Be Part Of Autumn – Let Your Senses Sing

Do you feel part of nature? Does it resonate in your very soul?
If you know me, you’ll know it does.
Nature – ocean, animals, trees, mountains, lakes, forests, ice,
flowers, and Mother Earth are all an intrinsic part of my life –
ingrained in me, my writing, my pictures, and in my soul.

Be Part of Autumn - Let Your Senses Sing - The Last Krystallos

It’s October, my favourite month and season, and this month offers some of my favourite things. The turning leaves on oak trees, acorns and acorn cups scattered across the forest floor, horse chestnuts and conkers, and kicking through rustling autumn leaves. Squirrels scamper up the trees, and gaze down at me with beady black eyes as I collect rogue acorns.

Let’s appreciate the beauty of the season and the little gifts it gives.

Squirrels - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

“I held a blue flower in my hand, probably a wild aster,
wondering what its name was,
and then thought that human names for natural things are superfluous.
Nature herself does not name them.
The important thing is to know this flower, look at its color
until the blends becomes as real as a keynote of music.
Look at the exquisite yellow flowerettes at the center,
become very small with them.
Be the flower, be the trees, the blowing grasses.
Fly with the birds, jump with a squirrel!”
– Sally Carrighar

Acorns and Oak Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, be part of autumn. Scamper with squirrels, follow the fox, kick fallen leaves, stamp in seasonal puddles, wander through forests as leaves turn red, orange, brown, bronze, and gold, and don your gloves to climb mountains and inhale clean air. 

Look down to investigate toadstools, gaze at tiny autumn flowers, and look up to the sky above and watch buzzards soar. Feel the breeze caress your neck, shiver and wrap a warm scarf about your neck, and let the sun kiss your cheeks. Touch silky petals, crumble used up leaves between your fingers, and stroke rough bark and soft moss. Let the fragrance of autumn fill your senses, the musty earthy scent of forests, and the crisp freshness of ocean air. Listen to the crunch as you stomp through the woods, and hear the whispering wind, and listen for the scamper of tiny woodland feet.

Horse Chestnuts - Conkers - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Let autumn embrace you with all it has to offer.

“Nature is our friend – trees, squirrels, grass, fields, meadows, oceans – without people.
Hike. Walk. Stroll. Bike. Swim. Be in a still place and feel eternity.
Have a great time. Just feel it.”
– Frederick Lenz

Autumn Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do your senses love autumn?

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Wild Harbour – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Wild HarbourHe waxes and wanes like the moon – bursting with passion and brim-full with deep satisfaction, and then lost in absence and lonely apathy.

I ride the waves of his storm.

The minute his lips touch mine I sink into his depths, drowning in tides of desire and climbing to heights I’ve never known. He and his touch spark fireworks and constellations shimmer through my universe. My night sky lights up with the fullness of an October Hunter’s moon and I relish every moment he stays. He is my sun and my moon and every star in my cosmos.

My heart aches when he leaves, when he shifts from my orbit. He remains, connected with my physical world, but lost to me as the moon is absent to your touch within a puddle. I know it’s not his love that wanes, but his island inhabits a remoteness that even I cannot reach. I cannot sail its waters and I cannot rescue him from his solitary soul.

When he is only a reflection of himself I keep him safe wrapped within the cocoon of my heart. When his light fades I keep a burning coal in my belly. When he weeps and collapses, like a neutron star, I remain at his side to fuel his escape from the black hole, and keep him tethered to life.

Then, as I wait, his dark moon catches a spark, a shooting star, and its tail threads back through our course. And, in time, he returns, hungry and starved and eager. And I greet him with love and shelter, and allow him time to regain his glow.

Our eternal round will never fail, my harbour will encircle, and my heart will embrace, through the good and the bad, the high and the low, the waxing and waning. It will always go on, because that’s what you do when you love someone encased within bipolar extremes.

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Just loved this picture for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, though she couldn’t find anyone to attribute it to, but I had to write for it.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Light Up Your Life – Be a Star

How do we deal with darkness and light in our lives?

Light Up Your Life - Be a Star - The Last Krystallos

Terry Pratchett in Reaper Man wrote: ‘Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.’

…but I agree with Robert D. Hales that ‘Light dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness is vanquished and must depart. More importantly, darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is diminished or departs.’

