Now that I’ve introduces the ghosts in the house next door to the east, I thought I ‘d write about our neighbour to the west, who is a troll. His name is Trond and you can just glimpse him when the fog and the morning sun meet in a certain manner.
The mountain you can see here is called Høgasyn, meaning high view, And the local legends say that a clan of trolls live here, headed by Trond. He is said to be so old that he has seen the forests around here wither away and grow back up seven times.
There is also a local story about how the clan of trolls would came down to one of the farms nearby to celebrate yule. The humanfolk living on the farm would then go away, leaving the house and land to the trolls. This tradition continued for ages, until one year, a visitor from out of town insisted on staying over the holidays. The trolls were so offended by this they refused to come back. There is probably a lot lost in this story, but that’s the gist of it.
So obviously, last yuletide, we cleaned the house, left food and drinks, and went away, leaving the house to whatever trolls might happen by and feel welcome. Our house is much smaller than your typical farmhouse, but I still hope they at least felt the welcome. At least we haven’t had any issues with them.
Trolls, of course, have an undeserved bad reputation, not helped by interned lingo. Very little positive has been said about trolls for the past few centuries, but it wasn’t always like this. When we today think of trolls as basically everything wrong and stupid, this idea of the troll was very likely introduced with industrialism. The modern idea of the troll was largely created around the late 1800s, right at the start of the industrial era. This was when Asbjørnsen&Moe gathered and heavily edited their Norwegian folk tales, Illustrated by Theodor Kittelsen, who also made a number of advertisements for Norsk Hydro, one of the main power and aluminium companies.
Trolls are representatives and protectors of the deepest, strongest parts of nature, the old mountains, the deep forests, the wild rivers and waterfalls. And with industrialism, the protectors of these things became the enemies of humans. In the stories, trolls were presented as keepers of hidden treasures in the mountains, treasures that the human heroes had to extract by any means necessary. Outside the stories, mountains were turned into mines, rivers poisoned and dammed, forests chopped down, all in the name of the good fight of progress. Anyone in the way were portrayed as malignant, dumb, clumsy, set in their ways and remnants of a time gone by, who had to be cleared off to make room for the new and bright and shiny. Large parts of the environmentalist movement still face this kind of criticism by large companies and investors.
The idea of the troll itself likely has roots in the jotner from Norse mythology. These are, in a Christian world view, usually seen as the enemies of gods and humans, and sources of evil. But even looking at the Christian sources from the time of the myths, it wasn’t all that clear cut as we interpret it now. This is a far too large a theme to get into in this post, but as circumstances would have it, we’re actually living in one of the jotuns at the moment. The whole area, Aurdal, is named after Aurvandil, one of the jotuns. And he is very much present. I’ll tell you about him next week.
So far this blog has been about mainly smaller houses, but today I’d like to introduce a rather large house.
This is the house next door, and I’m glad the small cottage is situated in the betweenspace. This house was once one of the most grand mansions in the area, and now has fallen far beyond disrepair. I’m not sure how long it’s been abandoned, for the deterioration, I’d say ten-to fifteen years, but it could be longer, it could be shorter. You never know with a haunted house.
Because unlike the cottage, with it’s unknown but friendly presence, this house is like a hornets nest. Whatever’s in there has been there for a long time, and it’s angry.
Much like the smaller cottage, the history of the place is buried in bad blood and silence, but I’ve managed to pick up a few snippets of story. You see, the main road between Bergen, the capitol of west Norway, and Oslo, the capitol in the east. Called the king’s highway it used to run right past here, right along our house, along the cottage, and along this. The road was constructed in 1776, but it was based on a much, much older path, which I think deserves a post of it’s own. Anyway, this house used to be, among other things, a telegraph station. By the looks of it, it must have been built sometime around the mid 1800s, but there might have been another house here before that.
