An update on my adventures!

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It has been a while, sorry about that. I’ve been busy with looking after my health: getting physio, ankle braces, going to support groups, getting yet another diagnosis – PoTS – and a second lot of medication.

Steampunk and creativity had to take a back seat for a while but then, true to my Aspie style, I’ve spent three days throwing pacing to the wind and decoupaging to my heart’s content. The picture above is my own jewellery box and I’ve made more in various styles.

I’ve set up a second online shop (www.ConsciousCrafties.com/Crafties/Zebras-Bazaar) and am about to rent shelf space in a local craft shop too!

With so much going on, and a rained-out village fayre yesterday that took my last decent-sized Spoons, I’ve been in retreat today, recovering. I must make resting a priority next week.

The Facebook group I set up for Steampunks with chronic illness/disability, ‘Steampunkable’, has been attracting more members. It is great to share a common interest with those who also live with challenges.

I’m keen to get my Autism assessment date but first have to go for an echo cardiogram and dental surgery (for unwisely positioned wisdom teeth).

So, I thought about apologising for my irregular posting but you know what? This is how my life is. It ebbs and flows, so I shall allow my creativity to surface when it is good and ready and only ask for your patience and acknowledgement, dear reader.

If any of what I write about strikes a chord or inspires a question, please do comment. Wishing you wonderful journeys and the best you can wish for yourself,

~The Navigatrix

Steampunk to Me: Be Splendid

A well-written and reflective piece that I’m glad to share with you.

Jacqueline Peveto

These past few weeks, I have presented some principles I find indispensable for the steampunk genre: Be Mindful, Be Courteous, and Be Creative. This week, I offer you the last, perhaps the most important one.

If there were a battle cry for steampunks, the words “Be Splendid!” would ring out the globe over.

Splendidness

You see, “splendid” is more than a word to express interest when someone asks if you’d care for tea and a biscuit. It is a call to rigorous and deliberate excellence in all that you do. This characteristic has the potential to hold all the others inside of it, but there is a very important aspect to this principle that I wish to talk about.

Splendidness is an active, on-going process, and, above all, a mindset.

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Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016

steampunk_hands_ Araceli_Rodríguez

 

artwork by Araceli Rodriguez

 

A Few of my Favourite Things

by Sally-Ann Livingston ~ aka The Navigatrix

Whenever anyone asks me to pick favourites – be it films, books, music etc., I always struggle to line up my likes in linear fashion and see who ends up at the front. With me, it’s more of Sphere of Wonder containing circles made up of concentric lines and divided blurrily into categories. So when the Ambassador once more invited me to be a part of this wonderful celebratory event and unveiled the theme, so many things rushed forth for my attention that it has taken me months to think about what to include.

Steampunk can be a family activity.

One person sprang to mind immediately however – my brother Matt. I wouldn’t be writing this without him, nor would I have explored the Steampunk realm so thoroughly. He and I set up Etsy shops at almost the same time. We’ve always been the kind of siblings who are best friends. We live near each other and often bounce ideas off each other. He’ll find me bits from the charity shop to upcycle and I’ll give him jewellery findings or sewing tips. We often share a stall at Steampunk events and have a great laugh together.

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At ‘Steampunk Stamford on a Train’, Nene Valley Railway

Matt isn’t the only family involved, however. My husband and our daughter have been swept up in the steam, creating their own characters who are unrelated to mine yet part of the same crew – the crew of the Gargantuan Class Airship “The Unpronounceable”.

Steampunk encourages storytelling

‘The Scamp’, now 7, is creating a rich story around her character which includes brass dragons, magical coconut milk (allowing her to simply assume the form of what seems to be a young girl), being a tinkerer and ship mechanic, stealing fudge and concocting plans over a Steampunk luncheon, with Dr. Cornelius Porridge, for powering airships with unusual fuels. Mr. M(echanically) C(ivilised) Norbert, dwarf pygmy gorilla (and we like to think, Geoffery’s distant cousin) won the competition for best Steampunk pet. Though as he was mind-linked to Professor Noodles at the time, I rather think it was our dear prof who may have been the pet…

Stories are a large part of my products too. Each piece of jewellery and every accessory conjures ideas and images as I make them. One line of tribal steampunk products got rather over-excited and an entire fictitious culture was created, giving rise to The Aether Nomads Project.

