give one a better vantage point to see what is actually going on around them. We are a product of our time and the culture that exists at that time, and no matter when in history we are, culture is constantly in flux, so it can be very confusing and difficult to make sense of. Joan Didion, an American journalist and writer, famous for her writing in the 1960’s-70’s about cultural chaos and social fragmentation said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the music, art and writing of the 1960’s resonates so deeply with me as an artist and writer myself given all the cultural parallels to our current time. The cultural chaos that Joan Didion wrote about reflected a time of deep generational divide in values, major political upheaval, the threat of war, and ramped up racial discrimination and civil rights activism. Today we are facing all of the same issues in different packaging. In the 60’s women were burning their bras, today we attend the Women’s March and hashtag #timesup on social media in support of equal pay for women. The Black Panther Party was created in 1966 to protect African American citizens from police brutality, today we have the Black Lives Matter activist movement. In the 60’s, an entire generation challenged the status quo, railing against the rigid family structure and cultural values of the 1950s’, conservative, religious, hard-working middle class. They rejected old cultural structures, preferring freedom, less lifestyle restrictions, less materialism, and embraced eastern philosophy, spirituality and the recreational use of marijuana. Today, we have the millennial generation rejecting old political and social structures and values, fighting for a better quality of life with less emphasis on material gain, the ability to love who they want and define themselves as they wish. Again, eastern philosophy and spiritual practices are being embraced in an even bigger way and marijuana is back in popular culture with the use of CBD Oil (Cannabis Based Drug) on the rise in the medical industry and the legalization of Cannabis for medical use in the U.S. in 29 States already and Canada slated to legalize this year. The parallel’s between the 1960’s and today are uncanny. There are song lyrics and magazine articles written from that time in history that could easily have been written today.

Culture is continually changing and reflecting the social issues and values of the time, but I would argue that people have changed very little. While our world looks very different now in terms of infrastructure and population growth, and technology changing the world dramatically, the human condition is ticking along slowly like it somehow has not learned from itself at all. We are still walking around blind and reactionary to the shifting cultural values as they happen before our eyes and not valuing and supporting the artistic community that is capturing it as it happens until we look back years later and it’s often too late to support them. Joan Didion also wrote “In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.” If you have ever read any of my previous writing, you’ll know that I am a big believer in self examination, personal evolution and intentional living. A big part of this is evaluating how much we have learned from our past and what we choose to do differently as a result. What if we didn’t wait for hind-sight to show us what is culturally relevant and what artists, musicians and writers we should have supported while they were giving all of themselves to their generation? What if we decided for ourselves what is relevant right now? What if we took the reins and intentionally voted with our dollars and our attention what we want to go down in history? What if we didn’t wait for our children and grandchildren to decide what was culturally relevant from our generation, but instead, we stood back, saw the bigger picture and realized the pattern that has shown us again and again that it’s the people challenging the status quo who define the culture of the time? Those fringe artists are right on the pulse of the cultural shift and the cusp of change is right there captured within their art for all to see. If they bother to look. What if we got on board early and supported that change instead of sitting back and watching where the pieces fall?

So, how do we do that? Well, we can start by acknowledging how important art, music and writing is to society! Show me a home that you would like to live in that has no books, music or art displayed? A home void of those things is a sad place indeed. You have an opinion and taste of your own. Don’t wait for the masses to decide for you what is good and culturally significant. Go watch local bands play and buy their music. Find them on Spotify, listen to them in your home and tell your friends about them. Check out a local market or festival and purchase art from artists and makers in your own city. Ask them about their work when you are face to face with them. Buy books directly from Author’s websites or their booth at conventions where they receive all of the money, not just a tiny percentage that they get when they sell at big book stores like Chapters. The people who are quite literally capturing and defining our current culture should be able to make a living wage and support themselves at the very least. They are doing good, important work for their community and I think it’s time we recognized it. Why do we need to continue to wait for future generations to decide for us what was culturally relevant during our generation? We have a role in history and we have the opportunity to spend our money on the things we want more of in our world and support the things we think are important. The painting you bought that’s a sanitized knock off of a knock off from Winners will have no cultural relevance or significance in history, but that little book you buy off of an Author’s table at a market could turn out to be the next great philosophical work of our time. That writer could be the Socrates of the the Twenty-first century, and you would have been part of that greatness for supporting it and making it possible for her to continue her work. That kid you watched play his guitar and sing at a little folk festival in a small town, could be the next Bob Dylan and his songs might go down in history as some of the most influetial words of the 2010’s. You never know, but at any given moment, you could be supporting an incredible mind and creative genius, and have a part to play in changing the world as we know it. At the very least, you will be woven into the cultural fabric of an important moment in human history, and I think that is more than worth your attention.

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Hustle & Bustle/Downriver House, 2016 by Bruno Canadien

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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SHIELD, 2017 by Caroline Monnet

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft

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

NEW FASHION: Black wool tam from The Haberdashery. Nude bodysuit by American Apparel. Fringe earrings made with salvaged materials by The Salvage Heart.

THRIFTED FASHION: Gold snake belt and wide leg checkered pants.

VINTAGE FASHION: Pink satin coat from Shop Take Care. Red embroidered shoes from Wildwoodrose and PJ Vintage.