I also know that the current owner hates the place with a passion. It’s not just that he doesn’t care, he has expressed a wish to, quote; ‘see it rot’. Now, this man doesn’t seem like the friendly sort at all, he has among other things razed down a whole glen that stood here, for absolutely no reason. And the currant bushes around the abandoned house is still covered in nets to keep the birds from eating the abandoned berries. Or rather, they were, because Even and I removed the nets when we saw a bird stuck in one of them. This, in turn, caused a huge fight with the owner, who may not have wanted the currants, but they were, and I quote again; ‘his currants’. If his ancestors had the same attitude, I don’t wonder the mansion is haunted by hostile spirits.
But how do I know it’s haunted? Well, there have been sightings. While I, being the tactile sort, usually sense ghosts as a pressure in the air, or sometimes a touch, I have a friend who’s more visually oriented and sees the things I feel. From the first time we passed by the house, it gave me a draining, uneasy feeling, and if I went to close, when I returned home, everything would appear colourless, broken, and I would for some reason feel poor. All those little charming signs of wear and tear would seem like rot and decay, every crack in the paint would show and every battered floorboard look ugly. Now, usually I have no problems seeing the difference between signs of loving use and signs of neglect in a house, but something from that mansion would rub off, and I felt poor and dissatisfied. The feeling would vanish after a little while, but leave a lingering sadness for days. So I don’t go near often. But when we have visitors interested in the strange and unusual, I do show them the place. And one such guest was my friend with the vision gift. And one August evening, just as the early autumn twilight was creeping in, we went over.
As she came near the house, she startled, overcome by the feeling of being watched by something. I has not told her anything about my feelings about the place, only that it was a cool and creepy house next door. Approaching the place with caution, she tried to put into words the feelings the house evoked, of not just one presence, but several, as if it was packed full to the chimney with resentment and anger. And then she saw him.
From the second floor window on the right, a man was glaring down at us. She saw him clear enough to describe his look, a longish face with a balding head, protruding forehead and large nose, and his clothes, a dark suit with a high collar. The look he gave was of such intensity that she shivered and we hurried out of sight around the corner to the back of the house. Later, she would describe the look in his eyes as not just hate, but of a burning envy. This man hated everything out there, anything alive, free, warm, breathing.
We had to walk for a while after that, looking at the flowers and listening to living things around us. I told her how the house has made me feel, and we talked about how things could not just get stuck between walls, but ricochet back and forth, further reinforcing itself, growing on it’s own emptiness. She talked about how the house itself felt wrong, like the wrongness was built into the walls from the start.
This is something I also considered in building my house, and something I think all houses should take into account. You need a fire escape for the soul. Just in case you meet your demise indoors, the house should not be built so enclosed that it traps the spirit.
Yet the most chilling part of the evening came when we came back in, and I lit candles and opened a bottle of wine, putting on calming music and bringing us warm blankets to recover our spirits. I decided to have another look at the local archives online, this time trying to match the name on the mailbox with old photos. And then we saw him again. This must have been the, probably grandfather of the current owner, who is old himself now. In the photo his look was more of self satisfied contempt. And his clothes were slightly different, but it was the same man as my friend had described in detail. I still don’t know what might have happened to make him stuck there, or if he just won’t leave. And I don’t think he’s the only presence either.
Now, knowing what’s in there, will I be entering? Yes of course. The door is locked and I won’t be breaking in, but if one day I pass, and find that locked door to be open from a gust of a storm or ill fate, you will be getting a new update from inside the creepiest house I’ve ever encountered.
There is a tiny house next to ours. It’s not part of the property, and no one lives there. No one really knows who owns it, if anyone. It’s a between house.
You wouldn’t think, looking at it, that two centuries ago, it was inhabited by a young unwed mother and her daughter. It’s smaller than most tiny houses, smaller than my Chouette, but it wasn’t an unusual size for a house back then. Today’s tiny house was yesteryear’s comfortable cottage.
Of course, back then, the land looked quite different. The brook running past was larger and the water drinkable, not full of manure and chemicals. The river was unbound and full of fish. There were forests, and not just farmland. You could live off the land back then, and when that’s an option, the house can be quite small.
