I’ve been meaning to write again for a while, but I haven’t had it in me for one reason or another. Full transparency – I ended 2022 exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, and physically worn the fuck out.
Sure, 2022 saw fleeting triumphant moments, joyful moments, blissful moments, but for the most part, it was a harrowing deluge of fear, hopelessness and grief.
But, I want to highlight 100 good things which helped me see the past twelve months through.
1. My friends Giorgia and Kári. She’s Italian, he’s Icelandic, and they’re so in love it’s goddamn beautiful. They’re two of my best friends and have fed, watered, housed, entertained, listened to, comforted, guided and educated me. My gratefulness extends past worldly borders.
2. Visiting ‘Erica’s House’ in Bergen. You’ve seen the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, right? Remember the little Norwegian girl Erica who goes missing and turns up in a painting? Well, I watched it in the early 90s and developed quite an obsession with Erica (as well as with her lusekofte) and the clapboard houses that appeared in the film. (You can read more about it in this blog post.)I travelled to Norway, stayed with a friend in Bergen and together we went and found the house that appeared in the film. (I’ll discuss it more in an upcoming publication inspired by my blog series, The Kid Who Loved The Dark.) Nothing could touch me that day; my joy was too humongous.
3. Moving to Osmotherly. Since my parents moved my siblings and me out of North Yorkshire when I was fifteen, I’ve always ached to live in the county again. Despite moving to a town that bordered North Yorkshire, it may as well have been a thousand miles away. Since returning to the UK from Sweden in 2019, my health has declined because of my living environment. I’m not suited to town life. I never have been. I was depressed, suicidal and incapable of staying where I was staying any longer when I found a cottage for rent in Osmotherly. It was miraculous. Being here has gifted me with a happiness I haven’t encountered since childhood that I wasn’t sure I’d ever experience again.
4. Being interviewed by journalist and author Nina Richter for Fréttablaðið, Iceland’s most widely circulated newspaper. I know. I can hardly believe it, either. And it never would have happened without Kári and Giorgia and the family dinner party I was invited to where I met Nina…who just so happens to be married to Kári’s brother.
5. Photographing Giorgia. Some of the best times this year have been photo shoots with Giorgia and seeing her bloom for miles out of her comfort zone.
6. Seeing the aurora borealis three times. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I was in a horrible place mentally each time they appeared and always happened to be alone. It was as though they were showing up to tell me, ‘the north has you. Now watch us dance. We’ll make you smile and cry and laugh. We’ll fill you to the brim with gratitude because, my dear, the north always does that for you.’
7. The Valkyrie in Northman. I loved the film. Robert Eggers is a force to be reckoned with. But the ferocious, maddeningly blue-eyed, blisteringly blonde valkyrie, her domination of the sky and that Wagner-esque battle cry made the movie for me.
8. Sending my work to customers as far afield as Australia and Mexico. A scream out to everyone who has bought something from my Etsy shop awyrdofherown in 2022.
9. Making a shamanic fringe mask. When I perform, I don’t like my face ‘naked.’ I’m still struggling with accepting what I look like, and I can ‘be more myself’ when I don’t look like myself or when I’m partially hidden. I performed on stage for the first time in forever in 2022 and desperately needed a mask that embodied who I am and what I’m about. So, using scrap leather, crow feet, fox and mink bones, I made something that exceeded my expectations, to my absolute astonishment. You can see it in the featured photo for this post.
10. Meeting Necroshorns. Necroshorns is the most incredible photographer working within the metal scene today. I met him while photographing at Cosmic Void festival in London. (Our first encounter was in a leather shop in Camden Town. Of course.) He’s turned out to be one of the most genuine human beings I know.
11. Lambs being lambs. Nothing cheers the soul like frolicking lambs.
12. The 2022 Whitby Krampus Run. This interpretation of the great Alpine Krampus tradition, put on by my friends Laurence and Eliane, was the wild night of wyrd winter wonder my heart was so desperately craving.