LOCATION: Winnipeg Art Gallery, *INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE

*INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE brings together 29 emerging-to-established Indigenous artists who are pushing boundaries with their work. The collection considers political insurgency and cultural resurgence to radically shift our understanding of Canada, now and in the future. Working in a variety of media, the artists focus on Indigenous intergenerational cultural knowledge within land based practices, gender, traditional aesthetics, language revitalization, interconnected kinships, identity, and material culture. INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE is the WAG’s largest-ever exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art and includes 12 new commissions from artists across Canadian territories and nations. –Winnipeg Art Gallery Website

 

The Wild Within Us

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“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

“Like the wolf, intuition has claws that pry things open and pin things down, it has eyes that can see through the shields of persona, it has ears that hear beyond the range of mundane human hearing. With these formidable psychic tools a woman takes on a shrewd and even precognitive animal consciousness, one that deepens her femininity and sharpens her ability to move confidently in the outer world.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

One of the greatest and most unfortunate misconceptions that has ever been instilled within human kind is the belief that we are somehow separate and disconnected from the natural world. You can take the beast out of the wilderness, but you cannot take the wilderness out of the beast. We are mammals at a core cellular and instinctual level and the denial of this has not made us more civilized, on the contrary, I believe it has made us forget our innate humanity.

I would argue that our understanding of our deep connection and responsibility to one another as human beings is intrinsically linked to our understanding of our connection and responsibility to mother nature. As with all things, I believe that to truly understand something and learn its value, exposure is essential. In our civilized western world, we live in concrete jungles, surrounded by synthetic materials with walls and doors keeping us separated from the wilderness from which we came. Entire generations of children are born and grow up without ever having set foot in the woods. If they are lucky, big city kids may spend the odd day in a green space or man-made park that neatly fits into a tidy area of well-planned order. While that’s better than nothing, there’s nothing natural about it. Nature is wild, chaotic, powerful, uncontrollable and breathtakingly beautiful. Much like some of my favourite women! Nature feeds you, clothes you, rips you apart and heals you again. She will warm you, clean you and sing you to sleep. She will remind you of the blood in your veins and the bone that keeps you upright. She will breath soft breath on your cheek and kiss your skin golden today, then make you bleed tomorrow. She reminds you again and again and again that you are alive.

To walk in the wilderness, is to feel that you are connected to everything and everyone. It reminds you that you have a place inside the glorious web of life. You are a part of something much bigger than yourself and you are integral.  You are a creator and destroyer. You are a lover or a havoc wreaker with every decision and move that you make. Do not be fooled by the concrete world you have built around you, you have impact. Just because you cannot see the majesty of the wilderness in front of you, does not mean that she is not there. You are a part of her and she sees you and feels your impact always.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have never lost my connection with nature. I was raised to marvel at the beauty of the stars and the moon. I was taught to be still and let my senses guide me. I learned to notice the signs of other life and the stories they tell. The footprints in the snow and fur on a branch. The spider webs that tell you winter is coming and robin’s song that sings of spring. The hairs on the back of your neck that stand on end warning you of danger, and circling crows that tell a tale of recent death. I in turn, pass this knowledge on to my children. They collect mushrooms in the spring and berries in the summer. They swim in cool waters and climb jagged rocks. They know that the dirt in the forest is clean and the dirt in the city is not. They collect bones, antlers and stones on the forest floor and call them treasures. They will tell their friends in the city that they saw a fox, deer, snake and bald eagle this weekend. They will grow up with freckles on their cheeks, leaves in their hair and scratches on their knees, and they will know that this means they are healthy and strong. They will know they are connected to all life and that they belong. They will know that if they are to reap the rewards of the natural world, they must respect her and protect her. They will learn who they are, while lying in soft moss under the shade of forest canopy, and there is nothing more beautiful or meaningful than that.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

CURRENT FASHION: Boots by Sorel Footwear

VINTAGE FASHION: Green coat from Found on Corydon (Metalphysical Moon). Thrifted pants, skirt, top and belt.

JEWELLERY BY: Sheppards Hook Jewellery (Antler and stone rings; Antler/porcupine quill earrings; Antler/moss stud earrings; Antler, stone, and beaded necklaces)

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I am an advocate for anything that connects us to and reminds us of nature, which is why I fell in love with Sheppards Hook Jewellery! Locally made right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba by Katie, an extremely talented creator! Each piece is made with organic and found materials and is one of a kind. A wonderful way to carry an artistically crafted piece of mother nature with you, even in the hustle of city life. I highly recommend getting yourself one of these pieces of wearable art. Katie’s creations are absolute statement pieces and conversation starters. They are both beautiful and ethically made with sustainable organic materials, and you get to support a small Canadian business in the process! Win, win, win! Sheppards Hook Jewellery will be launching their website on SATURDAY, MAY 19, 10 a.m. CST! Stay tuned to shop on-line (Canada only for now) and don’t miss out, her pieces move fast!

WHO IS SHEPPARDS HOOK?

