Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Psychotherapy and Renewal: Persephone’s Big Comeback

April 5th, 2011 · depth psychology, Jungian analysis, life passages, mythology, personal myth, personal story, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, renewal, Self, soul, therapist, therapy, unconscious

Frederic Leighton – The Return of Persephone (1891).

There’s a lot of truth for psychotherapy in the Greek myth of Persephone and it’s all tied up with the yearly renewal of the seasons.  Persephone, a vegetation goddess, and the daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, was kidnapped and ravished by Hades, the king of the Underworld, and taken to live in his realm.

Demeter, so distraught at her disappearance, refused to let crops or vegetation grow anymore until her daughter was returned.  The gods finally prevailed on Hades, who agreed to let her go.  However the all-wise Fates had decreed that anyone who consumed the food of the underworld was destined to stay there for eternity.  Alas, wiley Hades had persuaded Persephone to eat 3 puny pomegranite seeds.  And so Persephone must spend part of the year in the Underworld, a time of barreness, and vegetation would flourish again only when she was re-united every year with Demeter above ground.

This is quite a myth to explain the origin of the seasons.  Here in Canada, after the long barren winter, we all feel a little like I imagine Persephone would, as she was released from the earth. Released back into life!

The profound truth of the Persephone myth also conveys a deep meaning for our own psychological journey.

The Persephone myth conveys a natural movement in psychological life  For Persephone, it is only as she is detached from her familiar world, and descends to the Underworld that she can bring the blessing and the gift of the seasons, of new green life, and fertility.

My experience is that it is like that in the lives of my clients and in my own life, also.  Sometimes the encounter with life’s circumstances and with the unconscious can seem like a sudden plunge into darkness and descent into the underworld.  But the underworld has its own gifts that it brings.  Only those who can accept those gifts, and “eat the food of the underworld”, can bring the gift of life and fertility back to the “surface world” of their everyday lives.  In the encounter with the depths in ourselves, including our unconscious, we travel Persephone’s way, and return to our everyday life with the green lushness of  renewed outlook and vitality.

In the video below, the great Brazilian jazz stylist Antonio Carlos Jobim sings his wonderful song “The Waters of March” at the 1986 Montreal Jazz Festival.  Lush and full of feeling, this wonderful music captures the enormity of the renewal of Spring that we all sense at this time of year.  May we find that same sense of renewal through the encounter with our own deepest selves.

A stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road

It’s the rest of a stump, it’s a little alone

It’s a sliver of glass, it is life, it’s the sun…

…It’s a beam it’s a void, it’s a hunch, it’s a hope

And the river bank talks of the waters of March

It’s the end of the strain

The joy in your heart

Finding Renewal

Both Persephone’s descent into the underworld and the renewal of spring symbolize aspects of the psychotherapeutic process.  Often for renewal, it is important to enter into the depths, and to encounter the more hidden parts of our own existence, and our own experience of life.   The journey may well be demanding, and it is the role of the depth psychotherapist to guide the individual toward renewal, and the deep rewards of the journey.  There’s no better time to start than now.

As always, I welcome your inquiries and comments.

Wishing you the gifts of renewal on your journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst


PHOTO CREDIT:  Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton (1830–1896).  This work is in the public domain.

VIDEO CREDIT  © 1986 Antonio Carlos Jobim and Koch International

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 1

July 26th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, depth psychology, guilt, life passages, midlife, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, regret, soul, therapy, unlived life, wholeness

Regret is a power that can bring you to your knees.  A great many of us have experienced its power.  Sinatra may sing “Regrets, I’ve had a few / But then again, too few to mention.”  This sounds admirable and enviable, but over the course of a lifetime, most of us have to deal with some very powerful rendez-vous with the way it might have been.

Regret can be experienced at any point in life, but often at mid-life, regret can start to take on a particular intensity.  As we go through the journey of life, the awareness that we have only a finite amount of life left, a finite number of possibilities open to us, can lead us to an exquisite hyper-sensitivity to the regret we have for all the choices we could have made differently, roads we could have walked, ways that it might have turned out that it did not.  In other words, the life unlived.

How can we live with this awareness?  We may attempt to shrug it off, pretend it isn’t there.  But very often for us it is there, often at times like 3 o’clock in the morning, when all the spirits tend to come out.  Not a few of our addictive and compulsive behaviours — including workoholism — can stem from attempts to run away from regret.  But how can you or I run away from something so close to ourselves?

