Reclaiming innocence (1)

At lunch today I ventured to the middle of a motorway roundabout with Duncan. Since he is the only other person I’ve encountered (apart from myself) with an expressed interest in exploring the centre of roundabouts, I could hardly say no. So we charged across 4 lanes of high speed death to reach an oasis of trees. This was a large roundabout built up into a lopsided hill; reminded me of a faery land again, soft filtered light, and mushrooms everywhere. Odd bits of rubbish; a rusty screwdriver..but otherwise a disjunct wild haven amongst the concrete and noise. Choosing a spot that overlooked the off-ramp, we basked in the winter sun. I lay on my coat and smelt the earth, the roar of traffic not unlike a river. It was nice to be simply reclining in the middle of it, mind unwinding, softness.

Lying in the warmth, I struggled to ask some questions.. the answers were gentle and helped shift an old pattern, ever so subtley.

I realised that it IS possible, indeed perhaps necessary, to reclaim lost innocence. And that’s how I found the poem below – nothing spectacular but just right for the mood of today.
Kathy Trudeau
(from open mic poetry archive)

A Butterfly gently floated by my heart
With wings softly murmuring a soothing call to love
“Come, be with me
In this place, warm and flowing
Join my soul with your face all aglow
Mirroring back the essence of pure magic
For all the world to know
Follow me into the heat and passion of this day
Taste the sweet nectar of life
Place your heart within the petals of a once forgotten love
Reclaim your innocence
Fade with me into the seasons of this day
Gently glide upon the breeze
Catch the music of the Forest
Become all that you perceive
Spread your wings
And glide into the orchestra of the sun
On the breath of eternity”

Caffeine update : on not doing something

Week 1 into caffeine reduction… (not total withdrawel, though I’m now down to cup of green tea every couple of days: I think the headaches have subsided)
…and it feels as though I’m falling out of one world into something else. I recommend doing a caffeine detox just to experience the effects (positive and negative) and thus get a more rounded view on what the drug does. My sleeping has felt like that of a child, ie before upping caffeine levels. Generally I don’t feel as rushed or panicky, as though I’ve put on some breaks and life itself is slowing.

Of course, this does co-incide with an easing off from all the mad changes of the last few months : new job, new love, new people, new scenery. The wave I was surfing on has crashed and I’m sitting on the beach watching the water lap backwards into the sea.

I suspect this is a wave of life much bigger than the last few months as well; indeed, I feel as though I’ve been on a rollercoaster-rush for..years… Stopping is allowing me to breathe but also gives space for all kinds of existential questions to drop by ‘what is the point of all this’, ‘who am I’, ‘what’s really going on here?’, or, more succintly; “WTF am I doing?!”

This caffeine-withdrawel is linked to a challenge much deeper for me, and that is learning to set boundaries, learning NOT to do something. I’m not very good at this, and even while I can philosophise away the merits of getting engaged in life, getting down and dirty, there is a drawback. Last night, as I once again found myself crashed out in a house that’s not mine, I felt as though I was unravelling – white cords untwisting and fraying off into the darkness. Sometimes life is beautiful and serenely distant – othertimes a monster that picks you up and throws you around. Engaging in totality is not enough, because I think that route can lead to being spread very very thin, a loss of power and focus. Last night I worried that many parts of my life are falling apart through my lack of focus and commitment; there is only so much energy you can put in to a day, and I’ve been throwing it into all sorts of directions in many cases by not saying ‘no’ in one form or another.

A friend wrote something good about this today: Waiting, Planning, and Chopping Off Heads: A Beginner’s Guide – something I need to learn.

So, in some ways cutting out on caffeine, saying “no” to feeding that addiction, is almost a practice step in the rest of it. Luckily it’s a practice step which is freeing up more energy, helping me sleep better and think more coherantly (if slower) 🙂

For those of you who enjoy active social lives – how do you schedule time for yourself?

Coyote/Wolf research in Utah. squee.

Oh wow. I’ve just come back from the lecture by John Shivik. He works at National Wildlife Research Center : Predator Ecology & Behavior Project , which has many many coyotes, wolves and other predators. In particular he is interested in “non-lethal predation management”, which basically involves trying to change the behaviour of local predators rather than shooting them.

