The familiar things I once knew are gone, obliterated by the pandemic’s holocaust of destruction and, as other things have emerged to take their place in a different way, it feels like the time of mourning for what I once loved being part of (pre-pandemic) is over. It’s time for me to let go and embrace a new beginning.

As if it could ever make up for the loss of being cut off from belonging in a community of real conversations with friends and the togetherness of family, the gap year (plus!) has encompassed many facetime chats with family and friends, discussions in online meetings and social groups clinging together for dear life – virtually.

Whilst these things have been welcome necessities to our survival during this strange time, I am looking forward to attending ‘live’ sessions again. Although the online resourcefulness of others at keeping the momentum of creative communication alive throughout the pandemic has been interesting and much needed, there’s really no substitute for the physical sensations that can be experienced when using our senses to their full extent in an offline natural environment with other people.

I admit I became somewhat accustomed to being along, even enjoying it some days and, with having no-one to please but myself in my choice of activities, I was quite prolific in regard to my writing projects. It felt safe wearing a mask to hide who I was from the world. But the time has come to be ‘out there’ again and to adjust to my new self in my new world.

Snowdrops in Scarborough

I did not expect to survive
the raw wind of the new world
when the shutters sprang open
and I stepped outside.
It was strange yet refreshing
that, at last, I could choose
where to go – who to see.
Even choose to be alone
if the need arose.
And, after so long locked away,
that thought surprised me most.
Maybe it was having the choice
that surprised me – and not having
it imposed upon me by another
who had suppressed my needs
for so long. Or was it that
I had forgotten what freedom felt like?
With patient belief I had waited,
like the snowdrops buried
in their own space underground,
until the time was right to push
through the damp earth,
slowly open myself up
and have a look around
at our brave new world.

© Julie Fairweather

My poem was inspired as a participant on an online therapeutic workshop led by Scarborough author and therapist Kate Evans, entitled ‘Nourishing the Creative Self: The Awakening’.

(phrase ‘the raw wind of the new world’ is borrowed from Louise Glück, Snowdrops)

Things will never be the same again in this war against a virus we cannot see or predict in order to control its many mutations. In the safety net of the miracle vaccine provision against the disease we have a good chance of survival. It feels like a good time to dispose of unwanted shackles that tie us to our old life in order to enjoy the new life that’s on the horizon for us… but not yet, not yet.

We need to rid ourselves of our old ways, our behaviours, our prejudices and put into practice the lessons we have learned about appreciating others, showing kindness and compassion, helping one another as we embark on this new life – as though we have been born again. We are all travellers on this road. Together.

On the Road

(C) Julie Fairweather

Please, slow down
and walk with me.
Be my companion
for a mile or two
and tell me your story,
for I have much to learn
and every pilgrim’s story
enhances my own.
Speak to me of yearnings
beyond people and things
and show me the leaning
of your heart like a compass
towards true north.
It does not matter
that we borrow
from different books
or use different words
to describe the journey.
We are on the same path
whatever shoes we wear.

© Joy Cowley, Psalms for the Road, Pleroma Press NZ

In my previous post, Heavy Light, I ‘came out’ as being in life-long recovery of an ongoing mental illness which, with hindsight, was both a brave and foolish thing to do. Brave because I thought it may help others to come out and seek the help they needed at the same time as setting me free to be ‘me’; foolish because, for all the talk of us being in this together, there is still so much stigma around the subject. Some people do tend to treat me as if I’m this fragile thing that will break if they don’t try and fix me by fussing around me as though I am unable to think or do anything for myself. The thing is. The thing is. What is the thing? The thing is that it’s a tough call knowing how to ‘be’ for both parties.

In public I have decided to keep wearing my mask to protect myself from this awkwardness and, in private, I spend time contemplating the comfort the following poem offers me.

Let Your God Love You

Be silent.
Be still.
Before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be Silent.
Be Still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Let your God –
Love you.

© Edwina Gately

Whilst I may have come out as a poet, a Christian and a sufferer of mental illness, I am not ‘out and proud’ of the latter… yet.

With love for the journey,


Skimming the surface of life with poetic journaling


On Sunday, 13th June, I attended a Books by the Beach Festival Event at the YMCA Theatre, Scarborough to hear Horatio Clare discussing his brave memoir about mental illness ‘Heavy Light’. The former Head of BBC Radio, Helen Boaden (the Festival’s Patriot) led the discussion and it was interesting that the repertoire and mutual respect between the two was tangible. They were relaxed in each other’s company and the audience warmed to the speakers almost immediately and felt very much part of the story Horatio had to tell.

Well, at least I did.

Horatio is a well-known travel writer and, diagnosed with bi-polar, this personal memoir tells of his journey through madness, mania and healing in a deeply moving and powerful narrative. Following readers’ reactions to his book, he is determined to campaign towards improved care for mental health patients through Open Dialogue.

‘Open Dialogue is a model of mental health care which involves a consistent family and social network approach where all treatment is carried out via whole system/network meetings, which always include the patient.’