 

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photos courtesy of Alternate History Photography

This collection of images is a highlight for me. Holding props created by ArcaneArmoury (yes, Matt’s shop), a costume based on my design and created by Wiserabbit (TheWiseRabbit on Etsy, headscarf and necklaces by myself, make-up and photography by Alternate History Photography

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I do hope that tattybustles catch on!

Abi of Wiserabbit is a wonderfully talented lady whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for years, having met at LRP, and count among my most treasured friends. How wonderful that through twenty years of Live Roleplaying to have met such wonderful people, a few of whom also dally in the delight of Victorian inspired science fiction fantasies.

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Images taken at Asylum 2015, in the grounds of Lincoln Cathedral

Matt and I were fortunate to enjoy the company of the lovely Genevieve last year at Asylum. I marvel at the last few years and – permit me a little name dropping -am so proud of these images, with costume and props by people who have costumed and ..er..propped(?) Professor Elemental and taken by the photographer who is one of the Steamgirls. I’m a little starstruck.

Mainly though, I am honoured to work collaboratively with such talented and really lovely people.

Steampunk is all about creativity and  cooperation

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This is why we love crowdfunding

Steampunk music

Here are a few examples, the three albums that I’ve thrown a few pennies at (as have hundreds of others) in order to help these wonderful artists manifest their dreams right into our eager, waiting ear’oles. 😉 Somehow or other, I have a tangible connection with all three which is so very meaningful to me. Not wishing to come across as egotistical but don’t we all love it when our lives directly influence something that gives us pleasure and a sense of achievement?

With Steampunk, it is all very up close and personal in the nicest possible way.

I need to list a few favourites in brief and in no particular order before I find myself writing a book rather than a blog post (that Sphere of Wonder grows each day!)

The costuming – goggling at other folks amazing attire!

The contraptions – especially those made with imagination and ingenuity, of whatever skill level.

The community – I love feeling that I’m a welcome part of something that celebrates diversity. *Shout out to Lincoln Steampunk Society!*

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Necklace by TheNavigatrix with etched elements by ArcaneArmoury (plus added Spoons!

Speaking of diversity, Steampunk offers a warm welcome to those of all nationalities, ages and abilities and is a wonderfully accessible hobby/lifestyle.

It is this broad scope which have allowed me to offer two opportunities for ‘creative socialising’ :

The Aether Nomads Project – a free global community art project based on the concept of a nomadic Steampunk Tribe. Here’s our Facebook Page and our Blog

This is one of my favourite things because of the wonderful people involved who have taken my little idea and run with it! I love sharing ideas 🙂 *Waves a glove to fellow Nomads*

Steampunkable – this is really quite new. Inspired by the clever modifications to wheelchairs, mobility scooters, braces and other aids that I’ve seen both at events and online, I decided to start a group for those of us dealing with disabilities and/or chronic illness and doing it Splendidly! If you’d like to join the group, put your request in here.

I myself have wonky collagen (aka Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder) among a few other labels. This is why you’ll see my work appear in bursts and then hear nothing for a while. Steampunk and online shopping platforms allow me to craft a life for myself that is sympathetic to my physical needs and fun for all the family. I can work from home, yet Skype and message friends across the globe. I can work within my abilities and pace myself (which I’m rather good at, unless I get carried away writing long blog articles…oops.)

If you pushed me to answer what is my Favourite thing about Steampunk, it would have to be…

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image courtesy of Pixabay

YOU!

It is the people who are drawn to this creative playground, this cognitive casserole, this celebration of Splendidness who make it what it is. Yes, we’re all human and sometimes we don’t play together as nicely as we could but the value we put on community and good manners means that we keep this engine oiled and running smoothly most of the time.

It is simply a pleasure to be in your good company.

Wishing you a happy Steampunk Hands Around the World month,

Sally-Ann ~aka The Navigatrix

To see what else is happening for Steampunk Hands this month, visit The Official Link List

 

 

 

 

Airship Ambassador Announcement – Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016

For the third year running, The Navigatrix will be contributing to the celebrations. Would you care to join me?

