We Are The Dreams of Our Ancestors and The Dreamers For Our Descendants

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“Our relationships with the places where our feet are planted are everything. In the physical sensory world, and the imaginal world which envelopes and penetrates it. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in these places forever, or for just a little while….All that matters is that, wherever we find ourselves in this world, we connect deeply there. For as long as we’re in a place, with as much love and respect as we can muster. That’s where the virtue lies, for me.”

‘The land carries its own memory, and a rich, earthy, planetary wisdom. The memory and wisdom of the ages. And we’re made up of it. At some very deep level, each one of us participates in that wisdom borne by the land.
‘Because we’re made of the land. Every cell in our body. There’s not a bit of us that isn’t created and then forged from the various places we’ve lived in.’

‘And what treasures we can uncover, if we remember it. If we learn how to dig deep, how to stop paddling about in the shallows and penetrate beyond the superficial into those deeper, older, planetary – cosmological, even – layers of the psyche. If, to use a phrase I coined many years ago now, we choose to let ourselves fall into the land’s dreaming. And so learn how to truly participate in the land’s psyche. In the world psyche – the anima mundi, the world soul.’

Sharon Blackie

“Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” – Rumi

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I was born,  raised, and have lived my entire life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am a 4th Generation Canadian, with a complex, mixed heritage, including at least eight nationalities that I’m currently aware of, running through my veins. Celtic, Central and Eastern European, and even Indigenous to name a only a few, although you’d never know it if you judged me solely based on my appearance. I am a cultural hodgepodge, and I’m sure a DNA test would likely reveal that it’s even more complicated than all of that. I am a child of the world, and that is reflected in my diverse cultural interests, where I have chosen to travel, and what I choose to learn and share with the world. The embracing of diversity and desire for global connectedness runs deep in my genetic lineage. I have continued to let my heart and soul be my guide, despite these interests often being misunderstood, over-simplified and criticized based solely on how I look.

The truth is, my complex cultural background means that I don’t identify with just one place, people or culture, but many, and as a proud Canadian, I regularly feel immense gratitude and comfort, living in a country that is so culturally diverse and welcoming, for the most part, of that diversity. I have, as of late, been re-connecting with my heritage and the knowledge of my ancestors. How better to understand ones-self than to understand who and where they come from. I have been reading and learning about Matrilineal DNA, which is now used to trace family trees, because unlike DNA from fathers, a mother’s DNA is passed un-changed from mothers to children of both sexes, along the maternal line until all female lineages converge. Ultimately, what that means in simplified terms is, we can trace our DNA in a clear line through our mothers, and our mothers’ mothers, back through many generations, but we cannot do this through our father’s and our father’s fathers. I was contrastingly, both utterly flabbergasted and notably underwhelmed by the obviousness, when I learned the matriarchal nature of the very building blocks of humanity. The irony of learning this truth while at the same time becoming more and more conscious of and infuriated by the oppressive nature of our Patriarchally constructed society, was not lost on me. More on this another time! Science, in its purist form, is our friend, because it opens us up to question things and be open minded to theoretical possibilities. That said, our instincts and intuition are equally important, sometimes more so, in the short term in particular. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to say that on a deep-seeded (pardon the pun) internal level, I already knew this fact, but it took scientific evidence to convince me. Note to self, once again, you’re intuition is usually ahead of the curve. Trust it.

I have also been learning about the quickly growing study and theories around Epigenetics, and the mind boggling evidence that so far suggests our genes can in fact change based on external stimulus, such as traumatic experiences, or repetitive thought patterns and emotions, and in turn, those altered genes can then be passed down through generations. The implications around curing genetic diseases, the nature versus nurture debates, or limiting beliefs based on the genetic lottery we are born with, the good and the not so good, are incredibly exciting to consider.  It would appear that we are so much more than the physical characteristics and pre-dispositions of our ancestors. We are also their dreams and their fears. Their gifts and their traumas. We carry not only their blood and tissue, but their experiences within us, as well as the potential capacity to transmute the parts that do not serve our greatest good or personal evolution.