‘But the star by which it steers is, in the end and above all, love.’ (Robert Macfarlane’s Review of Heavy Light by Horatio Clare).

Memoir/Mental Health ISBN 978-1-784-7435-9. Read Horatio’s own words about the story of his journey into mental breakdown, as he talks to Rory Sullivan.

On a personal note, I could relate to much of what Horatio discussed at the event on the subject of mental illness due to my family’s background of mental health issues and, not least, my mother’s struggles with the periodical ‘treatments’ of electric shock therapy in the late 1960s when I was in my early to mid teens. Each time she returned home from a session there would be part of her missing because the treatment was used to block out that part of her brain where her traumatic memories were preventing her becoming well. (It didn’t work by the way.)

During the long period of my mother’s incapacity, it fell on myself and my younger sister to take care of the household chores of cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking and caring for our younger siblings whilst my step-father worked long hours. We simply accepted it as being ‘normal’ and thought it was how every family lived. My ongoing memoir-in-very-long-progress addresses this to some extent throughout its storyline.

Last June, I had the misfortune of suffering a breakdown into psychosis with paranoia which, fortunately, became so evident that my husband intervened and contacted my GP for a consultation where I was able to receive the immediate help I needed. Following on from this initial treatment, various professionals enabled me to take the necessary steps towards recovery from what had triggered the episode. The experience was quite frightening because of the speed in which the illness took over my mind and debilitated me in every aspect of my life, both physically and mentally. At the forefront of my irrational thinking was the fact that I have a strong family history of Schizophrenia and I felt that’s where I was headed.

Thankfully, it was not as serious as that (though it was serious enough) and I recovered gradually to the place I’m at now through the invaluable support of temporary medication, professionals, a partner who loves me and a few close family members and friends.

I know this will continue to be a battle for me throughout my life as I have been dogged by depressive episodes since my teens, though I do manage those quite well (and without medication) through closing myself off from the world until it passes with the help of my journal writing practice. This technique did not work for the psychosis with paranoia but that’s how it was. My mind and body can now recognize the signs and symptoms when changes in my behaviour are leading me into a psychotic episode and I am more aware of these and therefore able to prevent it building up to the point of no return through the practice of various techniques I learnt during my recovery.

I agree with the statement by Robert Macfarlane about love being the steering star to recovery and feel this also applies to my experience because without the love of my husband, family and close friends, I would not have made it back.

When I was well enough, I revived several activities I had been a part of prior to my ‘absence’ and wrote the following short piece. It was in response to a call-out by the Scarborough Writers’ Circle (where I am a member) about thought-provoking shortages during the pandemic. It barely skims the surface of my gratitude.



Life is short. It’s a fact. A fact that dominates my thoughts on a regular basis. Thus, I squeeze every last drop out of myself each day to achieve my goals.

That was until I suffered a psychotic breakdown towards the end of June (2020).

Almost instantly, the things that I felt needed completing each day were not important. All I could focus on was finding my way back to becoming ‘me’ again.

My recovery process helped me to appreciate and respect time by spending it wisely, being present in each moment, noticing the little things, enjoying the beauty of the world around me. Simply being still filled me, and keeps on filling me, with the joy of deep peace.

Being completely incapacitated for eight weeks enabled me to discover who I really am… and recognise who my true friends are.

They are the people in my life who offered a listening ear, posted encouraging notes through my door, made phone calls to check how I was, accompanied me on short walks as I began to find my feet again… and those who respected my request for privacy to allow me the space and time I needed to recover.

With these people in my life I have everything I need to survive.

I still cannot bring myself to talk or write directly about what happened to me though I have scattered several incidents from the experience within various short stories. I am currently collating these fanciful tales into a fictional collection that alludes to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland with all its connotations regarding mental health, which I am hoping to publish by the end of July.

It is important that anyone suffering symptoms of any form of mental illness seeks help and support from professionals. For me, where I’m at right now, writing about the experience is on a par with talking about it and I do feel a little lighter for having shared this blog today.

Thank you for listening.

With love for the journey,


Skimming the surface of life with poetic journaling


Being in the moment and noticing the small things helps us to focus on the ‘now’ and allows peaceful rest to enter into our mind, body and soul. It is impossible to be anxious about other things when you are truly focussed on the ‘now’.

This mindfulness attitude has been of significant value to me personally during the ongoing journey through the 2020/21 Corona Virus pandemic (endemic). As per the NHS mental health tips website, ‘Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental well-being.’

It’s simply about using your senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) to connect to the present moment to reveal your inner feelings by noticing the world around you and I have used this practice for many years to inform my writing by capturing precious moments in poetic form as the following (recycled) reflection shows.

I hope you find it useful.

Skimming the Surface

Whilst ambling round Peasholme Island in Scarborough recently, I came across a vast patch of daisies. I just couldn’t resist taking off my shoes and stepping onto the lawn of soft, white flowers. I scribbled a sentence or two in my notebook to describe the feeling. Later, I used this as an aide-memoire to stimulate my memory in order to communicate the experience through that most wonderful of emotional outlets; creative writing.