13. Talasbuan. My favourite YouTube channel for about the third year running.
15. Norsemen. The funniest thing to have ever emerged from Norway.
16. Finally releasing a song inspired by Pet Semetary. It was in 2020 when I first mentioned creating a piece of music inspired by PS. Together with JD of the incomparable Horror Synth project Bogwitch, I’ve founded Blóðnætur, and through the project, we’ve released our homage to one of the finest horror movies ever made.
17. Leaving Instagram. Again. I’ve been on, off, on, off, on, off more times than I want to admit. The last time I went back, it was for the sake of my work. When I signed off on IG, it was like I’d died, and the sales from my Etsy shop plummeted. I resigned to being on Instagram as a necessary evil. It always seems ‘good to be back’ when I bow in again, but after the shortest while, I always find myself wrapped up in obsessional thinking. My account is still up, so people can find me and see examples of my work, but I’m absolutely done with it and all the toxicity it manifests. I’m done with how it destroys my mental health and makes me into someone I fail to recognise.
18. A shower with excellent water pressure.
19. My daughter Saga’s hair. It’s not unhealthy, is it, to wish you had your four-year-old daughter’s ‘blonde as butter,’ waist length, Princess Tuvstarr hair that always smells delicious, is unfathomably soft and legitimately glows?
20. Saga seeing me in the audience and beaming at me when I came to see her as a ‘Twinkling Star’ in her first school play.
21. Finding a bunad dress in Oxfam for £40. Sectioned under Halloween Costumes (my Norwegian friends found this ‘cultural appropriation’ hilarious), I found an authentic, handmade dress with a matching belt via the Oxfam website. Along with this came another dress. Mass-produced but still beautiful. An embroidered cap, a velvet purse, a cape and an apron. The authentic dress is from Agder county in the East of Norway. *Bunad is the traditional Norwegian folk costume – of which there are hundreds of variations – and I’m obsessed. Obviously.
22. Growing my lusekofte collection. Staying on the subject of clothing from my favourite country, I’m also a collector of lusekofte and, this year, expanded my collection quite considerably. (I always buy them second hand and am quite an expert at getting them cheap!) I used my Nordic Cult Folk photography project as an excellent reason to invest.
23. Embarking on my Nordic Cult Folk project. It’s been in my mind for the longest time to photograph folk in Norway wearing bunad/lusekofte and corpse paint. The project has expanded and will include all the Nordic countries and their traditional costumes and knitwear and not always corpse paint. I photographed in Oslo, Bergen and Reykjavik in 2022. You can find shots on (my now very quiet) Instagram. I also have some prints and postcards in my Etsy shop of my Norwegian friend Solveig in her bunad and corpse paint on Mount Fløyen in Bergen.
24. Ecstasy Heart Garden Vegetarian Restaurant in Reykjavik. One of the most serene eateries in the city. Best bread I’ve ever eaten in my life. Amazing chai, too. And it’s affordable!
25. Seeing Vévaki perform at the launch party of their debut album Fórnspeki.
26. Cunning Folk Magazine. My reading highlight OF THE YEAR. Each issue of CF is a bountiful, beautiful feast for the mind and soul, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful for a magazine publication. The most recent issue of CF, the Earth issue, was difficult to approach, honestly, because death played a prominent role throughout, and I struggled with the idea of death a lot during 2022. So I’ve taken it really slow. And I’m glad I have. It’s challenged me in the ways I’ve needed to be challenged.
27. Photographing Nordic Noir. I attended Nordic Noir Festival in Reykjavik as a photographer (an honour) and photographed the likes of Richard Osman, Ragnar Jónasson and Eliza Jean Reid, The First Lady of Iceland.
28. Having cupping done for the first time. I didn’t expect to have cupping done when I went for a warm bamboo massage; however, because the mountain ridge of knots across my upper back was challenging even the sturdiest of bamboo sticks, my masseuse suggested she use some cups to loosen the muscle. I was all for it, and they worked like a dream. The marks they left were of deepest purple; the stagnation in my body was fascinatingly rampant. Even the masseuse was taken aback! The knots my body has acquired over the years are the stuff of legends, so I’m forever looking out for innovative ways to make my body that little bit more comfortable to exist in.