The main things I learnt from this is
– coyotes are sneaky
– the hardest part is changing the behaviour of the local ranchers, who can’t seem to grasp beyond the ‘why not just shoot them’ mentality

I sat there visualising myself doing a phd on wolves and elk, running around outside with radio tagging devices, playing around with coyote pups. Oh wow. This is the academic research I shrugged off as impossible to find, (outdoors, with animals, focused on changing something in the ‘outside world’ ie applications of the science) and here comes this guy going on about the major research centre which encourages international collaboration. Hell, the masters students from exeter uni get occasional placements there..!

I think I should grab Kay and we should go and work at this place. I spoke to the guy a bit afterwards and expressed my general overwhelming enthusiasm mixed with cyncism about academics who don’t like to get their hands dirty (literally, but also by engaging with the politics and human issues that these guys do… apparently doing anything with wolves in particular get a very bad overblown reaction, to the point of receiving hate mail just for putting a radio collar on them!). Hopefully I will get a chance to talk to them later, may even join him and some of the exeter academics for their meal later..

exciting stuff. The very concept of *earning a living by watching wolves* is too amazing to even believe in. It is an option that I could persue perhaps a couple of years down the line, maybe, but if I wanted to continue academia with a phd, this would be the place for me. Tje fact I’m doing animal cognition work MAY come in useful.


caffeine update:
day 5: no caffeine so far today, last cup was green tea approx 30 hours ago. Started developing another headache about 10 minutes ago, so going to have some more green tea.

Just been speaking to John again; asked him what you needed to do to go and work at that place : apparently the problem is its a federal government establishment so you have to be a US citizen. Being a student or doing a phd is ok – but then the question is, as always, once you’ve done that where do you go for a job? We don’t really have any parallel issues in this country.

Snow in Exeter

woo! I was walking home at midnight yesterday as it started snowing. There is something about snow that revitalises me; and, as long as I have a good warm coat I love the crispness of a bitterly cold day (I’m odd like that).

It also started snowing this morning; I sat by the window with a hot cup of subsitute-tea[1], listening to classic FM and watching the lazy fall of snowflakes. When it came to venturing outside I gratefully dug out a coat donated to me for roleplay purposes – heavy, brown, suade/leather, fur lined hood… very very very warm and windproof, even if I did look a little like a lost eskimo.

Yes, small amounts of snow get us excited in this country; anything more than 1cm and everything stops.

I wanted to share something my grandmother said in an email:
“I see by the forecast that Snow is likely in the West Country – They especially mention Exmoor,, before the days of the Motor Car – when my Mother lived on Wingate Farm( bang in the middle of the Moor}- at the beginning of each winter they bought a Sack of Sugar, one of Salt and a chest of Tea- Dairy products of course they had- Parrafin was essential for lamps , but candles would do if problems – After that it was a case of struggling to reach the barns to milk and feed the animals – This was the norm most winters, – Now you will see if we get a couple of inches of snow , everything will grind to a halt- People will suffer from “Stress” if the power is cut off for a couple of hours – and frantically wonder who they can possibly sue – — ”

– I love my granny 🙂

Roiben is visiting today, I hope the trains aren’t too messed up. If it stays cold over the weekend it might be a case of lots of soup, company and hot drinks. Man, I really want a mocha right now 🙂

[1]hot water + juice of freshly squeezed lemon + devon honey (very nice, kick starts your system, in fact I think it does so BETTER than a cup of tea, and nice for winter)

Caffeine, Coyotes, Christmas and other things with C

It’s now been one month since I stepped out of the 9-5 monday-fri office job, and started doing two part time jobs at once: the same old boring office job, and a new sparkly job at the university as a research assistant for the animal cognition group. This involves an unholy mixture of Pigeons, Windows XP, Squirrels, Touchscreens, Academics and Visual Basic. Working in an academic environment is great fun, not so much flexi-time but “well just come in and get the work done”-time. I’m doing 5 days here every two weeks. Yay for a couple of late mornings.

But more than that, there is an energy to being back in the academic environment, on the “other side” now I’m not a student but part of the research teams. Ok, so the research we are doing is silly, but that is almost the point of it. Academia pissed me off for being too disconnected from the outside world but then I realised that doesn’t matter because it’s FUN. It also seems to be one of the career options that allows for dogs – there are at least 6 I’ve seen charging round the department.

And, wow, but I do love the sharpness of people’s minds round here. I found out last week there are regular lectures held by ‘touring’ academics which I can go to – last week’s one was on “Cultural Evolution”, my brain lapped it up like a thirsty sponge. JOY!