Airship Ambassador

steampunk_hands_ Araceli_Rodríguez

Image courtesy of Araceli Rodriguez

Steampunk Hands Around the World returns for it’s third year, continuing the celebration of the best that the global steampunk community has to offer.

The 2016 theme of the annual month long blogathon is “My Favorite Things”. Each day from Monday, February 1st through Monday the 29th, contributors will share some of their favorite steampunk people, events, and things from every corner of the planet.

Everyone, steampunks and non-steampunks alike, will be able to share in the information about who and what inspires us to keep exploring, expanding, and enhancing our community every day.

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Image courtesy of El Investigador

Tying all of these favorite things together are people. People who make things, people who do things, people who enjoy things – and that means each and every one of us. Together, we create our community, and we bring steampunk to life, in all of its…

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‘Her Majesty Loses an Officer’ by Martin Livingston – Part One of Three

I keep telling my husband that he could write a book… do please leave a comment if you enjoyed it. Part Two coming soon.

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The Aether Nomads Project are thrilled to be part of #ApeQuest, Professor Elemental’s latest project. As part of the run up, the dear Prof is running a competition whereby folk can submit their artistic impressions of where the rogue time-travelling orang-utan butler has been spotted. Full details here: http://www.professorelemental.com/apequest-the-search-for-geoffery

Needless to say, the Nomads are keeping an eye out for him too and collecting reports in an attempt to intercept him at the correct prophetically-calculated point in space-time. The more images we receive, the better the chance of restoring him to Elemental Manor, where and when he belongs!

So follows a very fantastical Steampunk tale, with a fleeting report of the adventurous ape hidden somewhere in its telling. Settle down with a cuppa and enjoy.

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Her Majesty Loses An Officer

by Martin Livingston

~ Chapter One ~

The sky was crossing that special moment, when the stars are the…

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Steampunk Spoonies ~ Interviews, Part 1

Necklace by TheNavigatrix with etched elements by ArcaneArmoury (plus added Spoons!

Necklace by TheNavigatrix with etched elements by ArcaneArmoury (plus added Spoons!)

Ironically, it has taken me longer than I’d hoped to get this written up, due to a lack of Spoons.

If you follow my blog, you probably know what a Steampunk is. What you may not be aware of, however, is what on earth a Spoonie is. The concept was created by Christine Miserandino and you can read about The Spoon Theory here. In brief, it is an analogy to help averagely energetic folk understand what it is like to live with the fatigue that comes with some chronic illnesses and disabilities.

I’m a SteamSpoonie myself, having been diagnosed with FND in 2013. I’m still on the diagnostic journey at the moment which is why my shop and blog aren’t as regularly updated as I’d like.

I feel that it is important to raise awareness to a certain degree. It nurtures compassion and understanding. It is also important to ‘always look on the bright side of life’, which is where we have a wonderful advantage being Steampunks! I sent out a call for interviewees and several brave folk answered, so I have decided to run the Steampunk Spoonies interviews in several parts.

Pour some tea (I’d do it for you but for the physical separation in time and space…) and allow me to introduce you to our first three guests, Charli, Chiisai and Kermit:

1. Introductions first! Could you tell us a little about yourself and whereabouts in the world you are from?
Charli – I was born in Middlesex but now live in Lincoln after going to university here.  I work in the gas and electric utilities sector as a technician, and also as a self-employed photographer, artist and crafter.

Chiisai – I am a 21 year old, 4’7”, wheelchair using steampunk enthusiast and cosplayer. I’m from Cambridge, UK, though currently am based in Ipswich.

Kermit – I was born in Myrtle Beach, SC on September 2nd, 1983. With both parents having grown up on tobacco farms, I was given your typical country upbringing in a beach town. Somehow I escaped without an accent, though. In September of 2013 I moved to the San Francisco Bay area, and live there currently. I am ridiculously introverted, and filled with child-like wonderment. I have a passion for most arts and sciences, valuing them both equally. Animals and their rights are incredibly important to me, but currently cannot afford a pet of my own. In addition to jewelry, I occasionally make wall hangings and refurbish furniture in creative ways.