I’m walking barefoot
on a carpet of daisies
tickling at my toes.

photo (C) Ulrike Leone.pixabay.com)

Inspiration for writing is all around us. By simply being ‘in the moment’, in the here and the now, and taking notice of something to focus on and connect with through our senses, we can capture that moment in words, if we so chose, and create an image that can stimulate an emotional response in others. With this in mind, it is necessary to have a notebook and pen or pencil always to hand because writers never know when they will see, hear, touch, taste or smell that breathless moment.

For me, the initial inspiration gleaned from the single moment is the easy part. Every writer will know that one of the more difficult aspects of writing is to craft and edit the words into a final polished piece that’s fit for purpose – whatever that purpose is. It could be for your own pleasure that you write, or to share your words with close friends and family. Maybe you like to perform at public readings or within a writers’ group. You may want to create a book you can publish yourself – you could even be fortunate enough to have it accepted by a publisher, if that is your aim.

Anything is possible. Each writer makes his or her own choice for the final outcome of their writing. What begins as a single moment of observation can grow into something quite spectacular by the time it completes its journey. Yet, if the writer chooses, it can simply remain as it is – a single moment of time captured in a *haiku variant to keep as a treasured memory.

For example:

Observing a peacock opening its feathers…

Display of splendour:
A peacock spreads its plumage;
All eyes are on you.

Or surfing at South Bay, Scarborough…

photo (C) pinterest.com/horses-in-the-surf/

Waves catch at our breath
as we ride the white horses;
like angels falling.

I like to collect and collate breath-taking moments and have created a keepsake book of haiku memories for myself and my family, that I continue to add to. Here are several special moments that have evoked an emotional response from me through stimulating my senses.

Wild tormented winds
scatter autumn leaves through streets
bereft of people.

Monday morning rain
and the birds are still singing:
shining example.

Frosty fingertips
scraping at the snow-flaked earth:
finding a new path.

A whole hazelnut
in a milk chocolate truffle;
a taste of heaven

Indian spices
permeating fasting days;
feeding on hunger.

I sometimes expand a haiku to recycle it as a recollected memory as I did with the one below:

A red carnation
embedded within a rock;
abandoned by love.

Photo (C) Julie fairweather taken at Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Taken by Surprise

Sometimes, when I’m deep in thought and you speak to me sharp-tongued, I become trapped inside a memory, because your lips have pierced an emotion from my past. Then, when the mood slips back into the present moment, I can fall apart so easily.

This morning, for instance, we were walking along the beach, trailing through the debris that the tide had left behind, when I came across a red carnation that had embedded itself within a rock. The sight of it made me hunger for the time when our love was new, and I wondered how long it would take me to stop counting the cost of that love.

You snapped at me to ‘get a move on’, your hurried tone lashing at my face… and the sting of it is with me still.


It is interesting and exciting that, as writers, the pure joy of experiencing a breath-taking moment can inspire us to extend that moment’s existence through our words. You too may notice, in the ordinariness of your extra-ordinary life, the moments that take your breath away and you may be inspired to write about them. It’s like free-falling into a pool and not knowing how far your ripples are going to spread.

Crafting moments into a haiku is the perfect way to experiment with their impression on me as a writer, though I do not stick rigidly to the rules of the form when recording my thoughts, nor do I lay down a law that these thoughts should remain within that particular form of expression. Allowing this freedom tends to encourage spontaneity to my response.

I embrace opportunities to extend a haiku if the initial image branches out into new thoughts. I write these thoughts down, allowing them to flourish within my subconscious by putting the writing away for several days. This stretches the writing experience and enables its emotional potential to be utilised within a different form.

For example, the haiku regarding homelessness shown below, came together with the derivative form; a sort of expanded haiku, shown below it, to make a longer poem about regret which, later still, evolved as a ten minute sketch about hope. The sketch was performed at Oxfam’s ‘Walking the Breadline’ project at Scarborough Library in 2014, which was an unexpected and surprising outcome stemming from two single moments tucked away in my notebook.

Photo (C) Julie Fairweather, taken at Robin Hood’s Bay

The hermit crab crawls
inside someone else’s shell;
claiming its new home.

He could starve today.
will you toss your change into his bucket
or turn your face away.

A fitting tribute perhaps to the power of poetry in whatever form it may take.

With love for the journey,


* Haiku: a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world. For more information on variants of the haiku form (which incorporates this Inspiring Moments article) read ‘The Lost Haiku’ published in Plotting Shed by Bryn Stowe Publishing.

For more inspiration about being in the moment check out several members of the public’s breath-taking moments in my presentation ‘Creative Breathing in the Community’ here.

A good resource for continuing in this vein by noticing ‘small stones’ can be found here.

Mindfulness for good mental health can be found here.

Skimming the surface of life with poetic journaling

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