Read an indie author and get inspired
Holly Gibbs shares an excerpt from inspiration book I Must Be A Mermaid, by Charlene Hickey
Through the mystical intertwining algorithms of Instagram, I discovered Charlene Hickey, an author, illustrator, and tattoo artist based on the small island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. Charlene (Char) recently wrote a book called I Must Be A Mermaid: Deep Fear of Shallow Living. In this self-published memoir, Char touches on many topics like travel, adventure, relationships, and grief; and through it all, she is led by her intuition and magical ancestral guidance.
After reading Char’s book, I felt inspired to try so many new things, from Christmas crackers to ecstatic dance. As an American who has never visited the United Kingdom, I had never heard of a Christmas cracker. After looking it up online, I promptly ordered Thanksgiving-themed crackers from Etsy and Christmas crackers from the UK. One of my favorite memories from 2022 is my husband’s grandmother wearing the festive paper crown from her cracker.
Char also writes about her first experience with ecstatic dance. The scene is so alive with movement, it felt like I was there. With Char’s permission, I’m sharing an excerpt below:
The music started and he talked us through a meditation to relax, breathe deeply and start moving each part of our body, beginning with the toes and travelling up until we reached our heads. The music was serene and ethereal. I hadn’t really heard anything like it before, except for maybe on wildlife documentaries. The sound of raindrops, pan pipes, soft percussion and chimes flowed around the large space which now felt very different to a school gym. Slowly we stood and began to move. Some people looked awkward while others made bold shapes. Although it was unusual and I felt slightly vulnerable, I was at ease. Dancing had always been my comfort zone and where I felt most at home in my body.
Over time, the music changed subtly. It grew a little faster, the feeling was different, echoed by the crowd who also moved quicker. I could hear a sitar playing and my mind imagined India—somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. Now and then a soft voice came over the microphone and reminded us to focus purely on our bodies and try to stay out of our heads.
“The voice of the ego may try to tell you that you are being silly, or that you look weird or unattractive, but just thank it for its words and try to ignore it. It will only restrict your free motion,” he said in a friendly tone.
People closed their eyes as they danced, taking their minds away from the office, work, home life; reconnecting back to themselves. After a while the music evolved again. This time there were Celtic sounds and a lightness filled the air. People spun, skipped and even laughed spontaneously. Later, a Spanish guitar came in, as well as a faster beat. A deep bass line struck my heart. Latin and R& B music was where my soul resided; it always had done. Immediately my hips circled and I felt sensual. I closed my eyes and let myself go even more, hearing sighs and quiet humming along to tunes as bodies moved past me. It was like being in a massive nightclub when your favourite song comes on and for a moment, you’re enraptured by the music, letting it take over you. Except this felt so much deeper and no one was caring how they looked or who was looking at them, and I could dance barefoot, instead of in four-inch heels, trying not to get stuck to sticky floors or stand on broken glass.
The guitar faded away and the beat became more intense; a tribal sound made with hand drums, accelerating by the minute. Dancers moved faster, feet hit the floor harder. The room was getting hot and the spaces between bodies seems smaller. The bongo drum reverberated inside me and sounded like a high-speed chase. People were stomping to the rhythm, thrashing around and starting to sweat. I could feel adrenalin course through my veins and my head tingled as if I had taken drugs. I threw my arms up and shook my core, urged by the need to move every single muscle and feel a release. In my own little sphere of euphoria the surrounding area began to blur, I could hear shrieks, groans and even crying. Just as I my legs were losing energy, the drums stopped.
While energy still buzzed in the air, birdsong came over the sound system. Calming sounds of rushing water filled the hall. Gentle music quietly eased back in as wild animals began to slow down and turn back to humans. Any unease which had been present before, completely disappeared. For a few precious moments we were one living, breathing, heaving mass, moving in flow in the aftermath of a storm. Slowly, slowly, dancers reduced their speed and made a few final movements and spins, like a sprinter unable to stop the momentum until going past the finish line.
Instructed to move back down to the ground, I laid out on the hard floor, this time uncaring that there was no blanket or matt. The wooden surface felt so cool and solid to my effervescent skin. As the Shaman waited for everyone to become still so that he could lead us through a closing meditation, I was in awe of what had just happened. Somehow, I had gone into a kind of trance where nothing else mattered except how I wanted to move. I felt like I had been in another world where there was nowhere I had to be, nothing to worry about, and no one else to think about. I had felt so incredibly free and it was as close to the feeling of being in the water as I’d ever experienced. It was primal. I was spent. All my muscles had been used. I drifted off and woke to the word: ‘Lunch’.
Inspired by Charlene yet again, I found my local ecstatic dance community and will have my own first experience soon. Now it’s your turn; read an indie author and get inspired to try something new! You can learn more about Char and purchase her memoir, I Must Be A Mermaid: Deep Fear of Shallow Living, at CharleneHickey.com.