Sheppards Hook jewellery has a wild, rustic expression for environmentally conscious individuals who strive to attain a bold, unique look that sets them apart from the crowd. Each piece is hand-crafted for a natural, artistic feel using naturally-shed white-tailed deer antler from the forests of Manitoba. This local maker is passionate about creating bold statement pieces for strong women with a refined use of colour and texture. Collections are accented using brass, high quality gemstones and other elements of nature such as porcupine quill. Get in touch with your inner wild woman when you adorn these one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

With strong roots in art and nature, Katie began taking Fine Arts and Biology at the University of Manitoba in 2005. She has always combined the two passions to create pieces of art inspired by the natural world around her. This shows in her wild, prairie-inspired jewellery.

Katie has been selling at various markets, festivals and pop-up shows since 2010.”

– Sheppards Hook Jewellery Website

WHERE CAN I BUY SHEPPARDS HOOK JEWELLERY?

Currently Sheppards Hook is sold at the following locations:

  • Winnipeg – Voila par Andreanne (303-421 Mulvey Ave)
  • Winnipeg – WAG @ The Forks (Johnston Terminal)
  • Winnipeg – Tara Davis Boutique (246 McDermot Ave)
  • Kenora – Fragile Glass Studio (529 3rd Ave)

Sheppards Hook will be at the following festivals and pop-ups in 2018 (more to be announced soon!)

  • Winnipeg Folk Festival – July 5-8 2018
  • Edmonton Folk Festival – August 9-12 2018
  • Third + Bird Spring Pop-Up – May 4-5 2018
  • St. Norbert Farmer’s Market – Every Saturday, starting May 19th 2018

Opalescence

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Opalescent: Something that is opalescent reflects light and changes colour like an opal.  – Cambridge Dictionary

Opal: A precious stone whose colour changes when the position of the person looking at it changes.  -Cambridge Dictionary

The opal, also known as the “Eye Stone” is known for it’s ability to bring a person’s personal characteristics and traits to the forefront as well as bringing unresolved patterns or tendencies that require self examination to the surface. This self evaluation can lead to profound personal transformation. Opal boosts creativity and originality. It is considered to be a karmic stone, showing us that what we put out into the world will come back to us. Also, how we perceive the world, will be shown to us like a mirror reflection.

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Each of us are like the opal, a complete spectrum of colours that changes from different perspectives. When people look at us, they see a reflection of themselves. You show them their hopes, their fears, their insecurities, their desires. They look at you and they see what they like and what they don’t like about the world in which they live, which is really just a reflection of who they are, or rather, who they believe themselves to be based on their life experience. People look at you only in relation to themselves, which is why no two people see you in exactly the same light. Every person who lays eyes on you sees a different colour depending on the perspective they are coming from. People see you in relation to the stories they tell themselves about the world. In truth, no other person can really see you, even though you are there in all of your glory. You are the only one who can actually see yourself, but you will never see your true self in a mirror. When we see with the human eye, we see only a reflection of our beliefs, our world views and our current state of mind. Who you really are is deep within you and can only be felt with the heart and the spirit, not seen with the human eye.

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Although we cannot see people as they truly are, what we can do is feel people, but we are so trained in our society to see with our limited sense of eye-sight, that we have neglected to develop and maintain our ability to experience and know one another through feeling. This ability, which all of us have, requires a deep sense of compassion for others and the ability to feel beyond the sensory information coming in all directions from our basic five senses. The five senses while important and useful for moving around and experiencing our physical world, can be very distracting and overstimulating which keeps us trapped in a constant state of reacting to our surroundings. It is difficult to live an intentional life with focus, direction and action when we have become a slave to our senses and are continually responding to stimulus. And let’s face it, we live in a society that is designed to bombard our senses with stimulation. We take the sensory information in and believe it to be truth, instead of just information reflecting our current attitudes and perspectives. What I mean to say is that your state of mind effects your mood and your mood can make your sensory perspective very different from one moment to the next, and very different from one person to the next. For example, loud music when you are in a bad mood can be irritating, but the same loud music when you are in a good mood may make you want to get up and dance. Both situations are the same, the truth if you will, but your perspective means that you experience the same stimulus in a very different way. What this means is that your reaction or perception of the situation has nothing to do with the situation, but has everything to do with your personal perspective and current state of mind when you experience the music.

Do you see what this means?  It means that how you experience the world around you and the people in it, is really just a reflection of your inner state and relationship with yourself. It is a reflection of your beliefs, your views, your expectations, your understanding of the world from your life experience and your current attitudes. You tell yourself that it is truth, but there are billions of people on the planet and each of us is experiencing our own personal story as truth. This is why you can have two people being exposed to virtually the same circumstances, yet each of them experience it very differently. It is not your circumstances that determine what kind of life you have, but the way in which you experience and react to those circumstances. There are so many examples of people born into poverty, abuse, and horrendous circumstances who manage to rise above it by sheer force of will and attitude about life. There are many other examples of people who have been born into wealth and affluence with every need being met, and opportunity given,  yet they waste their life away doing nothing of consequence and often loosing themselves in a life of drugs and disfunction. If the victim narrative is deeply engrained in you, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, because ultimately, it means that you have far more control over your life experience than you think you do, and you have to take responsibility for your own happiness or misery. You may not be able to control the circumstances or events that occur in your life, but you do have a choice about how and what you react to.