29. Feeding wild birds. Winter is a rough old time for wild birds in my neck of the woods, so I’ve been taking a plastic barrel of food out with me to scatter when I’m walking.
30. Finding shelters in the forest. I often come across random little shelters. Most are actually well built, enough so that it’s possible to pass the night in one. I was planning on doing so in 2022 but still need to get around to it. I did, however, frequent them, especially when it was raining, to enjoy some flapjack and tea.
31. Performing at The Krampus Ball. I opened up 2022’s Krampus Ball in Whitby and performed a set called The Darkest Days featuring poems about Gryla, Jack Frost, and Swiftrunner accompanied by music from some of my favourite people. I lost a contact lens, so I could only see out of one eye, and I was wearing a fringed mask, making performing a lot more complicated than it should have been. There were a lot of furry, horned drunkards, so it was hard to hear myself think, let alone speak, so my delivery was subpar, and the mini books I’d raced to create featuring the poems I was performing didn’t arrive on time. (They’ll be up for sale in my Etsy shop soon.) But I’m proud my work was considered worthy of such a legendary event.
32. My neighbours. The neighbours on either side of my cottage are seventy years old and quiet as mice. Nic, whom I have a cup of tea with most days (I’ve actually just come back from being in his living room where I wolfed down a custard tart and an excellent brew), has ferried me to hospital appointments, lent me money when I haven’t had enough for bus fare (I don’t drive and the nearest town is six miles away) and daily doles out bird feed for me to take out for the wild ones eking a living in forests and the furrows and the fields.
33. The Lighthouse. I put off watching The Lighthouse for A LONG TIME because of Robert Patterson and his association with Twilight, but I realised that it was mortifyingly childish of me. He was superb in this film, as were his co-actors William Defoe and Valeriia Karaman, who portrayed the mermaid and who I wish had been on screen for hours longer than she was. As with the valkyrie in Northman, the mermaid and her fleeting appearances made The Lighthouse for me. There’s a small wooden relic of her in the film, and it’s been amazingly reproduced and is for sale on Etsy.
34. Thick, warm boot socks. I cannot imagine a life without them.
35. Having my hair washed in Camden Town. I’m aware of how random this is, but my life was perfect for a day and a half after having my hair professionally washed and blow-dried. During Cosmic Void festival in London, the hostel I was staying in had a pitiful shower, the type you need to keep starting again to keep the water coming. Not only did it have this terrible feature, but the water pressure was meagre, so meagre was it that my hair looked worse after I washed it than it had done beforehand. Being massively self-conscious about my appearance anyway, there was nothing for it – I had to find a hairdresser and have it washed by someone who would, assuredly, give it the wash it so rightfully deserved. With it being London, the city that MOST CERTAINLY DOES NOT SLEEP (for fucks sake), there was somewhere open that Sunday, and I paid the same amount (£30) as I’d paid for a dress the day before. Though readers, it was the best £30 I’ve ever spent on anything.
36. Cosmic Void Festival. I scored a photo pass and took photos of more or less all the bands I wanted to see. Met good folk. Would go again.
37. Photographing Sólstafir in Hólavallagarður Cemetery in Reykjavik.
38. My daughter shouting ‘Santa has been!’ on Christmas morning. I can too well remember how exciting it was to wake up to a big, lumpy, heavy stocking at the bottom of the bed.
39. Good mince pies. They need to be deep and well-filled. Morrisons have provided the best I’ve tried this year. Funnily enough, the pricier the mince pie, the more disappointing they were.
40. My friend Giorgia’s food. There’s a new Domestic Goddess in town, and she’s vegan. (Giorgia will be producing a vegan cookbook, so you may get the opportunity to sample some of the gorgeous food I’ve been so lucky to dine on this past year, including the pumpkin gnocchi, which changed my attitude towards gnocchi forever.) Nigella, move out of the way and take your meat with you.