Moreover, Teal Swan tells us: ‘There is no source of darkness in this universe. There is only the presence of light and the absence of light. Darkness does not exist; it only appears to exist. In truth, it is only the absence of light.’

Both Light and Dark - J. K. Rowling - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

However you choose to deal with the two elements, they will touch your life. The old Indian legend: There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is: which wolf wins? The one you feed. Offers the best insight into how we should deal with them.

I often feel, though, that darkness has been given a bad narrative, I like the dark. I love winter and its cosy early nights, I love being out beneath the stars, and sliding beneath a warm duvet to sleep in the pitch black is heavenly. I’m more comfortable with dark colours, earthy tones, and have a black cat. The dark has its place, without it our internal clocks would go crazy, and so would we!

We need the dark to appreciate the light. Like all opposites, without it life would be dull and unrewarding. Even if we use symbolic darkness, we still need sadness, despair, pain, and trials to know and love happiness, joy, good health, and fulfilment.

Stars can't shine without darkness - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And after all: Stars can’t shine without darkness…

We’ve all been through dark times and, generally, come out the other side better people. The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is most welcome. Darkness gives us the opportunity to grasp light and embrace it. Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness…’ Light your candle and let your light shine.

I’ve written before on who we are, and we’re all a mixture of light and dark, but it would be good to allow our sparkle to shine. We can be positive, happy, and bright, and shine like stars.

Dance until the stars fall from the sky and fill your hair with sparkle and light - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We are an intrinsic part of this universe, whether you feel it spiritually or physically. In Cosmos, Carl Sagan tells us: ‘The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.’ We are made with the same atoms, molecules, and particles as stars… Think about that for a moment. In fact, this quote from sci-fi writer Doris Lessing enchants me: ‘We are all creatures of the stars and their forces, they make us, we make them, we are part of a dance from which we by no means and not ever may consider ourselves separate.’  So, let’s shine like them.

How do you see yourself? Are you made from the same stuff as stars? Whether you believe in Deity, Humanism, Atheism, or you are just Agnostic, DNA and the science of genetics is undeniable. However we dress it up we are created, made, formed with interstellar dust!

And whenever I talk about dust I am pulled right back into Lyra’s world in Philip Pullman’s: His Dark Materials… I won’t give away what Dust is, but it is integral to consciousness. Go read the books…

Light is a fluid of sunbeams - At-Tunikhi - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, light and dark, particles, DNA, and dust, interstellar stardust, are part of us. When we feel dark, or lost in the shadows, we can light the way. Light lives within us, and we can emit it without even thinking. Imagine what we can do if we choose to? ‘To be a star you must follow your own light, follow your own path, and never fear the darkness for that is when the stars shine their brightest.’

Shinesparkle, glitter, effervesce, shimmer, and glow with the light that lives within you.

Light replaces darkness - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Find your path, join your constellation, follow your dreams…
Know that when darkness falls it will always be replaced by light.

‘Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.’
– Sarah Williams, Twilight Hours: A Legacy of Verse

Perpetual Repercussion – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Perpetual Reprcussion - Photograph - Sarolta Ban

Photograph by Sarolta Ban

Perpetual repercussion – words resonate. Seasons lost – time too late. Arctic perma – wayward lea. Dig for seed – find the key.

I’d not taken the riddle literally, so my surprise at discovering the huge protrusion in the sand is very real.

Tolkien snuffles at its base, his nose flaring and his whine rising amid a low growl, and I tentatively hold my hand to the square and my team remains silent behind me. Only Tolly’s snorts and the thwack of canvas sails flapping in the wind make a sound.

I stare at the metal post, the cold biting through my clothes, and call Tolly back. He barks at it one last time and returns to my side. Through my blurry lenses, the shaft rises at an angel out of the ground with notches protruding like the bit of a key. I rub my goggles, but only smear the dirt and scratch the surface glass even more.

My boots crunch as I move closer, the dry stone and sand giving way beneath my soles. I tug the scarf from my throat, loosening the itchy material away from my beard and chapped lips then lift my goggles. I chuckle. It isn’t a key, not a literal key, but the leaning post does offer answers.

We’d spent months traversing the desert, crossing the ocean, and reaching the island called Spitzbergen, at least we hoped that’s where we were. The world had changed; its continents and islands had altered beyond recognition in many cases. How could we ever be sure where we were?