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Here is the true freedom gleaned from this understanding. The way that you see other people and experience your life is constantly acting as a mirror to tell you what your state of mind is and the current state of your relationship with yourself. Every reaction to other people or situations is an opportunity to learn about you and become more self aware. How strong your reactions are can tell you a lot about your pain, issues you haven’t dealt with, and it sticks a pin in exactly what your fears and insecurities are. Ugh, I know, it’s rough, but it’s also a gift, if you self-examine and use the new found understanding of who you are to transform into a better version of yourself. Here is the other gold nugget. If your reactions to and understanding of others is a reflection of you, then their reactions to you and understanding of what you are all about is a reflection of them. Their perception of you, good or bad, has absolutely nothing to do with you. Their opinion of you and reaction towards you is not your responsibility. Whether they are criticizing you or praising you should not determine how you feel about yourself. All you are responsible for is working on yourself, taking responsibility for your feelings and emotions and how you react or don’t react to people and circumstances. When what you say, what you do, what you wear, or how you live your life causes people to respond angrily, or with judgement, it shines a light on the things they themselves need to heal. Often the differences we see in others invokes deep seeded feelings of fear of the unknown and triggers all the ways in which we ourselves have adapted who we are in order to fit in and belong and not make others feel uncomfortable. Deep down many of us are hurting because of this because all we want is to be loved and accepted for who we actually are. We are tired of suppressing ourselves to be more acceptable to the status quo.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Well, what I have come to learn is that many people are holding other people and circumstances responsible for their own happiness. They believe that they would be happier and their life would be easier if other people and situations changed. This is a terrible and disempowering trap, that can only lead to depression. I have learned to become more aware of my own reactions towards people and situations and do my best to explore and investigate why I feel the way I feel and determine if what I am perceiving is indeed truth, or if my reactions are just a symptom of my own personal fears and insecurities. Because of this, I have felt more empowered, more in control of my own life experience and far less emotional and volatile. I have been taking responsibility for my perspective and spending a lot more time understanding myself and nurturing my relationship with myself, and a lot less time holding other people accountable for my happiness. We tend to focus our attention on understanding others and how they appear to be towards us. This is the ego perspective. Try looking at yourself instead when something that someone says, does, or doesn’t say or do hurts you or upsets you in some way. You cannot change them, but you can heal your own perspective. Also, you don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, world views or appearance, but you also don’t need to allow that difference of opinion to make you volatile, or feel you must impose your opinion or educate another about the way it actually is. That’s your self-important ego talking. You can have strong opinions and views without losing your sense of inner peace. Social media is a perfect example of people running rampant with volatile reactions to every post they don’t see eye to eye with. Either blatant personal attacks of character, or my personal fave, the self-righteous armchair activist who seem to say “There, I’ve given you a piece of my well-educated mind and taught you a lesson with my well-sourced arguments! It’s all in a days’ work!”, like they’ve actually accomplished something by arguing with people on Facebook or Instagram. You are giving all of your power away when you do that because you are robbing yourself of peace and happiness in that precious moment, while you type angry, hateful, or self-rightous truths from your perspective towards another human being. All the while blaming them for robbing you of peace and happiness, and convincing yourself that it’s your job to change them. You quite literally poison yourself with the poison you are trying to shove down someone else’s throat. Hurt people, hurt people. You react so strongly because of old pain or fear, that has nothing to do with the person you are directing your anger at, they have just touched a trigger point within you. A hot button that needs your attention. A place within yourself that needs healing. When you become aware of this, you become aware that the entire human race is experiencing the same thing. This knowledge plants a seed of compassion towards others in your heart. Even if their anger or negativity is directed towards you, you can maintain a state of peaceful awareness because you recognize that they have their own pain, fear and insecurity that they are living with, and they are possibly completely unaware of it. When it spills over to you and you react strongly, it just feeds the monster that you are disapproving of.

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“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown

“Non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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Here are some of the philosophies that I try to live by. When you heal yourself, you heal the world. Stop giving your power away to those who have no capacity to understand who you actually are and are not responsible for your happiness or life experience. Take responsibility for your own life and your self-worth and stop letting the praisers and criticizers decide how you are going to feel about yourself. Make your own personal growth and healing your top priority because it is your relationship with yourself that will determine your relationships with everyone and everything around you. Every time you are about to criticize someone else, stop and self-assess. What is going on inside of me that makes me feel this way? There is always a gem of self-discovery in there that will make your life easier if you face it. You can only respond to the world from your current state of awareness and consciousness. When I look at people and situations, I want to see all the colours of the spectrum like an opalescent symphony from a place of self-awareness and compassion. I know that this requires me to work on myself. To get honest about my issues, to stop holding others accountable and take responsibility for me. I want to live in a world where people would rather spend their time bettering themselves than trying to force others to change because they understand that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to people. And one by one, each of us begins to react to one another from a place of self-awareness and compassion, and before you know it, we have transcended a pain and fear-filled society and we can finally begin to feel one another for who we actually are. It is then, I believe that we will begin to discover what we are truly capable of, and just how colourful and opalescent we really are.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

VINTAGE FASHION: Dress from Wildwoodrose Vintage Market (note: the next market is on June 9th in Winnipeg at Old Market Square! I will be selling vintage there this year!!!). 70’s leather skirt from Shop Take Care . Shop Take Care is sells vintage, consigned fashion and goods from local makers and artisans. Vintage coyote-fur hat. Vintage scarf.