41. Contributing a song to Tales from the Swamp, the latest album by Bogwitch.
42. My friend Nafre who bleeds wisdom and said this to me after I broke up with my ex and was grieving: “But we know, damnit all—we KNOW: our dark, the one that we are and have, is where we grow. So, as ever, root yourself, Earth-sign. Root yourself and do as things growing in the dark do. Wait—and grow immense and undeniably present in yourself.”
43. Hwaet!Zine. Despite constantly forgetting how to spell it’s title and somewhat struggling with the mossy green on black print used (thankfully sparingly) throughout, this zine of ‘ancient lore for modern folks’ is a most welcome addition to my ever growing folklore zine collection. There have been some disappointments this year, with zines, so I was somewhat hesitant buying it, but it was a most worthy purchase.
44. Finding my friend Sarah Elizabeth’s book The Art Of Darkness in Eymundsson in Reykjavik. Eymundsson is the oldest and largest bookseller in Iceland. I was having my breakfast in the café on the top floor at the time – the seating area is in the art book section and it caught my ever wandering eye. FYI, Eymundsson do a cracking bagel for just over 700 ISK if you’re in the city and looking for an affordable breakfast. The tea is good too.
45. Daughter’s Of The North being released on tape. Cave Mouth’s third album was supposed to get a CD released last year through Non Posse Mori Records, the French label who released out second album, but sadly the label folded. US based DIY tape label Pagan Foretress came to rescue though and released an exclusive batch of tapes, all of which have now sold out, as far as I’m aware. Not even I have one!
46. Writing the bulk of my upcoming poetry collection about the Icelandic winter. It should have been finished and published this year, but life had other ideas.
47. Buying a little pair of second hand leather shoes. I usually clomp around in ass-kicking combat boots, but in Oxfam in Whitby, I found a petite and irresistible pair of simple leather ankle boots for about £5. I’ve only worn them once (old habits die hard) but how lovely and feminine I felt when I did.
48. Using a habit tracker.
49. The Wild Isles. This MASSIVE anthology of British and Irish nature writing is edited by the fantastic Patrick Barkham who write the unmissable (if you’re a parent) book Wild Child: Coming Home To Nature. If your heart is at all invested in the natural world (I assume it is, if you’re here reading my writing) then I wholeheartedly encourage you to see this beautiful beast of a book out.
50. Scalp massager. Best £1 I’ve spent this year. I go from rabid wolf to placid lamb in moments.
51. A Discoverie of Witches by Blake Morrison. I’ve had this profound poetry collection on loan from Northallerton Library for about six months. Primarily because it’s a costly book but also because I can’t bear the idea of it not being on my bookshelf. So I’m hanging onto it for as long as I’m able. It’s muchly about the Pendle Witch Trials, where in 1612 in Lancaster, ten people were accused of witchcraft and hanged. There’s also an uncomfortably enthralling and controversial poem called The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper.
52. Being able to walk up onto the moors within minutes. I live in the North York Moors National Park, and being able to escape to where few roam is what I need. I need space to roam alone as much as air to breathe, food to eat and water to drink. I can’t see myself ever returning to town life. When I eventually do move back in the way of the Nordics, it’ll be when I know it’ll be to a countryside location, where the people are few and far between. I’m thankful my village here has 659 people, though it feels so much fewer than that, which is ideal.
53. New Yorkers by Craig Taylor. I’m nature orientated in spirit, mind, body and place. I always have been. But I’ve had this odd fascination with New York since I was about nine. It has something to do with the millions and millions of stories and the millions and millions of spaces there that people call home. Oh, and the food. One day I want to spend some weeks doing a food tour around the city, eating the best bagels, pretzels and pizza there are. But anyway, I came across this book called New Yorkers, which is essentially a tapestry woven from the lives of people the author met over five years living in the city. It was such a refreshing, fascinating, masterfully edited book that I recommend it even if you couldn’t give a damn about the city itself because of the exceptional, unique insight into the human condition.
