The WH Guide to 2017


The WH Guide to 2017

After years of maintaining thirteen small, tidy heart-shaped leaves, the old philodendron in the corner of my apartment has exploded into life. Her stalks divide and she unfurls a profusion of waxy new leaves every week, reaching her long arms into the room. She’s outgrowing her pot. She’s restless, I think, and so am I.

These days, I can feel a rumbling under my surface, like great tectonic plates crushing into one another at the beginning of the world, rearranging my lithosphere into something unrecognizable. But it feels good, this cracking and crumbling, this molten rock bubbling to the surface. To be honest, sometimes I just get so tired of softness.

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Things I Loved in 2016


Things I Loved in 2016 - The Wholesome Handbook

2016, by all accounts, was a bit of a dumpster fire. We lost Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, and Carrie Fisher. The United States voted in a terrifying fascist cheeto. The economy in my city is floundering, and everywhere, social and political tensions are high. But I need to be honest with you, dear reader – 2016 has been one of the best years of my life. It was the year I took control of my destiny, the year I learned to trust myself, the year of risks and rewards and rebirth. This year, I stopped engaging in things I didn’t believe in, and started to work towards telling my own truth. The year I decided to not allow anything but the best for, and from, myself.

I feel like a completely different person than that lost, world-weary girl from last December. She is almost unrecognizable. I’m still a bit of a mess, don’t get me wrong – but for the first time in my life, I feel a little like a grown-up mess. Like someone who knows what she wants, and has the stones to go out and get it. And it feels good.

So here are a few things that defined this transformative year – the things that inspired me, the things I was drawn to, the most important moments, my highlight reel – the things I loved.

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The WH Gift Guide // 2016


The Wholesome Handbook - 2016 Gift Guide

This year’s gift list is for the gal in your life with poetry in her soul. You know the one. The dreamer. The one with her head in the clouds and her feet (which are usually bare) only skimming the ground. The one with stars in her eyes. She’s always off in her own world, probably riding a celestial unicorn or something, but sometimes she touches back down to earth just long enough to make it onto your Christmas list.

This collection was curated to inspire her, spark her imagination, and to make her feel as pretty as Cassiopeia herself. There’s a bit of sparkle, some artisan charm, and I can’t believe it, but I’m disclosing my favourite under-the-radar antique place. Continue reading

A Winter Mood


The Wholesome Handbook - A Winter Mood

Winter has a soul. Every northerner knows this. It blows in on a whim, somehow always unexpected, and blankets the world in white. The rivers groan under ice, and the northern lights ripple over midnight-silent cities. Hoar frost grows crystalline on every naked branch and makes the world into a dreamscape. The air turns hungry, and nips at fingers like a stray dog.

Winter is snowshoeing in an evergreen forest, grand haunted hotels, steaming hot springs. It’s blue ice and sidewalk salt. It’s a cheeky glug of Baileys in my morning coffee. It’s my mother’s meticulously styled tree, and the dogs propped up in their own seats at the table on Christmas morning. It’s my husband proposing to me in a mountain cave as snowflakes melt on my cheeks. When you spend five months of the year in winter, it starts to become a part of you.

I love autumn, it’s true. But winter is in my bones. Winter is home.
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Writing in the White Space – A Conversation with Alexa Gilker


Whitespace Writers with Alexa Gilker - The Wholesome Handbook
Alexa Gilker is the vivacious, down-to-earth wordsmith behind Whitespace Writers, a series of workshops that aim to get to the heart of why we write. She talks with her hands, has great taste in lipstick, and prefers good, solid Germanic words over those amorphous Latin ones. I’ve been taking her classes for several weeks, and I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference they’ve made in my confidence and artistic honesty. I sat down with Alexa recently to chat about feminism, diversity, truth, and of course, her secrets to good writing.

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On Solitude


On Solitude - The Wholesome Handbook

Last year, out of vain curiosity, I visited the patchouli-scented office of a past life reader. He consulted my astrological charts, held my small, cold hand in his large, warm one for a moment, and hummed dramatically. His kind, brown eyes swept over me once, then twice, and he leaned back in his chair, pursing his lips in amusement.

“You’re quite old, you know”. I was intrigued. How could I not be?

He went on to tell me about my past lives in great detail, surprising me with how well he could pinpoint things about my current one. According to him, there’s a reason the desert fills me with anxiety, and a reason my belly leaps with bittersweet joy in the presence of horses. And a reason why, even though I’m surrounded by wonderful people, I love nothing better than to be alone.