CURRENT FASHION: Thrifted Mukluks from Manitobah Mukluks. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg. Rose Quartz necklace from BCP Jewelry

LOCATION: Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg. PONTAGON, the Faculty of Architecture’s warming hut installation at the Forks, in collaboration with the City of Winnipeg’s Walk/Bike/Bridge project.

Winter Blues

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Trouble in Mind

Trouble in mind, Lord I’m blue
Honey I won’t be blue always,
Sun’s gonna shine in my,
Lord, shine in my back door someday.
I’m gonna lay,
Lay my head
On that lonesome railroad line,
And let the 219 train
Ease my troubled mind.
Trouble in mind
Lord I’m blue, now,
I won’t be blue always
Yeah, that sun’s gonna shine in my,
Lord, shine in my back door someday.  Janis Joplin

 

Golden Years

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel
Come get up my baby
Look at that sky, life’s begun
Nights are warm and the days are young
Come get up my baby
There’s my baby, lost that’s all
Once I’m begging you save her little soul
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
Come get up my baby
Last night they loved you, opening doors and pulling some strings, angel
Come get up my baby
In walked luck and you looked in time
Never look back, walk tall, act fine
Come get up my baby
I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years, gold
Golden years, gold whop whop whop
Come get up my babyDavid Bowie

Winter. It can be a bitch. Not enough sun and not enough fun. It’s the result of that funny universal pendulum that keeps everything in balance. After December, a month of total excess and too much of everything, we get slammed with a harsh reality check, and it leaves us feeling the polar opposite of December, like there’s not enough. I think the trick for conquering this, is awareness of this pendulum phenomenon. When you can shine a light on the patterns that repeat, and the ever swinging pendulum of extreme opposites, you can start to anticipate it, laugh at it before it even happens, and mitigate it’s effects. You can also realize that all you are really in control of is your own emotions. You can let your reactionary feelings take you on a roller coaster ride through your own personal misery, or you can get yourself into the driver’s seat and decide exactly where you want to go and how much attention and energy you want to give to the things that don’t make you feel good.

It took me many years of teenage and twenty-something angst to realize that the flexible and ever changing nature of our emotions allows them to be adapted by us if we can make it a personal practice to be aware of what’s happening inside of us. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about combating clinical depression or anxiety disorders. I realize that no one dealing with these difficult issues can just flip a switch in their brain to feel better. Those of us not dealing with that still experience a struggle to get the winter blues under control. It should also be said that I’m not talking about avoiding serious emotional issues or traumas that you need to work through either. Those nasties have a way of returning over and over and over again until you do the emotional and spiritual work of facing them, working through the painful emotions and healing yourself. I’m talking about the general funk or malaise that seems to go along with lack of sunshine, maybe less money, less hustle and bustle, some unwanted extra weight, and where I’m from, the frigid cold that on some days requires more will power than it’s worth just to get out the door.

I’m here to tell you that we all have a magic button. A silver bullet that smacks us out of our negativity before we find ourselves in an emotional tailspin. We always have a choice. We do have the ability to switch gears and decide that our foul mood is pointless and not helping us in any way. The only purpose it serves is to challenge you to overcome it. There are little over-riding tricks you can employ to consciously decide to change your mood in an instant. For me, and I imagine for a lot of you too, music is that magic button.

When I was younger I ended a crappy day with moody music that kept me drowning in self pity. I chose tunes that matched my misery and fed the monster of festering despair. I’m not sure when or why it happened, but at some point, I just decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I was tired of dragging these unproductive kill-joy feelings out any longer than absolutely necessary. I recognized that no one was going to save me, so if I wanted to feel better I’d have to save myself. Music is a very powerful tool for this. It can work almost instantly. Do yourself a favour and conduct a little experiment. Next time you are feeling a little rough, put on some of your favourite music that typically ilicites the polar opposite mood to the nasty one you are feeling. You may find at first that you feel annoyed by it, because it doesn’t match your current vibe at all. The reality is, that irritation is still a better feeling than despair. You may also find that if you stick with it, irritation quickly becomes indifference, which turns to optimism, which leads to joy. And voila, you just changed your mood and decided to create your feelings intentionally instead of just allowing them to run on auto-pilot where all the drama sneaks in. You are now on your way to an intentional life.

Managing one mood at a time, one day at a time by remembering to be aware of your feelings and directing them intentionally is completely life changing. It’s just part of a healthy lifestyle. Like eating more fruit and veggies, or getting enough exercise, it’s a commitment. When I started this lifestyle change, I needed LOTS of reminders. I would slip into autopilot all the time and forget to be aware of how I was feeling, and before I knew it, negative thoughts had led me straight into a bad mood. But, just like committing to a workout plan, I made a commitment to it. I put sticky notes all over my house that said “How are you feeling?”. I know it sounds nuts, but WOW, it’s amazing how that question immediately creates an awareness and presence within you, and sheds an immediate light on what you were thinking and feeling. You become aware of how little your feelings have to do with what’s happening right now, and that they really reflect where your thoughts had taken you and what feelings transpired as a result of those thoughts. Auto-pilot. Your mind will drive you, if you aren’t intentionally driving it. Here’s where choosing up-lifting music, inspiring books and positive people around you makes all the difference, even in the middle of a dark, deep freeze winter when life feels extra challenging. Get intentional, become aware of your feelings and decide to take charge of your moods. Your future self will thank you, I promise! Until then, get into the music and out of the winter blues.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

VINTAGE FASHION: Re-worked vintage wide-leg jeans by Patron of Dreams. Vintage blue Chinese satin jacket from Atomic Age Vintage. Blue sequin top from Ruby Slipper.  Vintage blue suede, Penny-Lane style coat from Value Village Thrift.