In my next few postings, I will be examining the phenomenon of regret, and the way it impacts us.  It can have a huge grip on us.  It can even imprison us, and embitter us beyond words.  But, let me ask a question that might seem strange:  Is there health in regret?  It’s clear how regret can be a poison, but, oftentimes, the cure for the poison is made from the poison itself.

Does regret play a part in your life?  Do you ever find the experience of regret both inescapable and painful?  I’d welcome any of your comments on this post.

My Next Post: Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 2: Understanding the Power of Regret

I wish you all the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cammeraydave |

© 2010 Brian Collinson


Welcome to the New Home of “Vibrant Jung Thing!”

May 5th, 2010 · Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy

Dear Readers,

With some great help, I’ve finally been able to move my blog onto my main website, which is something that I have been wanting to do for a very long time.  I hope that you will continue to read and enjoy my posts.  Having the blog on my main site makes it easier to see how the posts are connected to my counselling, psychotherapy and Jungian analysis practice.

I invite you to check out the “Welcome” page, to get a clearer sense of what I do as a therapist, and my particular concern for soul-making and wholeness, and especially what that means for people in suburban places like Oakville, Mississauga and Burlington.

I also invite you to look at the “About Brian” page for more information on me and my background and The Journey in order to get a sense of the kind of clients with whom I work.

So, for me, getting the blog to this point is the completion of a journey of sorts.  My hope is that Vibrant Jung Thing will continue to be a resource that you can use on your journey to yourself.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Missdolphin |

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Here in the Middle Years of Life: Is That All There Is?

February 28th, 2010 · Anxiety, depression, depth psychology, Hope, Identity, inner life, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, soul, stress, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, therapy

The great jazz artist Peggy Lee performed the following beautiful, highly disturbing yet haunting song in 1969, at midlife, in her 50th year:

I doubt that questions get much more real than those in this song.  And the question that Peggy Lee sings about here is of the type, that, for many people, can become achingly urgent at the middle of life. 

For many people, especially in our tumultuous times, the middle years of life can come to feel like an endless process of coping with chaos.  It can feel like life has become a time of just responding to one crisis after another: issues with maturing children, issues with the health of parents; job issues; issues of financial security.  At times, life can come to seem endlessly wearying, and very much as if there is nothing to it, but “just going through the motions”.  From such a place, for very many people, there can come a deep heartfelt cry: “Is this really all that there is to my life?  Is this all that I get?”

This moment, the moment of this question, is highly important in the life of the individual.  This is true, even especially true, if the time when this question arises is filled with depression, anxiety — even despair.

From experience with clients, I can almost guarantee that there will be no canned, pre-packaged answer to this question that will slake the desperate thirst of those who ask such a question. Only an answer rooted in the individual’s life will bring any peace, any hope, any meaning — any sense of value.

By an individual answer, I mean one that emerges from the very depths of the individual.  Not something that the individual’s intellect or conscious mind has cobbled together, but something that emerges from the very depths of the person, from what they most fundamentally are.  Something to which they can say “Yes!” with their whole being.

It is the task of good therapy (and of Jungian analysis) to assist the individual in finding the symbolic dimension that conveys meaning, to find the deep story or myth of an individual’s life.  There are many in suburban places like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga for whom the question “Is that all there is?” has become urgently real.  I invite you to enter into the therapeutic journey inward, to find your own inner treasure.

I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections from readers.  Have you had the experience of wondering in this way “is that all there is”?  How has that question affected your life?  If you were willing to share this important and personal part of your life, I’d be deeply interested to dialogue with you.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice:

© 2010 Brian Collinson



Identity and Anxiety in the Film, “Up In the Air”

January 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Film, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, persona, puer aeternis, unlived life, wholeness, work

Make no mistake, moving is living.  -Ryan Bingham


“Up in the Air”, directed by Jason Reitman, stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.UpInTheAir for Vibrant Jung Thing  Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is a full-time corporate down-sizer whose life consists of an endless stream of business travel (“322 days last year”).  He moves from place to place, letting people go from corporate roles when their employers cannot stomach doing it.  He has no permanent attachments to people, a desolate and hollow single bedroom apartment he never sleeps in, and he has accumulated 10,000,000 airmiles…

Up In the Air Official Website

Ryan Bingham’s life is in airports and hotel rooms and is filled with constant movement.  The stability and security in his life, his secure base, is found precisely in those things that others find impermanent and impersonal.  His finely orchestrated and choreographed travel routine, his mechanized method of moving constantly from place to place gives him re-assurance, and in an odd way a sense of belonging.  Which is good, because Ryan has no permanent connections to anyone in his life.