54. Having a new library to go to. One of the best things about moving to a new place is becoming a member of the local library. My new local library is better than my previous one (though I’m still a member there too…shhhh) because it allows you to take forty (forty!) books out instead of twenty, and you can renew your books considerably more times.
55. Blendsmith’s Dark Choc Blend. Earlier this year, I took myself out for lunch, and my beverage choice was a chai latte. It was delicious. So delicious I asked the server how they made it. She presented me with the packet, and I noted the name down – Blendsmiths. Once home, I hastened to their website and purchased a Mini Selection Box, which included the incredible chai I’d just had and sachets of Matcha Blend and Turmeric Blend. Beetroot Blend, Chocolate Blend and what was to become my obsession, the Dark Chocolate Blend. Since then, I’ve been solely buying the Dark Chocolate Blend as a treat when I feel I really deserve it. I last bought myself some for Christmas, and I have a cup when needing some TLC.
56. Moon, Moon. Years and years and years ago, my mum had this book called Moon, Moon by Alice Kent Rush. A gathering of lore about the moon and its connection to the feminine, it was a book I would leaf through appreciatively as a child, who, at the time, was aware she wasn’t taking everything in, but one day, absolutely would. But my mum passed it on. To whom, I don’t know. She can’t even remember. I can recall how utterly devasted I was (and still am, primarily for her sake) that she let go of it. Over the years, when I’ve thought about it, I’ve searched for it online, but it’s always been unavailable. Something prompted me to think about it the other month, and I found myself on Amazon, hoping for the best. And I found it. A reprint. For less than £15. It was always meant to make its way back to me, that much I know for sure.
57. The smell after just extinguishing a candle.
58. Having 36,345 views on Wyrd Words & Effigies during 2022. That is not bad, considering had tragically inactive I’ve been.
59. Investing in a pair of Sorel boots. These are the comfiest, warmest, grippiest boots I’ve ever owned. And have a polar bear on them.
60. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. One of the most beautiful, wise, and engrossing books I’ve read.
61. Using a candle snuffer.
62. Having my hair stroked.
63. Not waking up to an alarm.
64. Making eye contact with a wild baby owl which did that cute thing with their head.
65. Isafjørd. Great band. Released Hjartastjaki in December. One of the best albums of 2022.
66. Waking up feeling refreshed. I can count on one hand how many days this happened this year. I’d like more morning refreshment in 2023, please.
67. Everybody in this room will someday be dead by Emily Austin. I don’t read many novels nowadays, mostly because I struggle to find ones that hold my attention. But fuck, this was funny.
68. Living in a quiet village. I’m sensitive to (the wrong sort of) noise, as in exceptionally sensitive. I get pissed off when someone sneezes more than three times or if a car’s engine is too loud. Especially if a car’s engine is too loud. I used to have frequent panic attacks brought on by noise when I was living in a town. So being in a village in the back end of beyond is absolute bliss, and I’m thankful every day I wake up and the noise of people going about their day is as minimal as possible.
69. Pleasant border control guards and security staff in Keflavik airport. Days have legitimately been made by being spoken to kindly at Keflavik.
70. Landsbókasafn Íslands – Háskólabókasafn AKA The National and University Library of Iceland. Anyone can go. Phones need to be switched off. The bookshelves go on as far as the eye can see. The folklore section is tremendous. It’s my happy place.
71. Getting a wooden foot roller for under my desk. My feet are so much happier these days.
72. Buying a typisk skandinavisk daybed from IKEA. Daybeds are something you always see in Sweden, and I love them. When I lived in Sweden and would go and visit Saga’s grandmother, I’d sleep on a trundle daybed. When I moved to Osmotherly, I had my heart set on getting the same daybed as Pia, and while it cost a small fortune, I’ve never regretted it, not even for a moment.
73. Using a goat skull as a candle holder. It beggars belief that I arrived at 36 years old without realising just how great the eye sockets in a goat’s skull are for holding tapered candles.