CURRENT FASHION: Blue aviator sunglasses from Urban Waves. Black ankle boots from Rooster Shoes.

The Future is Feminine

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“I want to thank everyone who broke their silence this year and spoke out about abuse and harassment. You are so brave. So people out there who are feeling silenced by harassment, discrimination, abuse, Time’s Up! We see you, we hear you and we will tell your stories.” – Reese Witherspoon, 2018 Golden Globe Awards

“Today I will wear black in solidarity and gratitude with all women in all industries, acknowledging our mutual power and vulnerability. #TimesUp on silence, on imbalance of power, on inaction.” -Susan Sarandon

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I am especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” -Oprah Winfrey, 2018 Golden Globe Awards

We live in a Man’s world. Designed by Men, for Men. I know that for some of you, that elicits a defensive response. I’m sorry it’s hard to hear, but it doesn’t make it less true. Some find it hard to relate, or understand when hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp are made popular by Hollywood, a demographic of society which many of us can’t relate to. It’s important to understand that the struggles, inequalities and horrors that Hollywood is only now blasting a spotlight on, on TV’s, phones and computer screens all around the globe, happens everywhere, to every girl and woman, for all of our written history. Those with power and position in Hollywood who choose to use their platforms to bring the truth to light and make change, should be commended. Their experiences aren’t different than ours, they just have the world’s attention.

I am just a regular woman, living a regular life, but I too have a story. Too many stories to share them all here, but none of them are new or exceptional or special in any way, that is what makes them significant. The fact that they are common-place enough that even I have been programmed to accept that this just how it is to be a woman in this world. I had become complacent about my own numerous experiences with inequality and sexism, simply because they were just a normal daily part of being a woman. Well, as the world has said loud and clear, TIME’S UP!

I have been groped, sexually assaulted, and cat-called by Men on many, many occasions. Too many to remember all of them, but enough for it to have damaged my self-worth. I’ve been pulled away at parties, cornered and aggressively held against my will at least 3 times by 3 different Men during my teen years. When I was a pre-teen, I slept over at a friends house when her parents were having a party. Her very drunk Uncle cornered me in her bedroom, had me backed up against the wall and started trying to touch me. My friend ran from the room and went to get her teenage brother, who got his Uncle out of the room and slept in a sleeping back on the floor against the door all night to keep us safe. I fear for what may have happened to me on any one of those occasions, had good friends not come for me. Far too many are not so lucky.  I learned from those experiences that I was not safe in this world. I had to always be vigilant and guarded and keep an eagle eye of protection on my female friends when we went out into the world. If I am alone at night, I fear for my safety. This is the world we live in.

As I got older and pursued a career, I experienced an entirely new form of sexual discrimination. Working as an Environmental Consultant at an Engineering Firm, I was sexually objectified out in the open, publicly on job-sites by both co-workers and clients alike. One time I was asked on the sly by a co-worker for the details about what was going on between me and another male co-worker. I learned that a rumour was going around my office that I was having an affair or at the very least, fooling around with one of the only friends I had at work. Keep in mind that there were only about 5 women in my entire office at that time. Yes, he was a Man and was happily married, I might add. I was also happily living common-law with a Man, who later became my Husband. Of course nothing happened between us. It didn’t have to. Just being friends with a Man was enough to arouse suspicion and start a vicious rumour that damaged my reputation at my workplace. On another occasion, I was asked to provide a character reference for an old school-mate who was applying for a job at my company. I told them that yes, he’s a great guy and a hard worker, and they should definitely hire him. I later found out that although I had been there for years already, had more experience and authority than him, and the same level of education, he was making more money than me. When I addressed it with the Office Manager in confidence, he told me that the new co-worker and his wife had a baby on the way, so he needed the money more that I did. I think that this was the first time I truly understood the nature of sexual inequality, and that it was indeed still alive and well.

Despite these experiences, I went on to work at a much bigger and more significant company, in a more responsible role. All went well, until I got pregnant with my first child. My intentions were to go back to work after my 1 year Maternity Leave, so through my pregnancy, I worked harder than ever to make sure all my ducks were in a row to ensure things would run smoothly in my absence. A few weeks before I was to leave, I brought some concerns to the table in a meeting with my department as well as several consultants I was responsible for managing. My Boss, said that since I was to be leaving soon, I “shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about it.” My concerns and suggestions were dismissed without further discussion. I was devastated, and humiliated in front of my peers and subordinates.

