Before I launch into my list, I wanted to tell you that this is post number two thousand here on Wyrd Words & Effigies. Over the past few days, I’ve been feeling a tad giddy as I’ve watched the post number climb higher, and it feels quite the achievement to have reached this blogging milestone.
I’ve been creating content for Wyrd Words & Effigies since May 2013 and, while there have been periods of deathlike silence when blogging was impossible, one thing that kept me going was the idea of haunting this little corner of the internet again. Those of you who have been coming here and stopping awhile, I’d like you to know that you are treasured.
I’m excited to see where Wyrd Words & Effigies will go in 2021. (To feel excited about things again…my goodness. If you would have told me a few months ago that I’d feel excited about something again, I’d have laughed, albeit terribly sadly, and muttered something like ‘I really don’t fucking think so.’) I reckon, after seven years this blog has probably earned its .com. I’m considering maybe starting up interviews again. (Let me know if you think this is a good idea.) I’ll keep on writing about my life, what with it being so exciting and all. So you have that to look forward to!
I do have a second haunt too – The Girl With Cold Hands. I poured so much love and hope and time into this sacred space, and I want to go back. It’s been ages since I posted anything there. I stopped when my creativity fled. I’m thinking about carving out a place for myself again, where I can share with you everything that inspires me about the most northerly places on the planet, and my ongoing journey to finding a home in far north.
I did a post the other day – 2020 In 100 Good Things – where you would have assumed I’d covered everything that I had to be grateful for in 2020. But there are some things I didn’t write there, and somethings I’d like to expand on a little bit. So I thought this post would be a good one to write. Plus, there was so much fucking dreadful stuff in the year just gone, that I figured another post featuring some of the good stuff wouldn’t go amiss.
Things I Was Grateful For In 2020
I’m not techy and investing in new technology isn’t something I’m fond of doing. (I was probably the last person to get a smartphone.) I will keep something until it’s really, truly done in. My old laptop was struggling to function for well over a year. (I’d had it since 2013.) Having it switched on was quite probably a fire hazard. Gosh, I was so reckless! But in November, I finally caved in and bought a new one. Predominately because my old laptop would have exploded if I’d tried to use Photoshop on it.
This new one is quiet and fast and I don’t have to have it plugged in at all times for it to work. Plus, it can load Photoshop without starting a house fire. I’m still marveling at the fact that it doesn’t take twenty minutes to load from when I switch it on. I wash my hands before I use it and I place my drinks a sensible distance away from the keyboard. It feels like I’ve taken adulting to a whole other level since it came home with me. I’m wondering if it’ll last or if it’s just a matter of time before it becomes the final resting place for sandwich crumbs and I’m thinking ‘fuck it’ to scrubbing my fingers raw before I let them within five feet of the keyboard.
For the longest time, I wasn’t interested in abandoning paper for a screen. I’d find myself vowing that I’d always stay ‘true’ to ‘real’ books. So, when I did poke my head into the world of e-reading, it was, in typical Katie fashion, epically late. But downloading the Kindle app (which, for the record, is free!) was one of the best things I did last year. Having it on my phone made the many lengthy waits outside the supermarket and pharmacy and post office and bus station and doctors considerably more bearable. Oh, and I really enjoyed being able to get a sample of any Kindle book sent to my phone. Tiny things such as getting a taste of a really good book could turn a terrible day into a not so terrible day.
I’ve always valued books above most other things in life, but since I started reading books on Kindle, my paper friends have become even more important. I never imagined I could have a deeper appreciation for books, but they install a whole other sense of wonder now. I spend more time enjoying the cover art, the actual physicality of the book and its scent. (I’ve relished the scent of books since I was a tot.) I give the contents more of my time. I turn the pages slower than what I used to, delighting in the feeling of the paper between my fingers. It never occurred to me that downloading an eBook reading app would strengthen my relationship with physical books to such a degree that it would alter my reading habits and rituals, but it did and I’m grateful.
Some of the money best spent in 2020 was on candles. When I was in the darkest depths of my depression, I lit a tea light after several months of not putting one match to a wick. (Before depression closed in on me and made everything dark, I’d have a candle lit for several hours a day. Especially when I was working. It helped me focus.) The moment my little tea light had taken the gift of fire and started, ever so gently, to glow, I felt a very slight shift in my emotional state. I experienced, for the first time in what felt like aeons, comfort.
I started lighting a candle every evening after this. Doing so helped me bring together something of an evening ritual. During the months that followed, I would light a candle during the daytime too. When I began to create again, lighting a candle before I sat down to edit my photos became an integral part of my working practice.
By the end of December, candles were once more a part of my daily routine. It felt like I’d reclaimed a small but valuable part of my life from depression. I always lit them with a match. I’ve forever been of the opinion that there’s something extremely special about striking a match and watching it take flame then putting it to a candle wick.