2.Why do you identify as a Spoonie?
Charli – In 2013 I was diagnosed with severe Clinical Depression, having struggled with it alone for the previous four years.  At the time, people were fearing not just for my mental health, but my physical health too.  The depression at that point was really quite bad, I would stay in bed most of the day because I didn’t have the energy or will to get up, and I contemplated suicide frequently.  I didn’t want to eat, my sleep pattern was really messed up, and I couldn’t go out, because I was too scared of the outside world.  There was always a kind of shadow hanging over me, the so called “Black Dog”, and it would always bring me down, even when things were going well.  My sense of self-worth was pretty much non-existent and I hated everything about myself.  Depression is a lonely thing, even when you have people around you, and I still struggle with feelings of loneliness.  Even now, when I have it mostly under control, I have to be very careful.  If I feel as though my emotions are becoming too low, I’m getting even the littlest bit stressed or I’m getting too tired to control my thoughts, I have to take myself out of the situation and find someone to talk through it all with me, just to keep me from cracking again.

Chiisai – I identify as a Spoonie as I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Functional Neurological Disorder, Asperger’s, associated mental health issues, and hearing loss.

Kermit – I was diagnosed with PTSD about ten years ago. With PTSD, you can have better and worse days, but it’s not something that ever goes away. My spoons are planned and taken in a similar fashion, but for different reasons.

3. How did you get into Steampunk?
Charli – I was invited by someone I considered as one of my few friends, but I repeatedly turned her down.  My depression makes me really bad at meeting new people, even now, and I didn’t want the trouble of making a complete fool out of myself.  Eventually though, I found myself wandering around the area that the local Steampunk Society meet.  It was a “Steampunk night”, and I was alone in the cold.  I figured I would go into the pub and find my friend, as I needed to talk with her about a photography project anyway.  I sat alone at a table, watching the Steampunks for a while, but my friend didn’t show up until much much later, and I was introduced then.  About a month later I went back, because I felt a connection to the aesthetic more than anything, and I’ve been a Steampunk ever since!

Chiisai – I have always been interested in fixing/modifying mechanical and optical devices, but it’s only been in the past 3 years that I’ve become involved in the social aspect.

Kermit – I’ve always enjoyed the various aspects of Steampunk, but didn’t realize I could call it that until I had an idea for clock hand necklaces. When I looked them up to buy, I noticed they were associated with what I only knew as people in top hats and goggles. Come to find out, all my previously preferred aesthetics, eras, and genres take place within this newly found genre. I haven’t put it down since.

4. What limitations does your chronic illness/disability have on your every day life? How does it affect your involvement with Steampunk?
Charli – Depression makes me really bad at meeting new people, and I often find that I wish myself blending into the background.  I feel anxious in crowds and often find myself feeling that I will never compare to the people around me.  Sometimes I wake up, and I’m sad for no reason, and it doesn’t go away for weeks, sometimes months.  I lose my appetite and I don’t want to face people.  I also judge myself as a Steampunk incredibly harshly, and if I feel I have “let the movement down” in any way I can become withdrawn.  That means that I will avoid certain events or places, and if people I know aren’t going, I won’t even think about heading that way.

Chiisai – The combination of EDS and FND mean that I use a wheelchair outside my house, while the Asperger’s and hearing loss affect my communication skills. These mean it’s harder for me to travel independently to get to events, which are often far away, and also to interact with people once there.EDS affects my hands a lot, so it takes much longer to make things, though this means I have a greater sense of achievement when a project is finally complete.

Kermit – With me, it’s hard to convince myself to use spoons for what needs to be done, because my spoons can easily be taken all at once. Any trigger causing a flashback, embarrassing social interaction, or simply things not going as planned can take more than one or all of my spoons. My reserve spoon hopefully gets me to a safe place before I blackout, or enter a dissociative state. Because of my shortcomings, I have not been able to participate as much in the Steampunk world as I’d like. I can’t be around people for long periods, so events are out of the question. I can’t seem to earn enough money for them or a costume anyway, as the only jobs I know how to do require too much social interaction. Making my jewelry helps calm my mind, but I can rarley afford supplies. Even when I have something made, I can easily convince myself it’s not good enough to be shared with the community.