All of this information together, for me, peaks my curiosity and begs the question, are we not then, on more than an experiential level, but on a cellular level, also made up of the places that we live and the places that our ancestors have lived? And in particular, are we not deeply connected and informed by the land in which our mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers have walked? Is it possible, that we carry knowledge of the lands of our ancestral grandmothers lived and visited inside of our genetic coding? Even though I am fourth generation Canadian, I find a deeply rooted connection and attraction to places in the world that I have never set foot on. Places, that the ancient stories and pictures of, sing a song within me that transcend my limited ideas of my culture or borders and draw me towards them for some reason or purpose. There is knowledge within me, my blood and bone, that seems disconnected from my blonde hair and blue-green eyes, and yet other parts of me that are deeply connected to my appearance. Why, when I visited Turkey, in the Middle East, did I feel a deep sense of being a hop-skip-and-a-jump from home, when in reality, home was on the other side of the world in Canada? Why do depictions of ancient Egypt and endless seas of golden desert make me weep with longing? Why did this white girl feel every fibre of her being come alive with familiarity when she began to study bellydance? Time for that DNA test maybe? Or, maybe there’s even more to it than that. Humanity is not stationary. Scientific evidence traces the birthplace of humanity to Africa. There is innumerable evidence of cultural interconnectedness through travel, trade and marriage throughout the world for millennia. Viking symbols and runes etched with ancient knives into stone structures in the Middle East; jewellery, fabric and weapons being found all over the world in the graves of people not native to those cultural artifacts; the ancient Celtic triskele being used in the U.S. Department of Transportation, a coat of arms in Germany and national flag of Sicily. Our democracy here in North America is based on that of ancient Greece, our letters are Latin and our numbers are Arabic. Unless you are Indigenous to North America, every single one of us are either immigrants ourselves, or fairly recent descendants of immigrants. The bottom line is, that most of what we have come to know as Canada was built upon foreign ideas with an entirely different land and culture, and that past information is stored within our DNA, according to current science. My familial experience being in Canada is less than 150 years old, which within the measure of genetic lineage, is a relatively short time.

So what does all this mean? Well, for me, it is an inspiring seed of an idea that warrants further investigation. It is a reminder that we are far more complex in our make-up than we may currently understand, and we do ourselves a disservice when we over-simplify one another into cultural boxes, borders and surface appearances. There is so much more to an individual than meets the eye. This thinking inevitably leads to an us versus them mentality, and history has shown us time and again what horrors the implications of that can turn into. These new scientific discoveries and theories suggest possibility for our future, and it nudges me towards better connection and understanding of my own personal heritage, but more than that, it encourages me to enquire about the places my ancestors came from, where they travelled, settled, and what may have been going on in those places at that time in history? All of it, would potentially have an impact on my make-up, and that of my children, according to current modern science, and quite frankly, according to the long-time teachings of Indigenous peoples all over the globe.

As a central Canadian, living in a province with a significant population of Indigenous First Nations, might I suggest that maybe it’s way, way overdue for us European descendants to listen up and learn something about the stolen Treaty 1 Territory land we are all standing on? I did not personally choose to come here from Europe, but I do live here now as a result of my ancestors, I am raising my family here, and with every choice I make, I am setting the tone for future generations. If I apply the ideas about matrilineal DNA and epigenetics not just to myself and how my ancestry has impacted me, but to how I in turn will impact my descendants, wouldn’t the connection, understanding and knowledge of this land that I walk on every day, it’s history, it’s geology, it’s plant medicines, it’s animals, be an important responsibility? I love the idea that we are the manifestation of our ancestors wildest dreams. If that is so, what can I do to make them proud? Well, that leads me to an obvious question, what are my wildest dreams? What do I hope for, for my own descendants? I want them to know that I worked for a better world, that I cared about people and that I loved this planet and all her mysteries deeply. I want them to know that I dreamed and worked for unity, diversity and global community. That creativity and connectivity of people and land was deeply important to me. I want them to know that I loved this place that I live, it’s intense and extreme seasonal changes, and the hearty, incredibly creative people that our long, cold, dark winters produce. Above all, I want them to know that I did my best to become the soul of this place where I was born, while reaching for my dreams. That I listened to my heart and my intuition and let it be my guide in all things. If it is so, that I can pass on my experience to my descendants, it is my wish that it brings comfort and hope that I did not just live in this place, on this land, but instead, I allowed myself to connect deeply to it and become a part of it, as I believe nature intended.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

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

WARDROBE BY: Patron of Dreams Shop

WEARING: 

 

 

 

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

-Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond

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There is something about you that is different. Even if you have convinced yourself that you are average or blend into the backdrop of the mainstream. I am here to tell you, that you are indeed different, because the concept of normal is a complete fabrication designed to keep us feeling trapped in a cage of our own creation. This disillusionment of normal keeps us disempowered and willing agents in perpetuating a system that serves only those very few at the top, while the rest of us waste away in the land of average and sameness, always feeling like something is missing and never reaching our potential. It is possibly the most important task of your life to discover what it is exactly that sets you apart, defines who you are, and then surrender to it fully with all of your heart. If you can make this a priority, your life will change forever and you will wonder why in the hell you never did it sooner?