74. Meeting a Facebook friend in real life. My Norwegian friend Louise and I could not remember how we initially came across each other, but we’ve been friends on Facebook for ages. When I put a call out for people in Norway to stand in as models for my Nordic Cult Folk project she volunteered and we met up in Oslo for the shoot. She was an absolute badass, donning a bunad and corpsepaint to walk around Oslo, eat salad and shoot in the basement of Neseblod.
76. Being gifted an 1842 copy of the Prose Edda from Giorgia and Kari. Snorri Sturluson is Kari’s 21st Grandfather, for the record.
77. The gift of an Angrboða statute, hand carved by my friend Nafre who makes exquisite Norse and Inuit inspired carvings from wood pallets.
78. Eating two puddings on Christmas day. There was Christmas pudding, OF COURSE (I’m a traditionalist in that I love anything loaded with dried fruit) and lemon cheesecake. I then rested peacefully for fourteen hours while I digested, just like a snake.
79. AI Time Machine. I’m not one to go along with the latest trend, but this looked like too much fun to pass up. So I threw my money and awkward phone captures of myself at MyHeritage and received portraits of ‘what I’d look like’ from various eras. The 1920s were not good for me. Nor were the 1950’s or 70’s. I do make a really good cowgirl though, and look sexy as 16th Century royalty.
80. Sad Beige. Few things in 2022 made me snigger as hard Sad Beige Clothing For Sad Beige Children did.
81. Brody Wellmaker. He made me laugh too. A lot.
82. Atomic Habits by James Clear. The hype is justified.
83. Being let on the bus when I didn’t have money for the fare. When I initially moved to Osmotherly, I didn’t know the rural bus service doesn’t take a card, only cash. They have a card machine; they just don’t want to learn how to use it. There’s no way of getting money in the village unless it’s one of the three days that the post office is open (for limited hours), and it wasn’t. Anyway, the bus driver trusted me that I’d pay for £5.55 fare on the return journey. Readers, I kept my word. I paid my fare in full on the trip home.
84. Listening to Hunting The Wren over and over and over again. Do you want to be awestruck, feel murderous towards your own kind and wail in absolute despair simultaneously? Then listen to this heart-wrenching song by Larkum. I think it’s truly, one of the strongest songs I’ve ever heard in every sense.
85. Yuletide wreaths on the doors in the village. I’m the weirdo who walks around admiring the lights and wreaths. Because Osmotherly is supposed to be ‘the prettiest village in North Yorkshire,’ folk are proud and make an effort with their festive greenery.
86. Heathens by Aurora. I love this song. I love it, I love it, I love it.
87. Foggy days.
88. Getting lost on the moors and remaining calm. I got lost looking for my lost phone. I found my way home eventually. I never found my phone. I hope it’s never discovered, or if it is, that someone has the graciousness to try and find me to return it. But it’s probably been consumed by bracken and buried under mulch.
89. Dew speckled spider webs.
90. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox & The Horse. Loved the book. Loved the animated film, but would have loved it even more if there hadn’t been any words. The dialogue made me cringe. It felt clunky and awkward. Everyone in the UK was ranting and raving about how amazing it would be and how it would overtake the Snowman in popularity and become the new cult Christmas classic. The animation itself, though, was sublime. It was almost overwhelmingly beautiful. Hence why it’s on this list.
92. Visiting my friends Frida and Håkon and their baby son Eldar in their fairytale home in Norway. We foraged for mushrooms in the forest behind their house (of course we did), and Frida made the most exquisite mushroom soup, accompanied by bread (and cinnamon rolls!) which Håkon made.
93. Jewellery designer HexNWerk was inspired to create a necklace after encountering my work. The piece was crafted using antlers – engraved with the Web of Wyrd – wire, yarn and black hemp cord.
94. Majesty by Madrugada.
95. Buying the Nordic Animism book and calendar as a Yuletide gift to myself.
96. The video where Queen Elizabeth II sees some cows.
97. This quote from Wendell Berry: You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.
98. Getting myself a subscription to Orion magazine for my 36th birthday.
99. Having this sentence said to me: I can override your library card so you can take more books out.
100. This line from Bertol Brecht: In the dark times / Will there be singing? / There will be singing / Of the dark times.