But Tolly jigs at my side, his muscles taut with pent up excitement, and it’s contagious. I reach up and brush the dust from the broken metal sign. I smile, as I can’t read the words etched into the steel, and Nottson approaches from behind to clean and decipher the runes. Moments later his laughter rings out on the breeze. “Your riddle speaks true.” He beckons the rest of the team. “Perpetual is clear, Repercussion half lost, but the words are true. It is here. We are here.” His arms swing wide and a cheer erupts from the men and women at my rear.

We dig – unearthing the base of the signpost and nothing more. Frustration fills our hearts, our souls, and our exhausted bodies, but Tolly insists and alongside the faithful dog, we keep excavating.

It takes days, weeks, but Tolly has never let us down and finally, as the arctic sun begins to drop in the sky Tolly’s bark echoes and his claws ring out – on glass, or metal, or?

We dig, and clean, and polish, and then we step back with tears in our eyes. Mirrors, steel, and prisms, preserved beneath the sand, gleam beneath our feet. Dyveke Sanne’s ancient work glistens once more, reflecting the Svalbard polar light in tones of green, and blue, and white.

Finally, we have the key within our grasp. Tolly whirls and barks and feeds our anticipation. The world is waiting, tired and weary, and hungry, and we are just moments from the vault, just moments from saving humankind.

Perpetual Repercussion…life can start again.

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I was inspired by the existence of the Global Seed Vault and Dyveke Sanne‘s art Perpetual Repercussion on the roof and entrance to the facility in Svalbard, Norway. In my story the world has suffered great catastrophe and the hunt for the seed bank underway… See more stories at Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Understanding Depression – The Truths and Myths

Depression does not discriminate. Depression is not a choice.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are becoming
much better understood, but we still need to be clearer.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos

Depression can hit anyone – it does not discriminate. Depression ignores your gender, race, age, and any other excuse people can throw at it. It doesn’t matter your financial situation, or your degree of education, or your place in this world. It doesn’t care if you’re fulfilled, or happy, or desperate and suicidal. It does not discriminate.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Weeping Geranium

© Lisa Shambrook

Types of depression

There are several types of depression including – Clinical DepressionPost-natal DepressionBi-polar Disorder (Manic Depression)SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)GriefSituational Depression – and they range from mild, moderate, to severe.

The NHS website explains that ‘There’s no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.’ Depression can be caused by circumstance, events, or medical conditions, or family history, or through chemical imbalances.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Pensive Raven Cat

© Lisa Shambrook

Situational depression is perhaps the easiest (a misnomer if there ever was one, no depression is easy) to deal with as its root cause trauma, trigger, or event, can often be located and treated or understood, the same could be said for depression triggered by grief. A trauma or loss often brings on acute sadness and depression, which may need treating medically or psychologically, but is a condition that can be worked through and hopefully overcome with time.

Other types of depression are harder and maybe impossible to ‘cure’.

Yet, there are still people who claim you can change your life, become more positive, appreciate your blessings, and then you can beat your depression. Maybe, who knows, for some people with situational depression, maybe they can overcome and ride out the bad times, maybe they can ‘pull themselves together’ (I hate that term), maybe they can recognise and make changes in their life and beat depression. Maybe, but also, maybe not.

I’ll add a caveat here: depression (and mental illness as a whole) is not ‘one size fits all’. My experience will be different from yours, and where some people may find depression a blip in their lives, something to overcome, many don’t and will fight it their entire lives.

We must be non-judgmental, compassionate, and understanding in our dealings with those who live with depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Within the Ocean Cave

© Bekah Shambrook

How Depression is treated

Depression is treated in many ways. Mild depression can be treated with a ‘wait and see’ approach, exercise helps ease depression – and I can bear witness to that – as can diet, psychotherapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and counselling. More serious depression needs a stronger approach. All of the above can help, talking and counselling can be a godsend, but medication can also be necessary. Antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain, if these chemicals are out of balance they can affect many aspects of your body and mind, including mood. There are several types of antidepressants, and the most popular of these SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) increase the levels of the chemical messenger in the brain – serotonin. Serotonin is an amino acid that is found in food, and it helps run much of your body, and deficiency can cause depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Sertraline-antidepressant

© Lisa Shambrook

I have written about Antidepressants and my history, and about Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants, but I still get people telling me that I ought to be more positive, or count my blessings, or that I’m lucky to have everything I do, or that others would be happy with a tiny bit of what I have in my life…

There are a multitude of posts and lists out there online that list the things no one should ever say – and what they should say – to someone living with depression – but people still say them! Get over it, they say, choose to be happy, count your blessings, there’s always someone worse off than you, don’t be selfish, it’s all in your mind (actually, yes, it is – but it’s physiological and psychological, not made-up), try to be happy… If it was as easy as that we wouldn’t be suffering with depression.