I decided that for my Christmas gift to myself, I’d buy some scented candles. They’ve always seemed like something of an extravagance, but if the glow of candle light could have such a positive effect on my mood, I was certain it would elevate further if the candles gave off a fragrance that reminded me of my favourite things – winter, the north and forests.
So I bought a candle called Evergreen (cypress leaf combined with pure cedar, fresh evergreen, tree moss and ambered musk), one called Vanilla Spice (grated ginger root, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean and allspice) and one called Moonlit Snowfall (herbs, citrus, white pine and ambered sandalwood.)
I alternate them depending on my mood. If I’m feeling really low and just need a whole lot of comforting, I’ll use Vanilla Spice. If I need something to spur me on, I’ll use Evergreen. And If I just need to focus, I’ll use Moonlit Snowfall. The idea of them being an extravagance has gone right out of the window. Along with the unscented candles that I burn, they’ve become a fundamental part of my day and my journey to finding wellness.
I’ve never been very good at updating my Goodreads page. I don’t know why because I love the concept of it. But I do use Goodreads itself all the time to look for quotes, and in 2020 it became indispensable when I started reading again and needed to look for new books.
It also distracted me from my suicidal thoughts. To keep myself away from the railway track, I would spend whole afternoons and evenings going through through lists of motivational and self help books, lists of books about the north, lists of books about the Arctic, lists of books about folk horror… I’d have another link open on Amazon and if the blurb rallied up enough attention in my fraught mind, I’d get a sample from Amazon sent to my Kindle. The hours, of which I believed there were too many, would be eaten up with this and I’d gratefully fall into bed having gotten through another day.
Better Body Confidence
2020 was the year I finally lost my pregnancy weight. (Unsweetened almond milk, you can take much of the credit.) Though I was slimmer and felt a bit better about my physical appearance – except for my face, I still struggled accepting the shape of my face – I wasn’t expecting to take nude self portraits. So, when inspiration struck and I thought, ‘this photo would be way more impactful if I didn’t have clothes on’ it came as something of a surprise. When I think back about it now, taking and sharing nude photos was the most empowering thing I did in 2020.
(To be precise, showing my feet was the most empowering thing I did in 2020. I’ve hated my feet for almost as long as I’ve been alive and I never would have dreamed of them appearing in a photo. But, when I wanted to do a levitation picture, the image I had in mind required bare feet. I’d already smashed down the walls of my comfort zone by taking photos of myself covered in glitter, to show my feet would demonstrate courage on a whole other scale…I had to try. So I did. And I succeeded. And it was a victory I’ll never stop patting myself on the back for.)
After just a short time, I found that taking nude portraits was something I wasn’t thinking so much about anymore. If the idea required me to be undressed, so be it. It was wonderfully freeing. Though if it were someone else shooting me, it would be a different story. I need to be in control of the camera if my confidence is going to be revealed.
*Quick note about the me hating my face thing. I know it’s weird that I take self-portraits yet hate my face, but I intend to develop a better relationship with it over the coming year through self-portraiture. I’ll be doing a challenge where I take 100 self portraits. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to encourage others who struggle with body image to take on the challenge themselves, and begin a journey of self acceptance. I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks.
It’s pointless me buying a beautiful notebook. Why? Because expressing myself in a beautiful notebook is impossible. If it’s a beautiful notebook, I feel this overwhelming pressure – and it really is overwhelming – that everything I put down on its pages MUST be immaculate.
Sure, beautiful notebooks looked enticing in the store – I had a weakness for those bound in black leather – but as soon as I got home, they become a fucking hindrance. (The only example I have of this not being the case is the few Moleskins I have in which I’ve documented my Inuit and Arctic studies. They’re beautiful but in another way. Moleskins are my exception to the ‘no beautiful notebooks rule.’ I predict I’ll buy one when I start my venture into Sami culture this year.)
I ended up getting rid of all of the beautiful notebooks I had stashed away when I let my room have the KonMari treatment a couple of months back. (Don’t worry, my actual books are safe on their bookcase! I think her rule regarding books is horrendous.) Every single notebook that I got rid of – they went to charity – had pages ripped out from where I’d been unhappy with what I’d put down.
I write in cheap notebooks. Not the cheapest because I do have some standards when it comes to paper quality. I don’t like my pen to go through the page if I press a little too hard. The ones I write in currently are school books. (My favourite notebooks of all time are the composition books. Easy to get in the United States, not so easy to get in the United Kingdom.) Several months ago, there was an offer at a local store. It was eight school books for £1. I bought 16 and walked out beaming under my face mask. I had nothing to say until late October, and when I was ready to write, they were there. I’m filling up the last one now.
What I Was Listening To While Writing This Post