5. How does Steampunk enrich your life?
Charli – Steampunk gives me a creative outlet and has allowed me to meet people who are like myself behind the depression.  It has given me a sense of belonging; a place where I feel as though I can really be myself.  Now that I know there are others out there who share some of my oddities, I don’t feel so isolated, and I have made a number of new friends.  I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.

Charli, "...from last year's Fashion Gala at the Asylum.  I find that being on the stage helps me with the depression, as it makes me feel valued!"

Charli, “…from last year’s Fashion Gala at the Asylum. I find that being on the stage helps me with the depression, as it makes me feel valued!”

Chiisai – Steampunk gives me something positive to focus on when I feel depressed, and has expanded my social circle a lot.

Kermit – I think my mental illness lends a different take on the spoon analogy. I can actually gain a spoon sometimes. Occasionally a positive occurrence can have enough impact to add a spoon. I was always the science and math kid, and never thought I had any real artistic talent before I started making Steampunk jewelry. Making art I’m proud of can add a spoon. Getting enough likes and positive comments on a post about that piece can add another. I’ve mostly experienced kind and supportive Steampunks who make me feel good about what I do. These people also share lovely things with me, and true inspiration can also add a spoon.

6. Does being involved in Steampunk have a positive effect on your sense of self?
Charli – I understand more about myself now that my lifestyle has a name!  And I don’t feel as though I have to make excuses for being who I am anymore.  I simply say, “I’m Charli, I’m a Steampunk”.  And if people don’t like it, I’m happier about telling them where to go!  I am definitely more comfortable with who I am.

Chiisai – Definitely. When at meetups I feel able to be completely myself, and not so constrained by trying to be ‘normal’, which leads to increased self-esteem and confidence.

Kermit – Most certainly. It’s really the only place where I am rarely disappointed with myself or others, which makes me feel appreciated and inspired. It also makes me feel like less of a nerd for always wanting to be proper and polite. It gives me a chance to express a side of myself that I’m confident in, but others don’t always understand or take the right way. Doing so reinforces my confidence in general.

7. Do you have any current projects or plans that you’d like to share with us?
Charli – I’m working on a fairytale-Steampunk-fantasy photography project at the moment, called “Shades”.  It’s part fashion, part history, part Steampunk and part mythology, so it has fingers in many pies!  I’m getting a lot of support from my friends at the moment, and while it’s still in the early months, I’m really pleased with how it’s going.  You can see the website for it here: http://charli313.wix.com/shadesproject

Chiisai – I’m currently modifying a pair of Nerf revolvers [these are great fun], designing corsets, and my boyfriend is making me a pair of folding wings – if only these let me fly!

Kermit – Haha. I’m just trying to feed myself, currently. I’ve recently started chemically oxidizing metals to produce patinas in my jewelry, but quickly used up the little supplies I could afford. I also want to get into electroplating, soldering, and possibly welding.
You can find my projects here:

Etsy.com/shop/craftedcurios


Facebook.com/craftedcurios


Instagram.com/craftedcurios


Twitter.com/craftedcurios

8. Silver linings – what is the best thing about being a Steampunk Spoonie?
Charli – I am loathe to say that there are any silver linings to depression, unless you count the fact that it can be controlled and diminished, but being a Steampunk gives you a wonderful support network.  There are people within Steampunk who have already been there and suffered, so they’re always there to lend a hand.  The whole community is so vibrant, dynamic and diverse, that there’s always someone there to support you, even when you feel at your lowest.  And I met my fiance, who has also suffered with depression, through Steampunk, so perhaps that’s my silver lining!

Chiisai – (…)

Kermit – It makes me odd. I find oddities fascinating.

9. Are there any charities or support groups you’d like to mention to help raise awareness?
Charlihttp://www.actionforhappiness.org/
http://www.depressionalliance.org/

ChiisaiFND Hope is a wonderful charity, and much needs to be done to raise the profile of this often misunderstood and actually very common condition. EDS UK are a very good source of information and support and their information helped me finally get my diagnosis after 21 years of being a medical mystery.