Who are you? The question of questions, and one that I ask myself every day to ensure I don’t slip back into complacency and a false sense of self, designed by my ego when I was young in order to help me survive and navigate a painful world, plagued with conformity. We are not our family, our job, the city we live in and the society that has shaped us. These are just the effects of nurture, but they are not your nature. We came into this world with something that is uniquely us and our life experience has either helped to steer us towards ourself or away from it. So really, the question is, who were you before the world got a hold of you? Who were you before you got talked out of following your heart and your bliss and all the things that ignite your fire and make your soul smile and cheer? Who were you before you integrated the message that if your interests don’t make you money they should not be a priority? Who were you before security, practicality and responsibility steered you away from who you actually are and what you want for yourself?

When I see people struggling within the life they have created because somehow, along the way they have ended up filling their days with way more ‘have to’s” than “want to’s”, I have nothing but compassion because I’ve been there. I, like so many others was programmed by social conditioning to keep putting the things I loved aside in favour of socially accepted and understood choices that would ultimately make me money and provide me with security, social status and respect. I went into sciences at University because I had been told repeatedly by many sources that I was more likely to get a job in the field of science, and nothing was more important than a secure job. I then ended up in a very practical Environmental Technology program at College. A couple of years later, I moved out from my childhood home into my own apartment, got a part-time job to pay the rent and gas for my car and then graduated soon after. By the time I was 21 I had started my career at an Engineering firm and began a 10 year climb up the corporate ladder and into a well respected position in a glass sky-rise at a large Corporation downtown. During this climb, I bought a house with my then boyfriend, now husband at age 24, got a dog, bought my first new car, and went on a warm vacation annually. By all socially accepted measures of success, at only 28 years of age, I had made it. While some might have found that life comforting, a deeper, more intuitive part of me found it deeply disheartening. I was only 10 years into being an adult and there were very few rungs left on that corporate ladder I was climbing. I had landed directly in the middle of average. I shot for the middle instead of the stars and landed there more quickly than I had expected. This life was taking up all of my time with very little left over for my interests or passions. Was this really going to fulfill me for the next 35 years of my life until retirement? And then what? Then I get to do what I want? Was I living for the weekend, the next holiday, the golden retirement years? I had a constant nagging feeling within me for something more, that money and vacations and marriage was not fulfilling. Then, I checked the next milestone off my well laid out and organized life. I got pregnant, and everything changed. I was faced with the hardest and also the easiest decision of my life. Would I stay in my extremely demanding career and try to juggle being a Mother, a Wife and a career woman, or would I give up the career I had been building and working towards since high school? That’s when I started to question everything, mostly myself. That’s the first time I had dared to ask myself “who am I?”, and allowed myself to be brutally honest. After quieting the opinions of others and finally listening to my inner knowing, I knew that this life I had built so diligently by following the rules and playing the game, was not in fact who I was. So I gave up my career, and all the money and status that came with it and devoted myself to raising my babies, all the while, doing the soul searching work of getting back to the core of who I was before I got onto this well trodden mainstream track. The isolation and solitude that being a stay-at-home Mom provided me, while lonely and alienating much of the time, was the best gift I have ever given myself. I had a legitimate excuse to get out of the rat race, be separated from the constant reinforcement of popular opinion, and come back home into my own heart.

Often, people who are experiencing that nagging, that inner turmoil that tells them they aren’t living their authentic life, get stuck, because when they ask themselves “who am I?”, “what do I want?” they honestly don’t know the answer. My humble advice for this common experience is to go back to the beginning and start from there. Who were you before other people’s influences, projected fears and scarcity mentality got the better of you? What were you like as a child? What did you do with yourself when boredom led to self-directed creativity? When you were told to go and play or entertain yourself, what did you gravitate to? What made time stop for you, that you lost yourself in completely, that you returned to again and again? All of those things, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem to you now, are the clues to your bliss. They are where the essence of who you are resides.

When I asked myself these questions, it was very clear to see who I was, and I was definitely not being true to her anymore. I was dishonouring that little girl who loved to dress up in elaborate costumes and create characters in her Grandmother’s wardrobe and then come downstairs and ad-lib in character to my Grandparents delight. I was not being true to the little girl who loved to sing and dance, create costumes and perform dance routines to Mini-Pops songs on my portable record player and microphone that connected to our radio. Thank you 1980’s! I had suppressed that pre-teen who dressed her friends up in our Mothers’ clothes and created sets and themes riffing on popular advertisements. I’d take their pictures on an old camera, taking the time to get them developed and putting them into photo albums. I had polished and wiped clean that wild child with the messy tangled mass of hair, who was strong and athletic, wore a camo sweatsuit, painted mud on her face, hiked in the woods, communed with nature and built ramps to jump her BMX bike on dirt trails. I had silenced the teenager who wrote poetry and short stories to process her emotions, played guitar and piano, adored thrift shopping for vintage and cutting up and sewing new clothes out of thrift store finds. There was almost no sign of the girl who read countless books on astrology, spirituality and mysticism, learned to read tarot cards and burned incense daily in the solitude of her room. I was no longer honouring the young woman who chose theatre as her extra curricular activity in high school and Bellydancing as her twenty-something after work hobby that she squeezed into her work schedule. Dance led to teaching, performing and producing Vaudeville-estque productions, and eventually training with world-renowned Bellydancers. Aside from keeping a small fire lit in my heart with dance, I had somehow completely suppressed the girl within me, my soul self, my essence and she was screaming to come out, and making it harder and harder to ignore her dissatisfaction as the years ticked by. I had been waiting for permission to be myself, to be told by someone, anyone, that the things I loved were worthy of my time and focus, and that they deserved to be the centre of my life, not something I pushed to the sidelines in favour of money and security and conformity. I had talked myself out of myself. Everything in me wanted to believe that if I followed my bliss, my interests, the things that made my heart sing, I would be ok. I would be able to take care of myself in this world that had convinced me that the things I love carry no value and have no place here.