Ryan also has a budding career as an motivational speaker.  His message: “Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life….  The slower we move, the faster we die.”

Ryan is completely identified with his corporate role.   His aircraft-bound life is an appropriate symbol of his existence on a deeper level.  In the terms of Jungian psychology, Ryan, like Christopher McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild is a true puer aeternus (“eternal boy”).  He floats above life in his social self, and never puts down roots into the deep soil of his genuine self.  And he is danger of discovering that his life is tragic because there he has no remaining way to turn back.

In its own way, this is a very disturbing and provocative film, but it’s a very good one.  It raises the question for each of us about how connected we’re willing to be to the real substance of our lives.

I’d welcome comments below from readers on anxiety, identity and work.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © DW Studios LL.C. and Cold Spring Pictures

© 2010 Brian Collinson



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Remembering and Renewal

December 31st, 2009 · archetypal experience, depth psychology, Hope, Identity, Individuation, life passages, The Self

Renewal for Vibrant Jung Thing New Year's Eve and the New Year, with all its joy, and its bittersweet recollection of another year gone by, will soon be here.  Another year of memories, and another year of living behind us, with everything that entails.

For many, 2009 couldn't end too soon.  A year of stress and economic uncertainty like practically no other in recent memory. For many, changes in their lives with which they would rather not have to grapple. And yet, for many, 2010 approaches with signs of hope.

Is there any possibility of renewal for each of us, in our individual lives?  Here is a song that I think beautifully describes new life that can arise from our own depths, sometimes from hidden places of which the conscious ego is unaware.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Black bird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Easy or hard, you have now made your journey through 2009.  What is stirring in you at the beginning of this New Year, that might be "only waiting for this moment to arise"?  Is there any indication in your dreams at this time?  What might they show you?

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journey to wholeness, especially at the turning of the year,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice:


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© 2009 Brian Collinson

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When You Hit a Brick Wall

July 9th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, midlife, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, stress, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

Often people get to the point in life where they reach an impasse, and they don’t know how to solve a particular situation in their lives.

Hitting the Wall 1 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

There doesn’t seem to be a way forward and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.  Although this can happen at any point in life, it seems particularly prevalent at mid-life.

Often, the way one becomes aware of this is that you just realize that the way that you have been trying to solve a particular problem or deal with a particular life situation just isn’t opening anything up.  What this tells you, at least in part, is that your attitude is no longer adapted to the realities of your life.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying something along the lines of “If you want it enough, and you’re unfailingly positive about it, what you want in your life will come” — the kind of message that you find in books like The Secret.  I think that approach to life is quite naive, and I have seen a fair number of people come to real harm as a result of trying to live like that.  Such an attitude can be really unadapted, and can lead you into a major collision in reality.  I know of one person who left home and found herself absolutely destitute and friendless in Dubai as a result of that kind of thinking.  From all that I hear, Dubai is not a great place to be penniless, and to try and get by on just a sunny smile.
Having an adapted attitude may well mean that there are certain realities that I have to let in and acknowledge.  That may even mean that there are things that I have to grieve.  What it may mean, above all, is that I have to change.
Let’s say that I’m a true died-in-the-wool “thinking type” person.  So I try to approach all the problems and situations in my life in very rational, thought-out, dispassionate ways.  Then perhaps one day I find myself deep in the grip of a depression that I simply can’t shake.  It might well be that the only way that I’m going be able to come through the depression and feel alive again is by acknowledging my feeling side — all those years of unacknowledged and suppressed feelings.  This is going to require a big change in the way that I see myself, and a lot of open-ness to dimensions of my life that I’ve previously done my very best to cut off.  It isn’t going to be easy.  Parts of me are really going to resist.  But it may well be that it’s the only way that I’m going to get my real, meaningful life back.
Similarly, a person who is all about willpower and control may well have to acknowledge the parts of him- or herself in the unconscious that they can’t control.  They may have to admit that the ego is going to have to acknowledge that it is “second banana” to the Self, and let things emerge from their dreams and from other parts of the unconscious, and take those things into account in the way that they live their lives.  This might be quite difficult, but it might just give them a meaningful life again.
 Hitting the Wall 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Many times “hitting the wall” has to do with coming up against the things that I really refuse to admit to myself.  The key to the lock that I need to open, I hide from myself, because there is some truth about myself or my situation that I really don’t want to look at.
The only way past the wall is to be open to something new: the undiscovered self.
Please keep sending me your comments and your thoughts!  I would welcome any of your reflections on the “walls” in your life, past or present.  