Kermit – Have a Gay Day
 https://haveagayday.org/
Facebook.com/mygayday
Equality House
 http://www.plantingpeace.org/

Kermit (the Steampunk ;)

Kermit (the Steampunk 😉

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by Crafted Curios

IMG_20150111_164305 IMG_20150425_162514 IMG_20150109_144901Thankyou all for responding and sharing quite personal perspectives. Part 2 will follow…at some point.

~~~ Since starting the process of this post, I’ve been going through some rather interesting times myself and just this week received a new diagnosis – the master cog in the machine, really – of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, which is seen by many medical professionals as being the same as EDS, hypermobility type (right there with you, Chiisai!). So, dear readers and customers, do please be patient as this is rather a large piece of news for me to digest, for many reasons and there will follow quite a few appointments to work out the details. The shop remains open and all orders will be dealt with in timely fashion, however, blog posts and newsletters will be delayed. Thankyou kindly for your understanding. Sally-Ann ~~~

Tales of The Navigatrix, Part 2 ~ ‘How The Navigatrix came upon The Key to The Unpronounceable’

by Sally-Ann Livingston with Catherine Moon

{Catch up with Part One here}

Original image by Qsimple on Flickr, courtesy of Catherine Moon. Variation by TheNavigatrix

‘Mother of Rhuk’, Original image by Qsimple on Flickr, courtesy of Catherine Moon. Variation by TheNavigatrix

Together, Al Khemeti and myself travelled to a nearby village, huddled among the desert rocks. From there we parted with the rest of the guides. My newfound teacher led me round to the back of one of the huts, the wrinkled old woman there, wide eyed but smiling,nodding to him and he removed a dust-covered tarpaulin to reveal a small air dinghy.

Within a short time we arrived at a bustling bazaar. The small craft having been stowed away once more, Al Khemeti led me through narrow streets that were an overwhelming orchestra of sounds, scents, colours and textures.  As we rounded a corner I saw first a plume of brown and bright teal-blue feathers. The young woman that wore the headdress strode immediately toward Al Khemeti when she spied him and, solemn-faced, muttered some words that I did not understand. The formal greeting done, the two beamed familiar grins at one another and clasped arms.

Al Khemeti looked over to me. “Faddeya Illham Mahin, Mother of Rhuk, ” he pronounced, the solemnity returning. There was no countering introduction of myself, I noted, somewhat put out. ‘Manners are expressed variously in different cultures’ I reminded myself, quoting from an old Traveller’s Textbook and so I remained silent under the gaze of the young woman with the old eyes.

My teacher briefly explained that it was necessary to speak of the unpronounceable. The Mother turned to me and commented, “I know of this myth.”  No more need be said and the three of us untangled a path through the bazaar, toward a waiting air dinghy, slightly larger than the balloon that had brought us here.

I stole a glance at the sky. In the distance, black thunderclouds rolled over the mountains and I fervently hoped that we were headed in the opposite direction. Of course, that was not to be the case. The two nomads deftly boarded the modest craft, Al Khemeti lending me a strong arm to climb aboard after them in as dignified a fashion as the high side allowed.

Once in the air I saw how natural an environment this was for them both. Wind buffeted the basket as we headed directly toward a narrow passage between the peaks and directly into the heart of the roiling thundercloud. Passing through, an unexpected thing occurred. The angry cloud dissolved into a pale shadow of itself, through which one could see. This side, the weather was revealed to be, in reality, as fine as one could wish for.

A small fleet of colourful airships hung ahead, uniform in size but as brightly coloured and variously decorated as the bazaar we had left behind. Gracefully gliding around the perimeter of the Cloud Caravan, four giant birds, each hung with a tribesman beneath, suspended in complex metal harnesses. Much higher above circled a fifth mighty predator, judging by its proportions, distinctly larger than the other four.

We gently bumped into one of the airships, tied off and boarded. I didn’t realise it then but that ship was to be my home for the next three months, rarely touching down and even then, not quite to the ground, for the Aether Nomads have a peculiar custom of never landing once a dirigible is airborne. They float just above the ground and let down ropes and poles and sumptuous fabrics from their structure, forming the most gorgeously decorated tents that I have ever seen. Nights spent on the ground were few and far between…

wpid-4d7fc434d14a851c2383071886d15d3b.jpgThat first evening aboard the decorated dirigible, The Mother and Al Khemeti led me to a private cabin. My teacher settled himself quietly in the corner, a cup of steaming Lapsang to his lips, whilst The Mother laid out a few scrolls of incomplete technical engineering drawings and diagrams on the table. From a pouch at her chain-belt, she drew four obscure, symbolic items and placed these delicately on the table. She withdrew to the corner table, poured herself tea from a different pot and settled in silence next to Al Khemeti, the two of them gazing at me intently.