I have spent the last decade, re-claiming myself. Gathering up all the ways in which I gave myself away, spread myself too thin and replaced my soul self with an imposter out of fear and the very human need to belong, even if it meant I’d end up surrounding myself with people who would never fully understand or genuinely encourage the real me. I gathered that young creative girl up in my arms and I told her she has my full and complete permission and undying support to unleash herself fully un-encumbered. I started to take chances again. I re-aquainted myself with my creative spark. I re-connected with the wild, natural, mystically inclined warrior woman I always was. I dove back into my passion for vintage clothing, began fashion styling, creating fashion editorials and working with photographers to create visual art. I started writing again and embraced art, philosophy and poetry. I started this blog for the shear joy of mashing all my passions together and birthing them out into the world. I continued to dance and teach and learn. The more of myself I accepted, the more layers of false reality about the world started unravelling and revealing to me. The more honest and authentic I have become with myself, the more confident I get and the easier it is for me to reveal my truest nature to others. I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, or that you won’t lose people along the way. Being true to yourself at all costs takes an immense amount of courage and conviction and can be challenging for those around you who would prefer you to not rock the boat so they can stay comfortable inside the paradigm they’ve accepted. People who uphold mainstream values will see your choices to live alternatively in favour of your own truth, as a personal judgement on them, not as the brave and honest thing it is. People will see your personal sacrifices of monetary gain and non-attachment to titles and material things as an affront to a lifestyle they are trying to justify to themselves daily in order to have the gumption to hit that alarm clock every morning and go to a job they complain about all the time. You have to be willing to allow those people to fall away from your life and open yourself up to all the new beautiful souls who will begin to appear in your experience.

There is almost always a period of isolation and loneliness in the process of un-learning your social programming and embracing your true self, but I can’t even begin to explain to you the incredible freedom that comes with self-acceptance. Pursuing the life that matches your values and attracting like-minded individuals who will come into your life to teach you new things, cheer you on, support and encourage you and celebrate your victories along with you is incredibly fulfilling and vindicating after facing your fears and conquering them. These new advocates will not only not be threatened by you or want to compete with you, they will hold you up and inspire the hell out of you! The mutual respect will be that which you have always deeply desired. The angst and judgement you felt towards people because you gave your power away by blaming them for robbing you of your vitality, will start to become beautiful to you in incredible ways and you will begin to love the world again the more you love yourself and honour the things that call to your heart and soul.

Remember. Remember the creative genius of a soul that is you. Remember who you are and don’t give your power away. No one can take it from you, it has to be given up freely. Make yourself a priority and get back to that joyful being you were so freely as a child. Peel away the layers of false messages that have been keeping you down and re-claim your potential. And Shine. Shine on you crazy diamond!

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re Acceptable
Respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!
Oh, take it take it yeah
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
‘Cause I was feeling so logical
D-d-digital
One, two, three, five
Oh, oh, oh, oh
It’s getting unbelievable

– Supertramp, The Logical Song

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING and ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

MAKEUP: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

HAIR, & MASK DESIGN: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique

FASHION:

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A Woman’s Sexual Sovereignty

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I will not cower from people’s opinions and criticisms of my body like it has any bearing at all on how I choose to feel about myself. I will not allow some ridiculously narrow standard of beauty stop me from revelling and celebrating in this incredible vessel I am lucky enough to live in. I will do with my body what I want, when I want and that includes sensual and sexual expression, simply because, it’s my body. I will not feel shame for being a woman and all that that encompasses. I will not shrink, I will not be quiet, sit down and be told how I must act, what I can and can not wear to be respected. I will not be diminished or intimidated by whispers and finger pointing. I am not ashamed of this body, that has allowed me to be a dancer, a lover, a mother of two beautiful boys and a model, despite the worlds desire to make me think it’s not good enough. There is no such thing as beauty flaws. My lines, age spots, cellulite and stretch marks are a map of my physical growth and changing life story. How dare anyone imply they are flaws that I should be embarrassed about, hide or try to repair. I simply don’t accept it, and I am more than willing to be the tip of the arrow head that slices through that old, outdated, oppressive paradigm designed to keep women insecure, fearful and as a result, controllable. I understand that being that spearhead may mean I get battered and bruised by judgement and criticism, but I’d rather be dead than allow this body shaming standard to continue into the next generations. It’s time is up. That story is over, time for a new one and I intend to help write it.