I am particularly excited by this next one; important words are highlighted:
“On Friday 25th November, Dr John Shivik of the US Department of Agriculture will be giving a talk about his research on coyote behaviour. John regularly hosts placements for our MSc Animal Behaviour students and we are very pleased to welcome him to the department: although the talk has obviously been arranged with the animal behaviour group in mind, anyone interested is very welcome to attend. The talk will be in room 237 at 1pm and sandwiches will be available.”

This type of thing is enough to make me want to sign up for a masters.. though it’s quite rare to actually come across someone who gets to wrangle research funding to study wild dogs.

The massage though has gone downhill a bit, I need to get the balance shifted back towards body-stuff. I crammed for a muscle test and got 98% but consequently haven’t actually practiced any massage for a while and so things feel a bit ropey. :/

Caffeine withdrawel update: currently averaging 0.5 cup a day
day 3 –
no caffeine at all, felt great in the morning, didn’t fancy a coffee all day, but looking very very tired and a bit out of it. What I noticed though was the tiredness felt more natural – ie I was simply exhausted, rather than on a come-down.
day 4-
today I woke up rather tired after another late night; had some green tea which perked me up. Feeling pretty good today, though I ended up eating two slices of birthday cake : amazing how much the sugar affected me, massive rush from that! Interesting. Made coffee for someone else and really enjoyed the smell of it.

right now I’m feeling rather content. The massive rush of the last month or so, with all it’s risks and new stuff has subsided, and I’m back to seeing how much more there is to do. Most notably laundry. 🙂


maybe coldturkey on the coffee wasnt such a good plan. An hour later, headache got much worse and nausea (of all things!) set in. I’m having some green tea now as a compromise.

The trouble is – I need to be functional for the next few days to get work done. So have to tackle this another way 🙂 If anyone wants to join me on this fantastic adventure of caffeine detox let me know!

20hours/48 hours are the worst, can be 7 days of major withdrawel. Or you can “fade out” slowly. Once you’re not drinking it anymore, takes about a month for your system to recover – and it is at THIS point people start saying how much better they feel for it. I want to know if it’s true! (and then maybe celebrate with a cappucino 🙂 )

Caffeine = Toxin

Around 10 years ago I progressed from tea drinking to my first cup of instant coffee. Choking it down with milk and sugar to “help wake me up for my GCSE revision.” And thus it started. I can’t remember a substantial period of time since then that I’ve been without caffeine. I even made my caffeine addiction into a light-hearted joke. In Japan I carried round emergency tea bags with me in my first aid kit, which wasn’t a joke because I needed to keep the caffeine levels up or the headaches would start…

I do love coffee, the aroma and taste of it. But in battling mad insomnia of earlier this year, I decided nothing was worth loosing sleep over, so reduced my intake down to one, sometimes two cups of tea a day. Note that even then, I wasn’t clean of the stuff. Still, this was fine until a guy selling gourmet coffee turned up at work…and I took great pleasure in the massive buzz I would get from the espresso shots :). In the last month, now I’ve started a part time job at the university, and am rushing around madly having an intense social life, caffeine levels have been creeping up insidiously back to higher and higher levels.

Last friday something happened to make me seriously re-evaluate my relationship with this toxin.

sensations in my liver : experience with craniosacral therapy


So I’m getting to know this guy at work who has quite a few (but not excessive) body piercings. And I’ve been flicking through a load of his piercing magazines (for drawing/anatomy study purposes 😉 — nice to see naked pictures of NORMAL proportioned people). And now, for some reason I’m starting to think they are really rather cute and I’d quite like to get some.

god knows where this came from! I’ll have to add it to my list with “tattoo”(s). Now I’ve manoeuvered myself out of IBM land and into work environments where I can wear pretty much what I like, then it’s becoming much easier to feel that I can modify my body if I want to. Having said that, if I want to be a presentable massage person then maybe not (indeed one of my concerns is that I just don’t look like a viable therapist, too short and scruffy)

Oddly, one of my ‘against’ reasons for body piercings comes from a comment made by the intense osteopath/healer bloke I encountered a few years back who had quite an impact on me and how I thought about health. He was incorporating the whole ‘energy meridian’ idea (which more and more I’m convinced has a physiological correlate) and said that people with loads of piercings really screwed around with this system, something to do with the metal perhaps? (and a lot of the time piercings are in the face, where there are a lot of energy meridians/accupressure points etc).