I looked at the table. None of this made any sense. What was expected of me? I studied each object without handling any and scrutinised the technical drawings. After a while, Al Khemeti pushed aside the scrolls and placed a blank, black compass-like item on the table in front of me. The Mother drew a chalk circle around it. Pointing to the four curiosities, she directed me, “Put the objects in the right order.”

Having no further clues, I trusted my gut; that inner compass that guides us if we will but listen. I gently picked up one object and placed it on a compass point. I looked back at my examiners but their faces showed only enjoyment of their brews. Turning back to my task, I placed the remaining objects on the available compass points, each in turn.

As I finished, the two nomads muttered something to each other and The Mother reached over, removing two of the objects from the North and West points. She handed me the chalk and said “Write the compass points.” Dutifully, I wrote clockwise N,E,S and W only to have her reach across and rub out each one with her fingers. In their place, she wrote V,A,S and M. I am a woman of efficiency and so I asked why she had bothered to erase the ‘S’. “Because of the difference in meaning behind the S,” she replied.

The Compessence by Sally-Ann Livingston

The Compessence by Sally-Ann Livingston

“Each member of our tribe looks within to find their soul-path. Guided by those who themselves were born to assist this process, each of our people find their place in the whole. Some have but one Vocation, others’ paths lead them to a balance of more. The Compessence is…our symbol. Each letter stands for a single Vocation:  ‘Symbologists’ you may term diviners and linguists, encryptors, and jewellers among them. ‘Metaphysicians’ are healers of body, mind and spirit but it is not only bodies of flesh that they work with but mechanism also. ‘Vibrancers’ are the custodians of our culture, our artists, musicians, storytellers, performers. ‘Aethermaticians’ are skilled pilots, navigators and numerologists. They guide us through the courses of our lives, in all their many complex dimensions.”

I had so many questions yet was made to wait for answers to most. I wandered over the giant birds. “Rhuk, they are named, mythic creatures in many parts. They are here for protection.” She went to the table and poured a fresh cup of steaming liquid that I had not noticed being brought in, handing it to me with a genuine smile, “Here, you have earned your tea” The Mother would say no more and I settled on a cushion with my honeyed Chai.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Al Khemeti would sit with me and discuss various topics over food, mainly in my areas of interest, jewellery and navigation. At times, he would withdraw as I was left to ponder new information by myself. I was taught a little of their complex craft of adornment, wrought with meaningful symbols, each differently shaped bead representing a concept, an emotion, a mathematical formula. My initial efforts were rather laughable but in time I was met with nods of approval.

On the control deck, my teacher widened my knowledge of navigatory skills and studying the finer points of multi-planar navigation. Once, I noticed a strange map with many markings, including a group of four symbols that I recognised from my initial discovery of the myth of the Gargantuan-class airship trapped in the Aether. Regrettably, any prying questions on this topic were met with sultry silence. I soon learned to be silent myself and trust that I was, indeed, furthering my way towards this goal.

After three months of the most unusual study, The Mother approached me. ” We have enough knowledge of you now. You will return when the time is right.” A young nomad appeared at my side and I was led to table. Al Khemeti  was quiet that evening after our rather indulgent meal.  The next morning, he told me abruptly, “For now, we are done. Return to England.” At my protestations, he simply told me “Your next lesson is there, awaiting you.” Politely but firmly I was ushered off the airship into the little dirigible, already packed with my belongings and an extra package of food (and tea!).

With no clue as to when or how I would cross paths with them once again and nothing save an inner assurance that, appearances aside, I had made a great leap forward in my quest, I set off on the long journey to Marrakech, from whence I could book an airship to London.

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Author’s Note

The material for these tales has been inspired by conversations between the listed authors of each chapter (thank goodness for Skype making it possible between the UK, France and The Netherlands!) and by posts on the private Aether Nomads creatives group on Facebook. Thanks to Catherine Moon for her ideas and use of the image above.

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