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 It’s true what they say about women in their 40’s. There are only so many fucks to give in any woman’s life until you run out, and often, when women enter their 40’s, they discover there are zero fucks left. It completely unravels you and everything you thought you knew, which is terrifying and at the same time, completely liberating. Every woman has a finite amount of patience to put up with oppressive bullshit and bite their tongue until one day, they wake up and say, it’s not ok anymore, enough is enough. This summer, I turned 40. I was born in 1978, hence the t-shirt in this photoshoot. It is hard to believe that I have been alive for four decades already! As I enter my 40th year upon this earth, within this body, I find myself in an intense time of personal reflection and examination, as often comes with Birthdays, and the change of season. Goodbye to a transformative summer, which was somewhat of a living death for me, and welcome to a new and more empowered chapter. Happy Autumnal Equinox!

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My personal story is about a girl who tried very, very hard to be a good and to be liked. To behave in the way that pleased people. We learn at a very, very young age what behaviours will be met with approval and all the positive attention that will come with it, and what behaviours will be ignored, in hopes it will go away, or with downright disapproval. I learned very quickly that nice girls were modest and reserved and appropriate. To fit in and belong, I learned to place others’ opinions of me above my own. To care what the neighbours and strangers around me thought of me. By 15 years old I had accepted that to fully be myself was a recipe for rejection. I had to hold some of myself back at all times. I knew what people wanted me to be and I knew what behaviour was going to get me approval and belonging. I thought that being approved of was synonymous with being loved, because my behaviour seemed to dictate the amount of positive attention I would receive or not.  I think my story is shared by a lot of women.

It took me a long time before I understood that really loving someone was to accept them as they really are. It is not conditional. It does not depend on behaviour, shared interests or values and it certainly does not rely on accomplishments, conformity or obedience. I began to understand it the first time I fell in love. It became completely clear once I had my own children. I will not withhold my love and affection and support from them when I disagree with or do not understand their behaviour or choices. Once they figure out who they are, with much encouragement from me, I will back them, no matter what. Their personal unfolding and life experience and choices are their own, not mine to control. That’s love.

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When you begin to understand what love is and you start to see the transformative power of it, you begin to understand how important it is to turn that kind of love onto yourself. When I began to do this, I discovered that my love for myself up until that point had indeed been conditional. It wasn’t true love, it was dependant on how I looked, on my performance in life and my accomplishments. It was dependant on how others perceived me and if they approved. That was a very difficult and shattering realization. Interestingly, but not too surprisingly if you know me personally, I realized that the two places in my life that I had had the courage and audacity to fully self express despite obvious disapproval was with dance and attire. From as young as I can remember, I refused to conform about either of these two things. I refused to wear the frilly pink dresses my Grandma tried to get me to wear because it just wasn’t me, and I continued to have a strong opinion about how I would dress through my childhood, which only strengthened and became more adventurous, and bold into my teens, through my 20’s, 30’s and to this day. I understand now, that something like clothing and style may have seemed insignificant or even shallow and vain to others around me, but in truth, it was a deeply empowering gateway to my understanding of who I am and what my true purpose is in this lifetime. Patron of Dreams is not about clothes, it’s about empowering people to be themselves. My style was one place in my life that I didn’t compromised myself to please others. I expect there are others out there like me.

The other place I didn’t compromise was with dance. I recall challenging my Ballet teacher when I was only 7 years old about the politics in the classroom. I expressed that it was unfair and not right that some students got to have significant roles in the performance based on how many other dance classes they were paying for, and not based on skill and commitment to that class. Such defiance! Needless to say, I quit at that school and moved on to another one with more integrity. I danced unabashedly and joyously as a pre-teen at Junior High dances while others awkwardly hovered against the walls. Sometimes I danced all by myself in the middle of a room full of uncomfortable and self-concious people. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone thought of me because of it. I was born to dance. It’s no surprise that I ended up finding true love in the ancient art of Bellydance. I found pure power and presence of self in the most sensual dance style in history. Through my studies of this dance, I learned that it had absolutely nothing to do with the male gaze and it was then that I understood the personal power and sovereignty that lies within our sexuality, and that it has nothing to do with sex. We are sexual beings, when alone or with others. Our sexuality is a full expression of our being. It is our life force and vitality. It is a power source. It is as much about our mind and our spirit as it is our body. In fact, I’d argue that our sexuality has much more to do with our mind and spirit than our body ever will.