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


Get “Vibrant Jung Thing” posts delivered to your email using the “FeedBurner” box in the left column!

PHOTO CREDITS:  © Alexandr Tkachuk | ; © Kentoh |   

© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Meaningful Life

June 17th, 2009 · depth psychology, life passages, Meaning, meaningful life, midlife


 meaningful life The Toronto Globe and Mail in an article this morning cited research by Dr. Patricia A. Boyle and her colleagues at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and published in Psychosomatic Medicine, tending to empirically confirm something that psychotherapists and counsellors have known from their practices for a very long time:   A more meaningful life is associated with a reduced risk of mortality among older persons.

Almost needless to say, the insight that meaning and purpose in life are tied to greater vitality in life is not something that is confined to the old.  In some important ways, depression can often be related to a particular crisis of meaning in a person’s life.  Jung has written on the theme of meaning with great frequency in his writings.  He particularly emphasizes its importance at mid-life and all points thereafter in life, but it is a theme that he would readily acknowledge throughout the life journey, as does psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl in his classic work Man’s Search for Meaning.

That’s all good, but where does one get this meaning?  Most fundamentally, something is meaningful to a person when the meaning emerges from deep in the self, and is connected with the very core values and life experience of the individual.  The depth of the Self is not nearly the same thing as the reality of the ego and its particular projects: it has to do with the whole dimension of us that is seeking to find unity and wholeness.  The work of psychotherapy at its deepest and most valid is to assist the individual in getting to know these undiscovered aspects of the whole psyche.

How does the issue of what is meaningful touch your life?  WHere have you found meaning that is vital and important to you?  What parts of you continue to look for meaning?


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The Mirror of Relationship

May 18th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, Relationships, soul, The Self, unlived life, wholeness

Mirror of Relationships for Vibrant Jung Thing He woke up one day, and realized that he didn't recognize his marriage, his partner or himself.  He realized that things had gone on in a certain way for years and years, but that for a long time now, he had just been going through the motions.  

Certainly, he loved his kids, now in their early teens, and was a very giving parent.  He knew he wanted good things for them, was prepared to make all kinds of sacrifices for them, and could not bear the thought of hurting them.  Outside of the relationship with the kids, though, what was there that remained positive, or that had any life in it?

He thought of his wife and felt that he had nothing in common with her anymore.  It was almost painful these days to spend time together.  She seemed so different from the woman that he had been in love with, all those years ago.  He could remember how thrilled he had been to be with her, to share things with her, and just to talk early in their relationship.  It had been so intoxicating!  But now there was little that they enjoyed doing together.

With pangs of sharp feeling, he realized that he himself had changed.  The young adult "keener" who had worked so hard to supply all the material things, and who had sought to advance himself any way he could had disappeared now.  In that person`s place was someone who among other things, realized that he was not immortal, and who wanted the things that he did with his life and his time to count — to be meaningful to him.  And right now what he was experiencing in his relationship was not meaningful, and was not making him feel good that he was alive.

The experience of this man is not uncommon.  He could just as easily be a woman, or a partner in a gay or lesbian relationship.  In our current world of shifting relationships, people are now often much readier to acknowledge when relationships and marriages are no longer working.  This is not to say that such awareness comes easily: it may often be a very difficult matter for a partner when they finally have to admit to themselves that their relationship, once so full of hope, is now a shell of its former self.

When such awareness dawns, there is usually no going back from it.  It may be that the couple concerned will end their relationship, or it may be that the relationship will change dramatically  One thing that you can be very sure of: the relationship that used to exist has outlived itself, and is dead and gone. Something new, either within or without the relationship, must now emerge.


