New photography rewards on my Patreon

I’m a photographer as well as a writer. I share both words and pictures in all my online places. So why was my Patreon only about writing?

Yeah, I couldn’t come up with a good answer to that question either. So, as of today, Patrons at every reward tier will get a special new reward – downloadable full-resolution versions of all the photos I take each month!

Full-resolution can mean different things depending on the camera I use (sometimes I shoot with a DSLR, sometimes I shoot with my phone), but the photos you can download will be anything from big enough to use as a wallpaper on your phone to big enough to print three feet wide to put on your wall.

These downloadable files are for personal use only, meaning that you can use them on your phone, tablet or computer as wallpapers or screensavers, and you can print them, or have them printed, to put on your actual walls at home. They are still protected by copyright though, so they aren’t for selling, sharing, distributing or otherwise displaying online, or using in your own artwork.

The first batch of downloadable photos will be available only through Patreon in September 2017! I’m really excited about sharing these with you and I hope you love looking at them as much as I loved creating them.

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

Talking on social media about nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups

I originally posted this on my personal Facebook profile earlier today, but the more I think about it, the more I feel it applies to social media in general. I’m not sharing this here to talk you into agreeing with me or to invite you to tell me why you don’t. I’m sharing it in the hope that perhaps it might encourage people to consider things from a perspective other than their own, just as other people’s blogs, posts and articles encourage me to do.

Content warning for mentions of hate groups, violence and my usual delightful turn of phrase.

So, fucking nazis and people’s responses to their activities. I’ve been trying to think of something to say about this because I want to say something. I honestly believe it’s time that everyone said something. So this might not be the most eloquent or palatable of somethings, but it’s where I’m at, so here goes…

I’ve seen a lot of “OMG this is so shocking!” posts. And it is shocking. It’s horrible and awful and shocking. If some people don’t appear to be as shocked as you, remember that rather than it being because they don’t care, it may be because the thing that is shocking to you has already formed part of the landscape of their existence for so long that it no longer surprises them. And possibly when they’ve talked about it before, they’ve been dismissed, ignored, disbelieved or shut down. I’m not saying don’t express your shock, horror, rage or whatever. I’m just saying that when other people don’t, it might not be for the reasons you assume.

I’ve also seen a lot of images being shared, from pictures of recent white supremacist marches to depictions of violence in the not-so-distant past to photographs from wars that most people reading this weren’t alive to see. While those might be important images to share, especially if you are part of a community or a demographic that may not have a strong awareness of the things they depict, please remember that some people seeing them have witnessed or experienced those traumatic events first-hand. I’m not saying don’t share those pictures. I’m just saying please respect that not everyone can cope with looking at them for perfectly valid reasons.

I’ve seen a few people saying, “If you respond to violence with violence, you’re just as bad”. I get this on some level. Sometimes there are different ways to respond to a situation without being violent and often those are more productive and less damaging options. But when your safety and survival (or the safety and survival of someone else) are being threatened, fighting back is sometimes the only option. I’m not saying don’t try to find non-violent approaches where you can. I’m just saying that unless you have literally fought for your own survival, kept throwing punches as you lost consciousness, protected someone who couldn’t defend themselves by putting your own body between them and the person trying to hurt them, please try and understand that your hypothetical situation is someone else’s lived experience and maybe you don’t get to tell them how they should have reacted.

Also, it’s really easy to tell someone, in private, “I agree with you. I support you. I’m on your side.” That is a valuable and important thing to do. But it’s also, if not more, important to stand up and state that position openly when you have the opportunity. Yes, trust in the world in general can be damaged by strangers doing terrible things. But trust in the people close to you, which is arguably more meaningful, can be absolutely obliterated to the point of no return by their choosing to remain silent when it really matters.

And another thing. “You have to respect everyone’s opinion equally” is bullshit. If someone’s opinion is that other people are less than human because of their ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or mental or physical dis/ability, no-one has to respect that. If someone’s opinion is that other people should be denied human rights, imprisoned, or killed, because of those things, no-one has to respect that either. There is a massive difference between “I politely disagree with your views on an intellectual level” and “You should not be allowed to exist because you are different from me in harmless ways that are inherent to your identity”.

If you feel the need to play devil’s advocate, fuck off. If you feel the need to qualify anything you say with “I’m not a nazi/white supremacist/fascist/total cunt, but…”, fuck off. If you feel the need to say “It’s not that bad” simply because it hasn’t been that bad for you personally or for people you know in the place where you live (yet), fuck off.

Choosing to not take a stance on issues of politics and human rights is a privilege and a luxury that not everyone has. If you want to know “what you would do, if…”, take a look at yourself right now. Because you’re already doing it.