Depression is not a choice. Being sad can be a choice, making changes that help you get over problems in your life is a choice, being positive is a choice, but being depressed is not a choice.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Clifftop

© Lisa Shambrook

I am a happy person, I’m a positive person, but I also have clinical depression and have had it since I was fourteen-years-old. I was diagnosed at eighteen, and have lived with it ever since. I have taken courses of antidepressants, had counselling, had psychiatric help, seen a psychologist, seen a therapist, used exercise, and I still live with depression.

Thirteen months ago I stood on a bridge at 2am. Life seemed too much. I was overwhelmed. Depression drowned me. I got help and have had counselling and antidepressants since. None of that, or of my history of depression, panic, and anxiety, changes the fact that my life is fulfilling, I adore my husband and children, I love who I am. I have self-harmed since I was twelve-years-old (when I didn’t even know what self-harm was), but that doesn’t change that I know I’m blessed, that I’m happy with my talents, and I love my life.

I know that depression will haunt me throughout my life, but I will manage it. Antidepressants will ‘fix me’ short term, until the chemicals in my brain misalign once more. I will make use of the services available to me, which are getting better.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Steel Rainbow Sky

© Lisa Shambrook

But the point of this post is to help understanding and appreciation of what depression truly means.

Depression is not a choice, and it does not discriminate.
It is a condition that those who live with will manage to the best of their ability.
We deserve support and compassion, be the person who seeks to understand.  

Tomorrow, October 5th, is the National Depression Screening Day in the US,
and October 10th is World Mental Health Day… please show your support…

Loving Autumn…

Autumn is the season that inspires me a season of falling autumn leaves, woollies, hats and gloves, boots, hot chocolate and autumn tone jewellery, cosy cats, apples, acorns, conkers, Halloween and pumpkins, candles, toadstools, and autumn colours of bronze, brown, red, amber, yellow, silver, and gold. 

Loving Autumn - The Last Krystallos

What do you love about Autumn?

Loving Autumn - Yellow Leaves Acorns - The Last Krystallos

Yellow Leaves – Oak and Acorn and Acer © Lisa Shambrook

The leaves fall patiently, Nothing remembers or grieves,
the river takes to the sea, the yellow drift of leaves.
– Sara Teasdale

Loving Autumn - Winter Woollies Boots - The Last Krystallos

Woollies and Sweaters and Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Fallen leaves are autumn’s equivalent to snow – they bring out the child in you. 
– Anon

Loving Autumn - Hot Chocolate Jewellery - The Last Krystallos

Hot Chocolate and Autumn Jewels © Lisa Shambrook

The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown;
the berry’s cheek is plumper, the rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf, the field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned, I’ll put a trinket on.
– Emily Dickinson (Nature 27 – Autumn)

Loving Autumn - Cosy Cats - The Last Krystallos

Cosy Cats © Lisa Shambrook

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
– George Eliot

Loving Autumn - Fruits Acorns Conkers Apples - The Last Krystallos

Apples – Acorns – Conkers © Lisa Shambrook

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.
– Eric Sloan

Loving Autumn - Halloween Candles Colours - The Last Krystallos

Halloween – Candles – Autumn Colours © Lisa Shambrook

Colors burst in wild explosions, fiery, flaming shades of fall.
All in accord with my pounding heart, behold the autumn-weaver,
in bronze and yellow dying. Colors unfold into dreams,
in hordes of a thousand and one.
The bleeding, unwearing their masks to the last notes of summer.
Their flutes and horns in nightly swarming. Colors burst within.
Spare me those unending fires, bestowed upon the flaming shades of fall…
– Dark Tranquility (With the Flaming Shades of Fall)

Loving - Autumn Toadstools - The Last Krystallos

Toadstools © Lisa Shambrook

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus

What are you loving this autumn?

Narberth Book Fair 2017 – Come and Find Your New Book

Saturday 23rd September 2017 come to the Narberth Book Fair
and find inspiration, authors, and books – lots and lots of books!