About 6 months after leaving for Maternity Leave, I spent hours on the phone to Human Resources about the daycare that was supposed to be going into my building for employees kids, that now wasn’t going to happen because the company had decided they could make more money renting the space for events. This left me in a very difficult child-care situation, where 1 year waiting lists for daycares was the norm. I also tried to negotiate more flexible hours, or the possibility of job-sharing, but alas, they told me my position held too much responsibility, required too much travel and wouldn’t allow for that flexibility. In addition I asked HR where the designated room is for returning Mothers to breast pump. I fully expected that for a huge company in a brand new, multi-million dollar state of the art building, full of women of childbearing age, that they had taken that need into account and provided a room for those returning from Maternity Leave who are weaning their babies from nursing. To my dismay, they had no such room, or fridge to store the breast milk until the end of each day, and a mini fridge at individual desks was not permitted. It’s important to note that at the time, Maternity Leave was 1 year long, and the Health Canada recommended duration for breast-feeding was also 1 year. For anyone who has never breast fed a baby, it isn’t like a water tap that you can just turn on and off. A woman’s body produces enough milk to meet the demand of the baby, so weaning your milk production down until you no longer produce milk can take weeks, sometimes months depending on your baby’s needs. So, if you plan to breast feed for a year as recommended, you will likely still need to pump once you’ve already returned to work at the 1 year mark. That’s not to say anything of the choice to breastfeed for longer if you wanted to, which I did. Currently the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends,  “…exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. At about 6 months, your baby will be ready for other foods, but you can continue breastfeeding until your child is 2 years of age and beyond.”  My employer expected me to sit in a bathroom stall on the toilet to pump my breast milk, so my baby could eat and my breasts wouldn’t end up engorged, painful, or worse, with a mastitis infection. So, needless to say, with so many frustrating obstacles to face, in addition to the stress and emotional nature of returning to work after a Maternity Leave, I quit. It was just one more example of how the world I was living in was not designed for women. I payed back my Maternity Leave top-up money and I never looked back.

So yes, we live in a Man’s world, that has not been designed for women and all the changing roles they may have within their lifetime. A world where in the past women have had to use their physical beauty and manipulation to get what they needed or wanted because asking directly was not an option. We evolved into a time where women had to be quicker, smarter, have a thicker skin and more aggressive ambition than the men around them just to play on the same field, let alone be successful at the game. We have had to prove ourselves, being tested again and again to gain permission to play, and once we make it into the game, we have needed the resilience of a warrior to carry on through the sexism, objectification and the endless justifications required for our ideas to be heard, and our needs to be accommodated. Not to mention the sexual harassment, belittling and disempowering. Even in this environment, women have stayed their coarse. We have gained legal acknowledgement as “persons” instead of property.  We have won the right to vote and own property. Despite the horrors of watching our sisters burn for their knowledge of the cosmic cycles, plant medicines and the natural processes of birth and death, we have gained the freedom to practice our crafts and arts, love and marry who we wish, and the right to keep our own name if we so choose. We have come so far because we have rallied together and not given up. We have learned to hold each other up, cheer one another on, and be companions and comforters through dark and difficult times. We have shared our knowledge, experience and gifts with one another through the generations that Her Story did not make it into History. We have been each other’s strength. A secret sisterhood. Keepers of the divine feminine, nurturing, protecting and blowing gently on the embers to keep the warmth and light going until the time comes to build a fire the likes of which the modern world has never seen. A fire that will cleanse all the pain and oppression and fear that has kept our world imbalanced for so long. A fire that will draw the women and men back together like moths to a flame and restore the balance.

Until then, women of the world, we must continue to rally together. We must gather and share our personal stories. We must honour one another and celebrate one another’s efforts and successes. We must support and sing one another’s praises. We must shed light on all the characteristics we have always had that have not been recognized in the past. We must cheer women on for their intelligence, creativity, innovation, and ingenuity. We must celebrate our intuition, emotions, sexuality and motherhood as divine. We must reclaim our sovereignty. We must love each other and hold one another up so fiercely that our love and encouragement resonates so deeply between us that it shatters the glass ceiling. We must fill future HERstory books with the power of love and compassion that make the history of war, fear and power struggles look like primitive child’s-play. Above all, we must love ourselves and stop looking for external approval and validation. There was a time not that long ago, that our sister ancestors were owned as property. The time has come to look that ugly past in the eye, allow it’s pain to rattle our bones and then step past it into our empowerment. Stop looking for a permission that will never come. Own yourself and take your position. The future is ours. The future is feminine.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

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

CURRENT FASHION: Embroidered parasol from Prairie Sky Books, and sunglasses and glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Lace dress on Tara by Precious Threads Vintage and embroidered elephant vest from Metal Physical Moon (Found on Corydon).