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The reality of this limited physical experience we are having here on earth, is that much of what is inside our mind and spirit can only be expressed through our body or outward appearance. It is a terrible misunderstanding and an atrocity to assume someone’s bodily expression is an invitation for sexual advances, for un-invited comment or opinion. To assume you understand someone’s intentions, or what is going on inside someone’s mind and spirit when they express with their body, whether it’s what they wear on it, or how they move it, is quite frankly, to show how little you understand about yourself. It’s a sign you are the victim of the old bullshit programming about women’s sexuality that has seeped into the world’s psyche. The age old “virgin-whore dichotomy”. Every woman’s body is a battleground. Every Man has the right and privilege to assess and openly critique any woman’s body if she’s out in the public eye, like she solely exists as a body to state your opinion on. Like a cow at an auction. She may be a singer, or an actress, or just someone walking down the street, but all anyone is talking about, is her body. Can you even imagine if it was as standard for women to do this to every Man they saw on Netflix or in the street. “Look at the gut on that guy!”, “He might be alright looking  if he wasn’t bald!”, “Hey baby, sweet ass, wanna party?”. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? It’s no less ridiculous when Men do it to women, we’ve just been programmed to expect it and not bother speaking up against it because “that’s just how it is”.  Well, this just in. It’s no longer socially acceptable to publicly critique every female body that crosses your path or your screen. Period.

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Women are expected to be sexy, but not too sexy, modest, but not a prude. Women have been condemned from the beginning of time immemorial for our sexuality. We are supposed to be ashamed and hide everything that makes us women. We hide when we bleed because of the stigma around our period. We stifle our emotions so we are not thought of as hysterical or irrational. We cannot be flirtatious, playful or expressive with our sexuality in public without being called a slut, a tramp, or being accused of “asking for it” when we call out someone for groping at us un-invited. Our sexual expression is not an invitation. If it was, then why would we put on clothes that make us feel sexy and dance in a sexually expressive way when we are alone? New flash, lots and lots of women do this! It’s not an invitation. It’s a celebration of being a woman in all her glory, vitality and power. End of story.

This photoshoot was a playful and personal expression of my sexual sovereignty. It was in celebration of entering my 40’s as a fully realized woman. It was about taking back my own sexuality from the ones who think they get to dictate to me what I can do with my own body, and to show that I don’t adhere to some ludicrous standard of beauty. I don’t fit the mould and I’m not going to feel shame for that or change myself to meet their standard, no matter how hard they try. I have danced on many stages in theatres and under the stars and empowered many woman with this body. I have grown two babies in my womb, birthed them both naturally, and fed them the milk that I produced with this body. I am well aware of my power as a woman, and I am here to tell you that the reason there are so many backwards, corrupted and blatantly untrue ideas out there being spread and perpetuated about women is that the powers that be are well aware of a woman’s power.  They understand that to shame women about their bodies, and throw derogatory slurs at us for being sexual beings,  has worked to control us in the past. They are banking on us being too afraid of public criticism and persecution to continue that behaviour which may have the disastrous effect of empowering other women to do the same. Never forget, it’s the ones who are trying to tear you down, who believe in your power the most.

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I called on two other sovereign and empowered women to help me bring this shoot to life. Joey Senft, the photographer who drew the youthful and playful vixen out of me, and Lori Fast, aka Lady Lorelie who adorned me with the ancient art of henna. Since this photoshoot was in celebration of my Birthday and entering an important decade, I asked Lori to create her version of the Astrological star constellation for Leo down both of my legs. I wanted to embody the playful, fun, bold and courageous attributes of my Astrological star sign. I asked for crescent moons on my shoulders to symbolize femininity and the essence of being a woman. Lori is a gem of a woman and it was an absolute honour to spend the afternoon with her having my henna done. She was a treasure trove of wisdom and amazing life experiences. She put me at ease, did an amazingly professional job and I found myself pouring my soul out to her like I had known her forever. The entire experience was completely cathartic and an exercise in release. I went to her to adorn me and give me that little bit of extra confidence to put myself out there and push my own comfort zones. It worked, to say the least. I highly recommend Lady Lorelie’s magic if you are wanting to embrace and celebrate your body. Henna is a fantastic bridge that allows you to expose your skin without feeling naked. The added bonus for me was that I felt I had placed strong intentions for myself in the henna during the process and as it slowly faded over the next few weeks, it was like my intentions were slowly being released to the universe. It was a wonderfully powerful experience, and I fully recommend it to every woman.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft,

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

HENNA BY: Lori Fast, Lady Lorelie

FASHION: Absolutely killer velvet bralette and velvet ruffle shorts custom made for me by Solstice Intimates. Socks from American Apparel. Shoes and 78 tee were thrifted. Glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Vintage chairs from Atomic Age Vintage

 

The Bitches Are Back

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” Because sometimes f*ck you is synonymous with I am worthy.”