Book Fair Special Offer Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Narberth Book Fair 2017I will be part of this lovely Book Fair, which began some years ago as part of the Tenby Arts Festival. The fair has outgrown its home and we can now be found at the Queen’s Hall, 44 High Street, Narberth, SA67 7AS, and you can also visit the Narberth Food Festival on the same weekend, what could be better? Great books and delicious food all in one place!

You will find many authors and their books from 10am to 4pm, and attend a variety of talks and book readings all FREEand with only 13 weeks ‘til Christmas this is your ideal time to start shopping for that bookworm in your life, or just treat yourself!

I will be signing and selling copies of the Hope Within Novels, and my new release this year A Symphony of Dragons, a collection of dragon themed short tales.

The_Hope_Within_novels_Lisa-Shambrook-Low-Res-205kb Book covers x3

The Hope Within novels © Lisa Shambrook

And to make it even better I have a fantastic SPECIAL OFFER for buyers at the Book FairWhen you buy A Symphony of Dragons you will also get a FREE copy of Beneath the Rainbow.

Book Fair Special Offer Today Symphony and Rainbow adI will also be selling items from Amaranth Alchemy perfect book related Stocking Fillers…

All my books cost £5 each at Book Fairs which is a significant discount on Paperback prices online or in stores…and I’d love to see you there!

Check out my Narberth Book Fair Author Page and read an interview with me…

A Symphony of Dragons April 2017

Asher – BHC Press – A Symphony of Dragons

“A Symphony of Dragons is a book of short stories…each one about a dragon, or dragons. The lyrical, descriptive writing conveys both beauty and fear… The author will surprise you with her imagination and intricate detail.”
A Symphony of Dragons review on Amazon ~ Penny

“I was completely caught off guard by this breathtaking story. It is sweet, touching, uplifting, and frankly just beautiful.”
Beneath the Rainbow review
on Amazon ~ Sophie Moss, award-winning author of ‘The Selkie Spell’

“Highly recommend this beautifully woven story! I found myself immersed in this book, wanting to turn the page to find out what happened next!”
Beneath the Old Oak review
on Amazon ~ Bunnygirl

​“…I have compared it to Mitch Albom because this feels like the story he didn’t get around to writing yet. A really wonderful tale. Don’t miss out on this one.”
Beneath the Distant Star review
on Amazon ~ Mr Dead

Book Fairs coming up at which I will be attending…

Carmarthenshire Carmarthen Library Book Fair – Sat 21st October

Carmarthen Book Fair, St Peter’s Civic Hall – Sat 11th November

Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair – Sat 9th December

See you in Narberth!

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Scottish Highlands

So, this is the – very long – post that will entice you to the Scottish Highlands
– which as you saw last week, just became my default favourite place!

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Scottish Highlands - The Last Krystallos

We split the twelve hour journey of just over 600 miles over two days, staying in Moffat, just over the border, at a lovely B&B before traveling up to the north coast. Sat Nav on our upgraded hired Toyota Land Cruiser decided she wanted to take the long way round on the second day – had enough of corporate driving and she wanted to see the north country as much as we did! So instead of driving up through Stirling, we found ourselves circumnavigating Glasgow and heading up to Loch Lomond, and why not? The loch is huge and it’s where we began really noticing the mountains…

Beinn Dorain - The Last Krystallos

Beinn Dorain – © Lisa Shambrook

We rounded a bend on the road leading towards the Bridge of Orchy and had to stop to take in Beinn Dorain as cloud topped it like an unseasonal snow cap! Then the mountains at the western end of the Grampians just kept coming and we kept stopping to take photos – always remember to add time to your expected arrival due to stopping for photos – because you will… Then Buachaille Etive Mor towered above us like a craggy volcano and it kept on through Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

Ben Loyal - Buachaille Etive Mor - Beinn Dorain - Ben Nevis - Ridge in Skye - The Last Krystallos

Ben Loyal – Buachaille Etive Mor – Beinn Dorain – Ben Nevis – Ridge in Skye – © Lisa Shambrook

We’d planned to stop for lunch at Castle Urquhart by Loch Ness, but instead we had lunch at Fort William, and by the time we reached the castle it was overcrowded to the point of us only needing a quick photo op in the car park before moving on.