You see, according to my visionary friend, I am, at heart, an ascetic. I’ve spent lifetimes wandering alone in the forest with calloused feet, or in silent prayer on mountaintops. I’ve been an ale-brewing monk, an exiled wisewoman accused of witchcraft, a political refugee on the run, an obsessed scholar on the brink of a breakthrough. All of these lives have made me independent and solitary, most comfortable in my own company.

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Discovering Your Ghosts


Discovering Your Ghosts - The Wholesome Handbook

Before Hallowe’en was Hallowe’en, it was All Hallow’s Eve. The day of the dead.

On this night, the veil between worlds is so gauzy and tattered that you can almost see through it. This is the night that spirits slip between the cosmic warp and weft and return to the world of the living. This is the night for ancestors and ancients. This is the night for ghosts.

They spill into the streets, laughing. They’re giddy with the stink of life, the flush of remembrance, the heavy warmth of being. They remember their hands, how they gripped the hipbones of lovers and soothed the foreheads of fevered children. Their pale tongues cold against their teeth, they remember butter and peaches and mama’s famous borscht. With featherlight feet, they dance ceili and bhangra over the treetops. They shiver with pleasure to once again gaze up at the moon.

What a fabulous night.

For years, my ghosts have followed me. Every October, I am inexplicably drawn back into the thrill of discovering them. There is no greater yearning of my heart than to unveil the lives of the people that came before me, and to attempt to retell their stories. To find bits of myself in these people, and to find bits of them still living in me.
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Fire Vibes & A Charcoal Mask


Fire Vibes & A Charcoal Mask - The Wholesome Handbook

A few years ago, there was a fire in Fish Creek near my in-laws’ house – I’ll never forget the blackened hill, the dried up riverbed, the dangerous smell of new ash and charcoal. That fire has haunted me. I imagine the terror of people gazing out of their kitchens to be met with a vista of flame. I imagine the urgency of birds and beetles, taking flight and rising with the heat. I imagine fish wriggling, panicked, in the warm water of the river.

After it was all over, we walked to the area to survey the damage, and something primal overtook me. I wanted to roll in the burnt grass and cover myself with black. I wanted to fill my lungs with smoke. I wanted to burn.

A land touched by fire is a land touched by death and reborn. The hill consumed by that brush fire is now lush and beautiful. The grass is taller, and the trees are heavier in defiance. The human soul is like that, too. We burst into flame, and even if we emerge bald and naked, stripped of everything, we manage to rise again. We are nurtured by destruction. We are given new life.
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Equinox Black Salt Bath & Lessons of the Crone


Equinox Black Salt Bath - The Wholesome Handbook

Our tilting earth swings on its ecliptic tether, the night claws back dominion from the day, and the crone ascends, as she has for millennia. It’s the autumnal equinox, that liminal, time-worn passage between light and dark, life and death, things that are known and mysteries yet to be uncovered. The crone’s hour.

That mythical crone.The crone is every midwife, wise woman, and witch in history. Feared and misunderstood, she is the veil between worlds. She has the kind of wisdom and magic that can only come from a long and soulful existence, her story written in wrinkles, her root-like hands gnarled with her lifetime’s work. She emerged in spring as the fragrant, sweet maiden, and was ripe with the erotic fecundity of summer and motherhood. Now, in her old age, she’s the enlightened one. Her knowledge is untaught and unsanctioned, sprung wholly from the depths of her experience, and this, of course, makes her dangerous. She instinctively knows the truth of all things. She threatens the status quo. She makes people uncomfortable.
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An Autumn Mood


The Wholesome Handbook - That Autumn Mood

That familiar, ghostly whisper of cold in the air. The first glint of amber in a sea of exhausted green. A million little deaths perfuming the streets with a vegetal, earthy tang. I don’t stand a chance against autumn. Every year it creeps in like some unforgotten ex-lover, beautiful and moody and fleeting, and I am bewitched.

I feel most like myself when the world is warm and golden, when I’m not overwhelmed by summer’s lusty chaos or driven into hibernation by the dark, wolfish cold of winter. Autumn feels poetic and gentle, full of wisdom and mystery. In the throes of its death, the world feels so exquisitely alive.

When the seasons shift, it’s wise that we do so as well. Living seasonally is good for you. It’s about mirroring the earth and her cycles, honouring the history of our more pastoral forefathers, remembering that you’re a part of this epic, cosmic dance. It’s just good earthling etiquette to embrace the spirit of the season. Here’s how I’m settling into my favourite time of year.

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