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

Nazis ruin everything (or why I got a new necklace)

There’s quite a bit of jewellery I wear all the time. Fourteen face and body piercings with various bars, rings and tunnels through them. My wedding ring and engagement ring, although neither are the originals as those had to be cut off following an accident with concentrated industrial cleaning fluid. My Fitbit. A brass and labradorite ring that I dedicated to Odin because synaesthesia-brain over here sees his name in the colours of labradorite. If you’re curious, his name smells like leather, dried wood and an open road at midnight in winter. It tastes like beach glass and feels like a galaxy made of blue goldstone and velvet.

The other piece of jewellery I wear all the time is my necklace, pictured above. I take it off in the shower, but that’s it. It has Thor’s hammer, a skull carved with flowers for Hel, and a five pointed star for general witchiness. My jewellery is a collection of talismans, charms and special things. Every piece of it means something to me and reminds me of something important, just like my tattoos do.

But nazis ruin everything.

I’m not going to get into a lengthy explanation of how nazis, white supremacists and various related, interlocking and overlapping circles of weapons-grade shitebaggery have appropriated symbols of heathenry to the point where there are people in the world who, for perfectly logical reasons, see mjolnir and think “racist”. This is not such an issue, that I’ve encountered anyway, where I live in Scotland because Northern European people living in Northern Europe and following Northern European religious traditions are not automatically considered to be bigoted fuckwits. Unfortunately, elsewhere in the world, and on the internet, this is not the case.

On a personal level, I genuinely couldn’t give less of a shit what assumptions strangers make about me based on my appearance. But I do care deeply about not contributing to anything that might make someone feel unsafe or unwelcome in the place where they live or the online space they inhabit. I am fully aware that as a white person with blonde hair, blue eyes, and numerous facial piercings and tattoos (one of those tattoos is also on my face), someone who perceives a connection between heathenry and bigotry could easily look at me and feel uncomfortable, or worse, because of my presence.

I’m polite to everyone I meet but have been reliably informed by friends, who have known me for long enough to say things like this, that upon first meeting me I can come across as anywhere between ‘slightly intimidating’ and ‘fucking terrifying’. I don’t fully get that cause I’m a small person who smiles a lot and never raises their voice, but while I can understand my own intent I do not get to dictate other people’s perceptions.

So I had an opportunity to examine my approach to the world. I could either accept that I am not a white supremacist nazi turd (which I am not), be angry that people have taken something that is not about hate and turned it into a symbol of hate (which I am), hope that the people I meet don’t feel unsafe because of me wearing a particular symbols (which I do) and continue to wear my necklace because it is significant to me as a symbol of my religion (which I would like to). Or I could easily alter an aspect of my appearance in a way that would mean I wasn’t potentially presenting horrible racist vibes to people who are already living with oppression and fear.

So there’s a new necklace on its way to me now – a very stylised and plain pewter spearhead, representing Gungnir, Odin’s spear. It’s a symbol of balance, magic, self-sacrifice, wisdom, strength and courage. It’s subtle and probably won’t result in people in shops wishing me a happy solstice or strangers in the street asking for directions to the nearest pagan bookshop. It’s not overtly heathen, but it’s still meaningful to me. Also, I bought it with some of the money I earned from writing this month, which is significant on so many levels.

I’m not saying it’s wrong or racist or any other shitty fucking thing to wear a symbol that has been appropriated, especially recently appropriated, by awful people. I’m not saying we should just shut up, give up and hand over mjolnir and runes and whatever the fuck else to nazi scum. I’m not saying anyone else should do anything. I don’t speak for anyone but myself.

I sincerely hope that we get to a place where non-racist anti-nazi heathen voices drown out the bile-filled spewing of extremists, hate groups and terrorists. I’ve witnessed some strong and beautiful action in that direction and I fully support it with all my heart.

But if changing a small, simple thing means that someone who already lives in fear encounters one less perceived threat as they go about their day, damn right I will make that change.

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

Anansi and tiny machines

My husband was cutting the hedge the other day so I took my camera into the front garden and looked for tiny things to take pictures of.

I’m not sure if this little beastie is really a shape-shifting trickster in disguise, but I’ve been watching American Gods, so…

The more closely I look at insects, the more I think they look like tiny machines.

I took both of these pictures with a Polaroid macro lens attachment on an 18-55mm Sony lens that came with my Sony Alpha a550. The camera is about seven years old and was Sony’s mid-range dSLR at the time, the lens is a kit lens (you know, the ones everyone always says are crap) and the macro attachment was £12 from eBay or Amazon a few years ago.