Ben Nevis - A9 - Road to Tongue - The Last Krystallos

Ben Nevis – A9 – Road to Tongue – The Last Krystallos – © Lisa Shambrook

We crossed the bridge at Inverness and moved up into the Highlands. Lochs glistened, swathes of purple heather covered the hillsides, the sun disappeared behind clouds and the mountains hid, then they towered again as the mist evaporated. Glens and forests carpeted with the most luscious green had rivers and waterfalls, and finally as we drove up the single track road for an hour to Coldbackie, the sun began to set behind the rugged mountains of the Sutherland range, with Ben Loyal on the horizon and lochs of gold glowing in the sun’s last fiery rays beside us. It was enchanting.

We woke up the next morning with a view to die for…

Coldbackie Morning View - The Last Krystallos

Coldbackie – © Lisa Shambrook

We took the Pentland Ferry on a wildlife cruise at John O’Groats, hoping to see seals, puffins and other advertised wildlife, we saw seagulls, lots of gulls, and scarfies, and even a stray jellyfish, but not much else. The ferry did take us around Duncansby Head and the stacks and red sandstone cliffs are stunning. And we got that obligatory photo of the family standing beneath the signpost at John O’Groats just like we did at Land’s End seventeen years ago!

Duncansby Stacks - John O'Groats - The Last Krystallos

Duncansby Stacks – John O’Groats – © Lisa Shambrook

Eilean Donan Castle has all the beauty and excitement of a fairy-tale as you approach and by all means go and take photos of the glorious building on the edge of the loch at Dornie, but we felt cheated by the tourist trap the castle has become. There are no photos of the interior of Eilean Donan, because the current owners don’t allow it, and you are herded in like cattle, as the castle attempts to make as much cash as it can. Don’t get me wrong, the castle and interior is beautiful, but you are only allowed to see the displayed rooms, so many are shut off, as are the buildings surrounding the main hall and castle. I was hoping for Viking and Medieval history, but only got the last century, and the current owner’s family pictures are, strangely, dotted all through the nineteenth and twentieth century rooms, moving you awkwardly out of the period they’re exhibiting. Go and take photos, but save your money and find another castle to go inside!

Eilean Donan Castle - The Last Krystallos

Eilean Donan Castle – © Lisa Shambrook

Then we ventured on to the Isle of Skye. The Fairy Pools have been on my bucket list for years – but I was so disappointed to find that due to the intense rain that night, the river you have to cross to get to the Fairy Pools was overflowing, and without proper waterproofs we’d have had soaked feet/shoes all day, and possibly all holiday. Many, many visitors that day traipsed down to the river and had to turn around unable to cross it, though it couldn’t have been more than five feet across. There was a lot of disappointment in the air, and it wouldn’t have cost much to make the stepping stones bigger, or put in a small wooden bridge to allow access. The Fairy Pools are still on my bucket list and I’ll make it another year.

Skye Ridge - Fairy Pools - Eilean Donan - Heather - Fairy Pools - Kilt Rock Waterfall - The Last Krystallos

Skye Ridge – Fairy Pools – Eilean Donan – Heather – Fairy Pools – Kilt Rock Waterfall -© Lisa Shambrook

We did see the Old Man of Storr, jutting out rock formations, and then Mealt Waterfall with Kilt Rock in the background, and the waterfall made my day!

When we finally wandered down to Coldbackie beach, more of a climb actually, we were met with the most gorgeous little bay. White sand ran from the dunes to the sparkling water, and what water! It merged from every green to every blue you could imagine…from crystal white Quartz froth, to pale Amazonite, and Adventurine, then to Turquoise, and rich Apatite blue, before darkening to the tone of Sodalite. An ocean of jewels!
Quartzite and Pyrite glittered in the rocks and I quickly became a beachcomber!

Coldbackie - The Last Krystallos

Coldbackie – © Lisa Shambrook

We headed west to Durness and visited Balnakeil Craft Village, then walked down to Smoo Cave. In Smoo Cave you can pop in and see a waterfall for free, or wait for a short tour from local geologists and diggers. Write your name on the board and then they’ll help you board a small dinghy and move you across the pool inside the cave to see the waterfall close up. Then you get a short tour of the caves and a keen geologist will tell you all about the area and the current dig! It was up close and personal and well worth a fiver each for something very different.

Smoo Cave Waterfall - The Last Krystallos

Smoo Cave Waterfall – © Lisa Shambrook

Achmelvich beach was recommended to us, Evan – this one was for you – and it didn’t disappoint. Like Coldbackie, white sand spread at your feet and clear blue/green water lapped at the shore. We sat up on the rocks and ate chips while basking in the sunshine.