1.  Who has changed in the relationship?  Me?  My partner?  Both of us?

2.   How did I see my partner when we first got together?  What attracted me to my partner?  How do I see my partner now?

3.  Do I see my partner realistically?  What are the aspects of him/her that I don't acknowledge, or that I don't understand?

4.  Are there aspects of myself that I see in my partner.  Are there aspects of anyone else that I recognize in him or her.

5.  What am I really yearning for in relationship.

Dreamstime_573697 The journey of therapy very often starts in the crucible of relationship, or leads through it.  In many different ways, relationship can catalyze a deeper connection with the depths of the self.

Thank you to clients and readers alike who have shared with me aspects of their lives in relationship over the years.  As always I welcome readers comments ànd I thank you for taking the time to read.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


Get "Vibrant Jung Thing" posts delivered to your email using the "FeedBurner" box in the left column!

PHOTO CREDITS:  © Playboots | © Kristian Peetz |

© 2009 Brian Collinson    

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A Quotation from Carl Jung on Midlife Transition

February 24th, 2009 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, dreams, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, soul, unlived life

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm planning to add some posts to this Path in Garden for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog blog that are built around quotations from Carl Jung, in addition to the posts that are my own reflections.

This is because I think that Jung's own thoughts and language often have some very good things to say to us directly about what life is now.

A good example of this is the following quotation, taken from C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, a book which compiles many of Jung's public addresses and the experiences that other had in in encountering him.  This quotation expresses in its own way a kind of experience associated with mid-life transition and "the unlived life" that I recognize in many of my clients.  Perhaps you will recognize it, too.

"Take the example of a businessman — successful, rich, not yet old.  He is perhaps forty-five.  He says, 'I have made my fortune; I have sons that are old enough to carry on the business which I founded.  I will retire.  I will build a fine house in the country and live there without any cares or worries.'  So he retires.  He builds his house and goes to live in it.  He says to himself, 'Now my life will begin.'

But nothing happens.

One morning he is in his bath.  He is conscious of a pain in his side.  All day he worries about it; wonders what it can be.  When he goes to the table he does not eat.  In a few days his digestion is out of order.  In a fortnight he is very ill.  The doctors he has called in do not know what is the matter with him.  Finally, one of them says to him, 'Your life lacks interest.  Go back to your business.  Take it up again."

The man is intelligent, and this advice seems to him sound.  He decides to follow it.  He goes back to his office and sits down at his old desk and declares that now he will help his sons in the management.  But when the first business letter is brought to him, he cannot concentrate on it.  He cannot make the decisions it calls for.  Now he is terribly frightened about his condition.

You see what has happened.  He couldn't go back.  It was already too late.  But his energyThinking Man for Vibrant Jung Thingis still there, and it must be used.

This man comes to me with his problem.  I say to him: 'You were quite right to retire from business.  But not into nothingness.[Italics mine]  You must have something you can stand on.  In all the years in which you devoted your energy to building up your business you never built up any interests outside of it.  You had nothing to retire on.'

This is a picture of the condition of man today.  This is why we feel that there issomething wrong with the world.  All the material interests, the automobiles and radios and skyscrapers we have don't fill the hungry soul.  We try to retire from the world, but to what?  ….They are like the businessman who tried to go back to his desk.

….I say to him, "My dear man, I don't know any more than you do the meaning of the world or the meaning of your life.  But you — all men — were born with a brain ready made.  It took millions of years to build the brain and body we now have.  Your brain embodies all the experience of life."

'….Now suppose that I am in need of advice about living, and I know of a man who is already thousands of years old.  I go to him and say, 'You have seen many changes; you have observed and experienced life under many aspects.  My life is short — perhaps seventy years, perhaps less — and you have lived for thousands of years….

When I say this to my patient he cocks his ears and looks at me.

'No,' I say, I am not that man.  But that man speaks to you every night.  How?  In your dreams.'Aborigine Rock Art for Vibrant Jung Thing (2)

The psyche is much older than our personal existence.  The Self is a present reality if we are prepared to look for its manifestations in our own life.  Carl Jung knew it, and we can, too.

In my next post, I'll be continuing my series "Therapy: Pain Killer or Path to Myself", of which I've already published PART ONE and PART TWO.

I wish each of you every good thing on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson,


© Beata Becla| ; © Riekefoto| ; © Jurgen Kleykamp|



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