I know that if I spent lots of money on an actual macro lens, I’d be able to achieve greater magnification, but since I don’t have that much money to spend on something that I only do occasionally (I get a kick out of macro photography, but it’s definitely not my main thing) I really enjoy discovering what I can do with older and cheaper kit.

The reason I’m talking about my tools here is that it drives me crazy to see people insisting that you absolutely must have the newest and most expensive equipment. If you’re doing something creative for enjoyment, the best gear is the gear you can afford, the gear you can actually own and use. Don’t wait until you can buy the best of the best, or the latest and greatest. Get what you can get, learn how it works and go create art!

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

Published in Amaryllis poetry magazine

One of my poems was published in Amaryllis poetry magazine yesterday!

Things We Don’t Talk About

cracking with cold
you, broken and beautiful
i remember the nights when i read you out loud

you, firing memories as missiles
dripping with honesty
these questions will never be still

you, lying awake in my arms
flickering eyelashes slicing my chest
your secrets, my sevens, our laundry and losses

blood-let and branded
you, chasing absolution at 4am
and me, drowning in my wishing well

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

Gentle lasers

These little beauties live in our front garden. When we moved in last year, they had been trampled almost to death by whoever had lived here before. We weren’t sure if they were going to grow back, but they did and they’re gorgeous.

With the shallow depth of field and the shape of the leaves behind, it looks like lasers. Or it does to me, because my brain and eyes do weird things.

Nothing to do with flowers or brains, but as I’m typing this there’s a tiny bird at the feeder and Doug Nuts the squirrel (we’ve named it that. I don’t know if that’s what it calls itself) is sitting on the lawn beneath it. The bird is taking nuts out of the feeder, eating one itself, then dropping one down to Doug. I thought it was coincidence at first, but I’ve now watched it happen three times in a row.

Nature is a source of great fascination today!

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

How I celebrated Lammas

I don’t really connect emotionally or spiritually with Lammas/Lughnasadh as a concept or a practice in the traditional sense. I’m really not a summer person (I was born on the Winter Solstice, so maybe that’s why) and having always lived in urban or suburban areas I have literally no meaningful connection whatsoever to agriculture, apart from obviously I eat food. It’s not that I don’t know where food comes from or how it’s produced, or that I don’t have massive appreciation and respect for the people involved in that process, but basing a sabbat around that is about as meaningful to me as paying ritual tribute to engine building because I drive a car, or carpet making because I have floors in my home. I recognise the important part these things play in my life, but as processes they aren’t spiritual for me at all.

Living in Edinburgh, the beginning of August mostly represents a massive influx of people to the city for the many festivals that are happening here over the next month. My little world simultaneously expands and contracts as I am reminded that I live in a beautiful, vibrant and special place that people come from all over the world to visit.

August, for me, is also about being at home, about being grateful for having a home to be in. It’s about sitting in the living room with the back door open and listening to heavy rain fall through warm air outside. It’s about sitting still on the step and watching tiny birds at the feeder, feeling blessed that they are accustomed enough to my presence not to fear me. This year, it’s also about caring for new turf as it beds in and completes the lawn, and for small trees that were once nurtured indoors beginning to take root in their new outdoor homes. These are my connections to nature at this time of year.

In the last month, I published a book, wrote the first draft of another book and launched my Patreon. My husband started a new position at work, with the same company but at a different location, and is now working longer hours as he settles into a role with more responsibility. These things are, in their own way, harvests. They represent the results of dedication, sacrifice and patience. Our harvests might not have been plucked from fields, but they are still worth celebrating.

This year at Lammas, I cleaned our home. I find housework therapeutic and I enjoy it. I’m not a hardcore neat freak (or at least I don’t think I am) but it soothes my soul to create and maintain a clean, tidy, welcoming space. My health hasn’t been great lately, so being physically able to do this, even just for one afternoon, felt incredible (I’m suffering for it now though, so today is going to be a more gentle day). Also, it has been a year almost to the day since we moved in here and began turning a mostly empty shell into a home. It’s almost finished. Almost. And when I remember the struggles of years past and recognise how different life is now, that too feels like a harvest.

Because I don’t follow any specific Pagan path, I don’t feel the need to adhere to any set rules about how to celebrate at certain times of year. My wheel of the year draws from a variety of traditions, from Wiccan sabbats to Celtic seasonal celebrations to Norse blots. There are more personal elements too, from my heart, my marriage and my family.

While my husband and I sat in our living room, eating some truly amazing bread (our nod to more recognisable Lammas traditions), I offered thanks to Thor for my strength and determination, to Hel for my acceptance of dark times and dark places, to Odin for my words and relentless seeking, to the forces of nature for the beauty around me and to the people who love me for reminding me that I am worth loving.

You can visit my Patreon here. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.