Wonder is the Beginning of Wisdom

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“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Socrates

“It is a happiness to wonder; — it is a happiness to dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, Complete Stories and Poems

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

Today is Winter Solstice. It’s the darkest day of the year here in the western hemisphere of earth and a time of looking inward and creating our own light and warmth in anticipation of the holidays and ringing in of a New Year. It’s a time for reflection and anticipation.  A time for mourning those we have lost and cherishing those we still have. It’s a time of celebration and renewal and of writing the last line of a chapter we must conclude in order to begin a new one. I’ve been thinking a lot about the end of this chapter, and an idea that has been percolating within me. The idea of wonderment.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Wonderment as “as state of awed admiration or respect.” The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines is as “astonishment, surprise, curiosity about something.” The Urban Dictionary defines it as “awe, wonder and amazement.” When we use the word wonder, we typically describe it as childlike-wonder. It occurred to me recently that the reason we say this may not be the fact that children are constantly making new discoveries and living life with curiosity, so they are often in a state of wonder, it may be, that adults are not living in this way. We seem to live within a society that encourages us away from our natural inclination to wonder. As a child we stop to investigate a bug on the sidewalk or a snowflake on our mitten and we are hurried along by the adults who have an agenda and schedule to keep, so we are snapped out of our state of wonder time and again. We are taught in school that it is not the questioning that is important, but the answer, the correct answer, to be exact. We are told that knowledge is power and to gain knowledge we must learn as much as possible about the discoveries and information gathered by those that have come before us. When we question things ourselves, we are told not to question, but to listen and pay attention to those who are older and wiser for the answers and not to challenge the way it is. We are systematically taught out of our natural instinct to question and be comfortable within a state of not-knowing. When we are out at a party and someone is talking about something we are not knowledgable about, many of us feel ashamed and would rather hide the fact that we don’t understand, than just ask “what do you mean?” Children ask questions freely and without fear because they have not yet been shamed or humiliated by a teacher or family member about not-knowing or getting it wrong. They have not been a tender pre-teen who has been laughed at by peers or humiliated in public when someone loudly responds to their innocent questioning “YOU DON’T KNOW THAT???” “HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT???” I still experience this as an adult, because I continue to ask questions and not pretend to know things that I don’t. I admit I’m even guilty of saying “YOU DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS?” to other people. Although, in my defence it’s usually in the context of discovering someone doesn’t know about a particular artist, band or author that is just so phenomenal, everyone should know about them. It’s never in the context of “you should be ashamed of yourself for not knowing the names of all the politicians who held office in your Province since 1974.”

The simple fact is, all of the important discoveries that have ever been made by a human being began as a state of curiosity and wonder. They began from a place of comfortably sitting within the feeling of not-knowing and asking all kinds of questions. Our society seems to deeply value the discoveries themselves, like penicillin or electricity, or telecommunication. Our world is forever changed by the internet and knowledge gained by NASA from exploring outer space, but this creativity and discovery would not have been possible without that magical thing we call childlike-wonder. The people who have gone on to make incredible discoveries or have created something spectacularly life-changing for human beings, did this despite social pressure to grow up, and leave childlike things like wonder behind, and replace them with dependability, strong work ethic and responsibility. We study the philosophers, the composers, the inventors and great business and industry tycoons, gaining their knowledge and insights, but are often not encouraged to be like them. Reason being, these individuals have often been school drop-outs, eccentrics, social outcasts, fringers and they did not accept arbitrary rules or limiting belief structures. They challenged the status quo and they didn’t allow what other people thought of them to discourage them from birthing crazy ideas and outlandish dreams for the future from that magical place of wonder. I imagine these individuals pissed a lot of people off. They likely held up the line at school to investigate that bug on the sidewalk or snowflake on their mitten. They likely got in trouble again and again for not following the rules or pushing boundaries and challenging authority and bureaucracy, and now we have them to thank for the rules they changed, boundaries they broke and bureaucracy they exposed as out-dated or unnecessary.

With a new year fast approaching, I have turned my mind towards the future. We face so many challenges as more people than ever before are becoming aware and accepting that many old ideas, systems and social and societal structures are no longer serving the greater good of the world. We face environmental, governmental and patriarchal concerns and epidemics that challenge us daily to choose a better way to live. People are waking up to it, shining a light on it and exposing it for all to see. People are finding their courage from within a state of fear and as I watch it all unfold around me, I find myself in a state of wonderment. From my own place of fear and sadness and dismay about the state of things, I see people rising up and it gives me hope and courage and empowers me to take my place in the shift. It is a wonderment beyond any I have felt in many years. I am immensely proud and inspired by the brave human beings of this world. I have typically felt that feeling of childlike wonder when marvelling at nature or the cosmos, but lately, I have been feeling it while observing humanity. I feel a deep sense of hope and possibility for the future. I see it in young people challenging old systems and small children who flatly refuse to accept outdated ideas about education and fitting in. All of it makes me smile deep into my gut.

Now is the time of the innovators, the discoverers, the creators and inventors. Now is the time to raise the next generation with their sense of wonder fully intact and not hindered by controlling, oppressive structures. Now is the time for the change makers and people with new ideas to rise up and unite. It’s a very exciting time to be alive in the world, and I am full of anticipation and motivation for the future. I for one, refuse to loose my ability to wonder and question and revel in possibilities that lie within the unknown. It is through our wonderment that we will find the answers we seek and create a better world.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
― Rachel Carson

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

VINTAGE FASHION: Embroidered wine-coloured caftan from Wildwood Rose Vintage

THRIFTED FASHION: Burgundy felt hat, scarf, and cobalt-blue coat.

NEW FASHION: Gold velvet bell-bottoms from Lenni the label, and mirrored patchwork kimono by Pachamama Bohemian. Sunglasses from Urban Waves.