So it’s under my “needs further investigation” box for now..

she-wolf delusions

“The wolf was a constant and central figure in her fantasies; she felt its mesmerizing stare fastened onto her by day, its hot breath on her bare neck at night. Soon she began “feeling like an animal with claws.” For her, the message was clear-she was a wolf.”

“….Enrolled in an inpatient program, she received daily psychotherapy and was placed on medication. In the first three weeks she suffered relapses, during which she would rave:

“I am a wolf of the night, I am wolf woman of the day……. I have claws, teeth, fangs, hair………and anguish is my prey at night………powerless is my cause. I am what I am and will always roam the earth after death……….I will continue to search for perfection and salvation.”

Concurrently she experienced the urge to kill accompanied by a consuming sexual excitement….She now saw the head of a wolf, rather that her own face, when she gazed in the mirror…..After nine weeks of treatment, she was released from the hospital on a regimen of drugs designed to free her of her delusion.” from here


“Melt the bullet, blunt the knife, rot the cudgel, strike fear into man, beast and reptile so they may not seize the gray wolf, nor tear his from his warm hide. My word is firm, firmer than sleep or the strength of heroes.”


..and in the darkness of night, he found me and caught my soul with his black eyes. Generous Trickster, how you pierce through my own deceptions, reaching to my core with a perceptiveness I was blind to. You are not afraid but rather enthralled; you see not madness but grace and power. Guardian, protector, lover.. we fall into a world disjointed from the waking; and in this space a dark fire burns, obliterating and igniting. You are a beautiful mystery, that draws me in like a labyrinth.

A growing confidence (massage)

Getting good at massage, if not life, is all about confidence; this is one of the first things I heard. I had less than zero confidence when I began this course – my shaking fear and trepidation surprised me! But now the seed of confidence is slowly building. A problem early on was my light strokes were causing ticklish response – so I have been trying to become more definite, more sure, and using my whole body into the movements. It is interesting how this is already spreading outwards into the rest of my life – I am starting to move more freely all the time, putting motions and turns and low crouches into daily actions and it’s *fun*. I am now, 2 months into the 9 month course – and recently I’ve had several comments that my massage IS getting stronger, the strokes firmer and, even better than that, successfully reducing aches , pains and even migraine-symptons.

Confidence though is more than just my own sense of skill and competance. I’ve noticed that different people respond to massage to greater or lesser extents. Those who are comfortable with their bodies and comfortable with the idea of massage create a sense of “space” which draws me in to this wonderfully flowing, intuitive massage, building up my own confidence and generally encouraging. Other people are less sure about this and there is a almost tangible “block” between me and them, it is as though I can be overcome by their lack of confidence and feel my own draining away. It made me realise that a private satisfaction that I know what I’m doing is not enough – it needs to extend out to the other person to reassure and inspire them.

Last night I packed up my massage table and drove to an acquaintance’s house to give her a massage. Acquaintance is the right word, for she is “the partner of the guy who runs a local LARP group, which I long since stopped going to but vaguely stayed in touch”. I was very nervous about massaging her because I feel that ‘wall/block’ between us, of nerves or suspicion, or just a general caution or shyness perhaps. I found out later she had tried a couple of massages that were very painful (deep tissue, and hot stone) neither of which made he feel much better afterwards. I was also feeling a little distant and cold/sad yesterday so it took some effort to go there and set things up. But I’m so glad I did!

I had mentioned about my problems with lack of pressure, but she said it was fine, in fact that it was really good! She had hunched up shoulders which got really nice and red when I massaged them, and afterwards she commented on how relaxed her arms were, as though there were bricks holding them down. Apparently it was the most relaxing massage she’s had! The wonderful part was how relaxed and smily she looked afterwards, and I even got a hug before heading home. I find that giving massage feeds me, cheers me up and calms me down at the same time – (like stroking a pet perhaps?!)

On my way home I thought – already I am starting to get stronger, and show improvement. One of the teachers has commented on how she can’t see that fear of touch in me anymore, and that I am doing well 🙂 I can see how this is unfolding! Part and parcel of this is facing up to my own body structure and then learning how to use it – I’m small have weak wrists and tiny hands, but I can still massage. My only problem at the moment is trying to fit the home study and massage around my recently busy social life of total slack. 🙂 🙂 🙂

I still get an amazing sense of privilege to be able to touch people. I hope that never fades.

I’ve also started massaging any dogs that come my way, which is very amusing. At night I dream of wolves.