-Tany Markul, Thug Unicorn

I have been processing the rising of an anger and defiance within me that I haven’t felt in full force since I was a rebellious teenager. It has never healed because the patterns remain, but the time has come to channel that anger into a productive change of epic proportions. It’s a deep seeded feeling of absolute rejection of the popular response, “that’s just the way it is!’ Nothing sends my blood pressure to the moon like that apathetic and mindlessly compliant response to injustices and asinine outdated ideas about the world.  This rage that has been building inside of me begins with little girls being taught that they must be “sugar and spice and everything nice” as the nursery rhyme teaches us, and ends somewhere with a guttural animalistic scream unleashing from the depths of female oppression. It is a pendulum and it is swinging hard and fast like a wrecking ball into the patterns of old that have been keeping all the good women down.

Be sweet, be pretty, be gentle and polite. Don’t be loud, don’t attract attention. Don’t take up too much space, and remember to sit with your legs together. Don’t guffaw or snort when you laugh. Don’t do a cartwheel in a dress. Don’t swear, and don’t admit to any bodily functions, lest you reveal that you are indeed an animal. Don’t admit how old you are, and don’t revel in your sexuality if you want to be respected. BE A LADY! Sound familiar?

If you are assertive, they’ll call you aggressive. If your personality and style is big and colourful, they’ll say you are just trying to get attention. If you are ambitious and no nonsense, pursue things with grit and focus, and don’t let anyone stand in your way, they’ll say you’re cold, and bossy and not a team player. If you push back against the things you disagree with, speak out, stand up for yourself and say no to being treated in ways you find unacceptable, they will say you are difficult, selfish and unrealistic. You will be accused of being silly, naive and idealistic about the world because this is just the way it is! If that doesn’t work to shut you up and shut you down, then they’ll tell the world you are an unreasonable bitch. Well, so be it, if they are intent on labeling our defiance. The bitches are back, they’re pissed, and they’re louder than ever! They are taking up all the space they did in the 1980’s except they are armed with more education, more compassion, more resilience and a unity the likes of which the world has not ever seen before. The word of the current times is action! We are tired of asking nicely, being reasonable, defending ourselves and expressing our disagreement politely. We’ve been talked over and belittled one too many times, and it doesn’t matter how small the beast, if they are backed into a corner and feel threatened enough, at some point, peaceful negotiations are no longer called for and survival is all that matters. Even the sweetest creature will bite to save itself.

“Wild Woman teaches women when not to act “nice” about protecting their soulful lives. The wildish nature knows that being “sweet” in these instances only makes the predator smile. When the soulful life is being threatened, it is not only acceptable to draw the line and mean it, it is required. When a woman does this, her life cannot be interferred with for long, for she knows immediately what is wrong amd can push the predator back where it belongs. She is no longer naive. She is no longer a mark or a target. “

-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

We are up against a deeply engrained patriarchal paradigm that has seeped into the cracks and crevices of the collective psyche. I have experienced just as many women as men trying to curb the wild woman within all women. Why are they all trying so hard to make us behave within such a very narrow ideal? Well, it’s simple really, and an age old tactic. They are trying to control us, and people are deeply afraid of change. Just like any set of rules, they are there to maintain order and control, under the impetus of it being for our own collective good. You want to be liked don’t you? Well, in truth, if I have to stop wearing sequins or leopard print on a Tuesday because it’s too much for you; hide my nipples because you can’t stop sexualizing them; drink my beer in a glass because it’s more lady-like; or put up with sexist jokes and being cat-called in the streets, then no, I don’t give a hot damn about being liked! I like myself, and this funny thing happens when you begin to love yourself and stop requiring external validation. You stop caring what others might think of you for speaking your truth that challenges their accepted paradigm. You realize that their acceptance of you can’t even come close to comparing to the power and significance of your own self acceptance.

We women have been taught that we are too much from the very beginning and that we need to tone it the fuck down so we can be likeable (read; manageable). From the girlie little dresses my Grandmother told me that I refused to wear despite her efforts, to the attitude problem I had as a teen who angrily asked endless questions about why this messed up world is the way it is because I wasn’t buying it. To the modern day Wife and Mother I am today who deeply relates to women in movies set in the 1950’s and 60’s, because sometimes it feels as though nothing really has changed. Well, we can only be told to be quiet, demure, take a back seat, be grateful and settle for less than our potential for so long before the inadequacy of that life creates a deep collective female sorrow that burns and boils and grows into a visceral rage that will eventually blast the patriarchy to smitherines! And you can be damn sure, there will be casualties that are not paying attention and refuse to acknowledge that it’s already in motion. It’s not a matter of if, but when. 