Achmelvich - The Last Krystallos

Achmelvich – © Lisa Shambrook

We’d had a Whale Watching Boat Trip cancelled earlier in the week due to high winds and rain, and refunded we spent the money in Wick on a tour in a rib boat instead. Caithness Seacoast was great! We dressed in waterproofs and braved a grey day out on the sea. The East coast cliffs were gorgeous, and the local guide very informative. We learned about Viking history, right up to the present day, and it was fascinating. He hoped we’d see more wildlife, but he pointed out that this late in the season (last week in August) most of the young had left, so puffins had flown two weeks prior and many of the seals had moved too. Again we saw Scarfies and Fulmars, and of course many gulls, and eventually we did see a seal! We sped about the sea, beneath arches, around stacks, and in caves, and stopped in several coves. We learned the fishing history, and saw Whaligoe Steps, an inlet which became a harbour in the eighteenth century, and crews of women would gut the fish in the harbour then walk up and down the 330 or 363 (locals dispute the official 330) steps, 250 feet, with full baskets before taking the fish to Wick market.

Caithness Seacoast Wick Coast - Fulmars and Scarfies and Seal - The Last Krystallos

Caithness Seacoast Wick Coast – Fulmars and Scarfies and Seal – © Lisa Shambrook

After the boat trip and lunch we visited Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, free, and atop a gorgeous cliff, then we saw the Trinkie a tidal swimming pool, rather abandoned at present, and then we looked at Whaligoe Steps from the top!

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Wick - Eilean Donan nr Skye - Urquart Castle Loch Ness - The Last Krystallos

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Wick – Eilean Donan nr Skye – Urquart Castle Loch Ness – © Lisa Shambrook

On our last day we stayed local, hiked up to Varrich Tower (though it says it’s a castle), had lunch near Loch Eriboll, I was enamoured by the little headland in the loch – rather desiring to live there – but it’s gated so you can’t go down. We took a back road to Ben Hope and took photos at an old roundhouse before wandering into the forest near Altnaharra. The forest was everything a woodland girl would love, heather, moss, Scots Pines, toadstools, and a loch hidden away inside.

Forest nr Altnaharra - The Last Krystallos

Forest nr Altnaharra – © Lisa Shambrook

Our last surprise was realising how close we were to the Kelpies, named after the mythical water horses said to be in Scottish lochs and rivers, at The Helix as we drove through Falkirk and we doubled back to see them. Thirty metre tall horses, Glaswegian Andy Scott’s amazing sculptures of steel will literally steal your heart.

Kelpies at Falkirk - Roundhouse Ben Hope - Grey Mares Tail Waterfall Moffat - The Last Krystallos

Kelpies at Falkirk – Roundhouse Ben Hope – Grey Mares Tail Waterfall Moffat – © Lisa Shambrook

We saw deer, and an otter, and sheep guarded the roads! We had rainbows almost every day, sunrises, sunsets, mountain ranges like towering wise old wizards, fairy glens, sparkling lochs, cascading waterfalls (we saw Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall in Moffat on the way home), and the jewelled ocean…

Deer - Thistle - Loch Eriboll - Heather - Sheep - The Last Krystallos

Deer – Thistle – Loch Eriboll – Heather – Sheep – © Lisa Shambrook

And thus ended our tour of Scotlandbut have no fear,
we will be back, and maybe one day, we’ll be able to stay.

Have you visited Scotland? If so what did you love most?

Coldbackie Beach Panorama - The Last Krystallos

Coldbackie Beach – © Lisa Shambrook

Roundhouse Ben Hope - The Last Krystallos

Roundhouse Ben Hope – © Lisa Shambrook

Nightlings – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The battle was not yet won and nor would it be without help.

The opposing army stood silent but for a drum beating in time with Nomin’s heart. Sweat and fear from his warriors and their horses reeked and the taste of blood set his teeth on edge.

Numbers did not favour him, and the exhaustion evident in the hoarse breaths behind him made him wonder how much longer he could stall the inevitable.

Though they were almost a mile apart, separated by a stretch of verdant mossy green and a crystal clear stream, he knew the Captain’s eyes were trained upon him, and he squirmed with discomfort. Within moments the virid velvet carpet would become mire and the stream would run with ruby swirls.

