Category Archives: Crystals

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

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Monday Mixer – Stars of Change

12. Monday Mixer - Stars of Change

© Lisa Shambrook

I’d hardly noticed my nose crinkle, but the strange essence swirling about me suddenly made my insides revolt as I landed face down in the leaf litter. My stomach turned and my throat released a splash of bright bile. I rolled onto my back and stared at the roof of the cave through the miasma of cold fog.

I blinked and tried to sit but my body refused to cooperate. I moved stiffly and brought my hands to my face. One hand clutched a stone, a rock, and I prised my fingers from it, wiping my mouth with the back of my sleeve as I gazed at the stone. It was just a dull, rough pebble, but from the fracture in its surface leaked light, sparkling, fluid, effervescent light. I cracked it against the frozen ground and gasped as the geode fell open between my fingers.

Crystal stars shone, stippling light through the mist that still veiled the cave. I shivered in excitement. Memories began flooding back into my head. The search through the cave for a fabled rock, disappointment, and fear, as I’d struggled through the fog to escape, and now wonder at the sparkling gems.

In one taciturn moment, I knew it all…

I knew the words, the prophecy, the promise, and my fingers gently stroked the crystals. They were soft, malleable, and my heart caught inside my throat as I altered its molecular structure. I now had what I needed, the power to, literally, change the world.

0. Monday MixerMonday Mixer is back at The Latinum Vault, and is a week-long challenge for those of more committed to time constraints! Write 250 words, no more, no less, and include at least one of each of the chosen nouns, verbs, and adjectives, you can choose from nine and if you choose to, use all nine prompt words! So, here’s mine, including five of the nine words (highlighted in my text). Stars of Change, see, I told you I’d be writing of stars this year!

 

Alone – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Purple tinged the sky where the setting sun met twilight above a swathe of burnished gold. Sarah rubbed her thumb over her loose ring and smiled. The large amethyst set amid its gold band twinkled, as the last of the day’s rays glanced across its surface. Sarah sighed. The Milky Way already arced across the night, stars more infinite than the seconds in her life. It was perfect. It couldn’t be more perfect.

She gently slid down the tree’s rough trunk landing in soft hay, and drew a deep breath into her rattling lungs. Crisp oxygen, clean and cold, rushed up her nose and down her throat. The breeze gently wafted the nearby lavender crop. She closed her eyes and let the scent intoxicate her. She smiled again. She couldn’t have planned it better.

Sarah was tired; the walk had taken all day. She was alone, frail, and exhausted, but happy.

Her gnarled knuckles shook as she clasped the metal bottle in the rucksack that had dropped from her shoulders. She opened her eyes to do what she needed to do, and gently pulled the plastic tubes from her nose. The bottle and its tubes slipped away into the grass, and Sarah let them go. The bottle was almost empty anyway; it would never have seen her home.

The night air that now moved about her was softer, lighter, and dipped in lavender, and as it infused her body she let the fragrance calm her thumping heart. Sarah brought her hands together and gently rubbed the amethyst. The ring rotated easily, the band too large for her thin finger, but the soft touch of quartz comforted her and she relaxed.

The final glimmers of the sun faded beneath the horizon, and the full blanket of purple and indigo night slipped across the field. Only the stars still glittered as lavender wafted and Sarah allowed her curtain to fall.

She’d said her goodbyes, letters were signed and sealed on her mantelpiece, and she was ready to go.

The frozen, star-filled, lavender dusk claimed more than just the day that night, but Sarah would walk free from mortal constraints into a brand new dawn.

0000. Divider

Beautiful picture for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, from Javier de la Torre. Gorgeous colours…

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

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

Blue John – Treak Cliff, Peak District

Blue John – the Indigo stone of Clarity…

Blue John - Treak Cliff, Castleton - The Last Krystallos

Crystals, gems, and stones enchant me from both a geological point of view and a healing, spiritual approach. So, when we were up in Nottingham this last weekend, Vince and I drove out to Castleton in the Peak District to visit the caverns.

Blue John - Treak Cliff - Stalactites - The Last Krystallos

Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

We took an underground barge down the flooded Speedwell Cavern and learned about the lead mines and visited Peak Cavern. Peak Cavern is known as the Devil’s Arse, and is also connected to Speedwell via tunnels only accessible to potholers. We didn’t get to Blue John Cavern this time, but did go to Treak Cliff Cavern and our tour guide Katie was brilliant.

We entered via Tardis doors, because as we all know once past the tunnel going in you’ll definitely find that the caves are bigger on the inside… Treak Cliff is different from many cave systems in that moss and algae grow on the roof and walls in some spots and are encouraged as the caves also contain spiders, centipedes, and bats among other tiny wildlife. You can also see fossils adorning the walls, showing that the caves were once deep under the ocean and carved out in the Ice Age.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Fluorite - The Last Krystallos

Blue John, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

300 years ago the original miners searched for lead, but found nothing in Treak Cliff, instead they found and disregarded a purple and yellow Calcium Fluoride (Fluorspar) running through the limestone. Its worth was later appreciated and Blue John was mined, both in Treak Cliffs and Blue John mines. This mountain is the only place in the world that Blue John is found. The caves are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and protected, and mining of Blue John is carefully monitored.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Vein - The Last Krystallos

Blue John Vein, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

The miner who discovered the indigo-blue and yellow fluorite very imaginatively called it Blue and Yellow… In France they dropped the ‘and’ to make it Bleu Jaune, and back in Derbyshire without the romantic French accent it switched to Blue John and the name stuck!

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Blue John Pillar - The Last Krystallos

Blue John Pillar, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

I loved our tour through Treak Cliff Cavern, moving into caverns full of Blue John still running through its walls, and a pillar of the fluorite worth over 9million, but unable to be mined because the pillar holds up the cavern!

We moved into caves with flowstone, stalactites, and stalagmites.

Treak Cliff Cavern - Castleton - Stalactites - The Last Krystallos

Stalactites, Treak Cliff Cavern © Lisa Shambrook

The crystalline gemstone is valuable and rare, as I said, only found in Hope Valley near Castleton, and the mined stone is sold in rough and polished specimens, and turned into exquisite jewellery, bowls, and fine ornaments. Treak Cliff has a wonderful gift shop, which includes a display of items not for sale, but gorgeous. A Blue John dragon sits inside this display…I wish I’d taken a picture of it! I also visited Silver and Stone gift shop on Goosehill Bridge to find my slice of Blue John.

I have a lovely collection of gemstones, having researched them for my current work in progress, The Seren Stone Chronicles, and purchasing a couple of pieces of Blue John was a true pleasure.

Blue John - rough - polished slice - tiny - Calcite -Treak Cliff - The Last Krystallos

Blue John, rough and polished slice, and Calcite © Lisa Shambrook

The fluorite comes in a banded stone, yellow or white, with bands of purple crystalline. The more yellow pieces are coloured with iron ore. Sliced pieces show the gorgeous bands of purple and white. I chose a small two inch piece with intricate purple markings, which look amazing when held up to the light.

Blue John - polished slice - Treak Cliff

Blue John, polished slice © Lisa Shambrook

Blue John’s healing properties include clarity of mind and peace. It boosts mental, spiritual, and emotional awareness. Fluorite has many physical healing energies and Blue John has been used as an elixir to promote health and beneficial mineral absorption.

I love discovering the beauty of gems and stones, and Hope Valley’s secrets are there for all of us to discover, in a rich and striking vein of Blue John.