“I’ve been baking pies at home, pies of rage!”

– Debbie Eagan (Liberty Belle), GLOW Season 2, Episode 10

We women, make up 50% of the population on the planet. Wake up beautiful warriors, pay attention to what’s happening! #WomensMarch #TimesUp #WomenSupportingWomen #GirlGang #GirlBoss #BodyPositivity #TheFutureIsFemale. These are global collective movements that are gaining ground every day, not just trendy hashtags. I’m an avid reader and a quick trip to a book store or search on-line will tell the story of what’s growing in the bellies of women, and I don’t mean little bundles of joy.

The She Book, by Tanya Markul

This is For the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck, by Janne Robinson

Strong is The New Pretty, Kate T. Parker

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

In The Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The list goes on and on and on! These messages aren’t pretty, they aren’t designed to make you feel comfortable and content with the way it is. These messages are often angry, poingnant, raging, crying, pleading, cajolingly beautiful masterpieces that are imploring you, to turn some of that deep empathic compassion you reserve for the oppressed, the animals, the children and mother earth onto yourself! Women of the world, we must save ourselves and each other. The time is most definitely up, and the time of gentle, quiet nudges towards equality is over. You have a voice, you have power and you have a responsibility to yourself. There’s no need to riot, to retaliate, to be violent or hateful. In fact, these responses are not in line at all with what it is that makes us women. Our strength is in our willingness to love deeply, be compassionate, empathetic, embrace our emotions and live by our intuition. Embracing our womanliness, does not mean rolling over and exposing our bellies in submission, or putting up with bullshit. On the contrary. We must turn toward one another and see that our freedom from these old patterns depend on our unity. That burning in your belly is not yours alone. I feel your fear and your dissappointment and your rage you have been told you are not allowed to express if you want to be loved. I feel you because I am you. And as I get to know you more, I know myself more, and I remember what a beast lies below the surface and what she is capable of. I am called to defend and protect myself and all the women of the world like I would my own sons, because that compassion and fierceness can not just be reserved for them, for who will defend them if I don’t defend myself and the women of the world who will raise them and love them into their manhood? What are they being taught about their Mother, about the women they may partner with some day, about you?

You are not too much, you don’t take up too much space. You don’t have an attitude problem or a difficult personality. You are not a bitch for rolling your eyes at outdated patriarchal bullshit. No one has been tip-toeing around your feelings, when they under pay you, grope you and devalue your contributions to the world, so why are we expected to tiptoe around their feelings when we’ve clearly had enough. We are hurt and angry, and tired of the old patterns and we are allowed to feel that way. In fact, it is to be expected, and typically it’s the the biggest transformational changes that come out of those perceived negative emotions. Sometimes being nice and gentle and sweet doesn’t cut it. Sometimes the dysfunctional societal patterns are too deeply engrained in the human subconcious that you have to stamp and swear and scream that guteral scream, even if it’s only out into the abyss, like I am doing right now. People will hear you, like the unidentifiable wail from a creature in the woods and they will ask “what the heck was that?” and a shiver will climb up their spine and it will wake up their senses. And maybe it will make them afraid, or maybe there will be others who feel that scream to the core of their being and recognize it in themselves. They will not run away, but instead, seek you out in the darkness of the woods and say “I feel you sister”, when they find you. And before you know it, you are walking out of those cold, dark woods, hand in hand with an entourage of women who’ve got each other’s backs. A sisterhood in formation who are not afraid to back down because they are stronger together and determined to make change for the greater good of humanity. Women and Men alike.  These are the new idols, the warriors, the rock stars. These are the ones the next generation of women will look up to and they will know our story of struggle and fear and oppression and how we overcame. We won’t leave the ugly parts out because this is no fairytail of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour, this is the story of women saving themselves and reclaiming their power and potential. This is real life, and sometimes real life is messy and unpredictable. Sometimes before a new order of things can occur, a much bigger mess must be created, like when we undertake to organize a closet. Just like a sling-shot, there is a tension and a tightening and a strain that has to occur before the release that catapaults us into a new paradigm. There is no way to go around the discomfort of this shift, we must go through it, and I for one am ready and willing.

“Good is following the rules, fitting in, ticking things off the list, being liked, keeping it light, and great is making mistakes, going too far, getting messy, standing in your truths, fighting for what you believe in, and it’s finding out what you’re doing here and actioning it with all of your heart.”

-Tanya Markul, Thug Unicorn

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

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

THRIFTED FASHION: Faux fur coats, animal print jackets, sequin skirt, shoes, gold belts, black leggings.

NEW FASHION: Gold bodysuit and animal print bathing suit top from American Apparel. Sunglasses from Urban Waves