Nomin straightened his back and relaxed his shoulders heavy beneath his leather armour, and stared back. The drumbeat, echoing across the glen, quickened and Nomin’s heart matched it. His breathing rose and fell with the strain of courage building and determination gilding his lungs. It was now or never, and time was not on their side.

Nomin closed his eyes, and uttered her name beneath his breath, a single syllable, yet everything, “Bren…” Her name fluttered away on the breeze, but he hoped she’d heard it. Their lives depended on it.

The horses shuffled, nerves tingling beneath their hide and anticipation flooding their veins. The drumming stopped and a shimmering wave glinted on the far side of the valley as shields rose, and in the sudden hush Nomin raised his arm. He could not retract his response and commitment was sealed in his shaking hand.

Tension increased as armoured gloves clenched reins and boots gripped flanks. The battle roar opposite had the desired effect, and Nomin swallowed hard then dropped his hand. Heels kicked and horses sprang and Nomin urged his steed forward.

Thunder flooded the glen, and lightning flashes of swords and shields glittered beneath the gloomy sky, and they raced towards death and glory.

Nomin closed his eyes as his breath tore through his throat and his knuckles grazed against his horse’s armour. How long had they before the clash, before the clang of steel took the lives of those around him, how long before death graced the green, green grass?

A new sound echoed, wailing and tearing through his brain and his eyes flew open. He almost dropped his reins as he pulled up his mount and watched his army divide and veer. “Bren!” his voice cracked with effort and passion.

Bren sat astride a steed of the night, clothed in witchery and ebony. She howled like a wolf, and from the forests came a host of Nightlings, baying like demons and screaming with banshee calls. Black, and white, and grey chargers, midnight’s ghosts, streamed from the trees with wild manes and tails, and the magic of the night.

Nomin watched with wonder sparkling in his tired eyes and love pumping through his veins. He screamed and roared encouragement, and he and his army watched as Bren stormed the soldiers that would have annihilated his. Tears welled and merged with the sweat on his grimy face.

Nightlings, the myths of the night, stampeded across the glen without leaving a hoof print or a trampled piece of grass, and barrelled into the army with a force they would never survive. Screams of men mingled with the rage of the revenant, and death did indeed come to the glen that afternoon.

When it ended, Nomin galloped forward, searching the Nightlings for their queen. The ghosts departed and finally Nomin gazed into the dark eyes of his love. Bren smiled with eyes that could not weep, and blue lips that matched the pale skin that barely covered her hollow face. Wild black hair, whipped in strands as the wind kissed her in a way that Nomin now – never could.

Their steeds stood side by side, ghost by flesh, and Nomin tore off his glove and reached to cup Bren’s face in his warm, calloused hand. Bren’s frozen fingers closed around Nomin’s in a clasp that would have to last for all his time he had left. She backed slowly away, until he nodded and whispered in a breath that only she could hear, “Til then…” and Bren’s mount was gone, and she with it.

Death and the Nightlings came and the battle was won.

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Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge is back again after a summer break and this photo truly inspired me, and I listened to Audiomachine as I wrote…epic battle music!

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

Where In The World Would You Live? The Scottish Highlands

If you could live anywhere in the world –
with money no object – where would you live?

Since I was young, my answer was always Canada, but that just changed! We spent a week in the Scottish Highlands, and for the first time on holiday we didn’t want to come home. I grew up in Sussex, with the rolling Downs behind us and the seaside in front, and it was beautiful. Then we moved to West Wales and I fell in love with the ocean, woodlands, and craggy hills and mountains, and it’s gorgeous. But Scotland with its lochs and mountains is just another world altogether.

It took less than a week to become irrevocably captivated and enchanted by this mysterious land. Scotland, and its Highlands, is a place where the world stops, where you can be enveloped in nature, swathed by mist and then glorious sunshine, where green is the most verdant you’ve ever seen, and mountains rise from purple heather laden fells. A place where the ocean dances in the jewel tones of amazonite, adventurine, turquoise, apatite, and then sodalite. A place where magic reigns.

Grey Mares Tail Waterfall - Ocean Cave near Wick - Wick Ocean - Loch and Forest near Altnaharra © Lisa Shambrook

Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall – Ocean Cave near Wick – Wick Ocean – Loch and Forest near Altnaharra © Lisa Shambrook

If you could live anywhere at all – where would it be and why?

Next week, I’ll treat you to the sights we saw in the beautiful Scottish Highlands…