This is a perspective often lost in today’s tinyhouse movements, where mostly the indoor designs get attention, and it’s all a question of how to live an indoor life in a comprised space. But the infrastructure often takes a back seat. But this is the main thing about living ‘tiny’, you need a living habitat to put your house in.
There are few places left where this is possible. Even if you have a large plot of land, you still need drinkable ground water, which is rare because of industrial agriculture and mining. You need fish and animals and plants, but over half of wildlife is gone in only my time so far, and the climate is much more unpredictable, so you can’t rely on anything really. What I mean by reminding you all about this, is that the only real way to freedom of the road, is to rewild and repair the land, or rather, let it repair itself. And the only way to have room, is to make room by actively dismantling industry. Only then will it be possible to live off the land, and only then will it be possible to comfortably travel it, or live a quiet life in a tiny cottage.
But, I promised ghosts.
As mentioned, the house was built for a young mom and her child. I don’t know all the details, but there are two larger farms in the area. The one which our house was once part of, and a larger one that’s next to us. The house on this land is abandoned, and it’s falling apart at a rapid pace, even if it’s much fancier, larger and has probably been inhabited longer. They are both haunted.
I don’t know if it’s by the original inhabitants, all I know is what I’ve experienced. The door to the small house is locked and bolted, but on some mornings, it’s wide open. We don’t have a key and nobody around here has one either. The lock is an old iron bolt type, and not likely to just nope out of it’s own accord. Also, it has not typically been after stormy nights that the door has been open. I close it again, so the house won’t get damaged further, but it swings open again. Also, last autumn, we also put some small offerings around the area for whatever lives here, and I placed a small whisky by the entrance to the small house. The next morning, the liquid was gone, the glass not tipped over, and while there are several animals around here, none of them will touch alcohol. Now, I can’t say for certain that it’s ghosts- it might be nisser or other haugafolk (mound people, I will talk about these in a later post) But whatever lives here, it seems friendly. I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking by, quite the contrary, the house has a warm, welcoming air about it. Not at all like the larger mansion on the property next to ours. Which I will get to in my next post.
I haven’t been able to travel, or live in my house these past years, but I’ve been keeping up the larger project, the search for how to live in the world
When I built my house, my main object was to see what really was needed from a house. What I needed. We’ve gotten so used to the smaller and larger infrastructures surrounding us that we’ve lost sight of where we are. What I found was that the house can be quite small and simple, but you still need a large, and living, territory for food, movement, company, and water.
I have written before about how travel is a dance with the land, but you can’t dance with someone who is bound and broken, unable to breathe, held down by highways and poisoned by factory fumes or chopped to bits by wind turbines.
In these past few years I have been living in Valdres in my country of birth, Norway. It’s still a place that holds a lot of beauty and a lot of spirit, but they are both under constant threat from humans.
I’ve been meaning to post about all the strange things here, as well as our exploration of the area and the surrounding nature, but I’ve been too focused on trying to immerse myself that I haven’t had time to neither digest the impressions properly or think about how to communicate them. The old myths are more alive here than in many places in Norway, and I’m convinced it has to do with the fairly alive nature.
So I thought I would tell you a bit about the things living here, about trying to connect to the spirit of a place, about living animism and practical magic. I’ll try posting once a week, so check in to see what’s going on in the halls of the mountain king
Would you like to get better acquainted with Hel, Fenrir, Jormundgand and Loki?
I’m taking a new course. That is, I’m hosting a new course. As I’ve spent the last year or so in closer contact with some old friends and connecting to old land, I’ve decided to put together a comprehensive course for others who might want to discover something new about the world and possibly themselves.
Next full moon, April 27, is the first course start for Healing with monsters, where we will discover some central jotuns from norse mythology via myth, meditations, magic, and medicine. Registration starts now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name : Healing with monsters
What now? Monster, from latin monstrum, meaning divine omen.
We’re going to get better aquainted with some central jotuns in norse mythology, namely Fenrir, Hel, Jormundgand and Loki.
The jotun can be seen as representatives of the forces of nature, but for several centuries both they and nature have been interpreted as enemies to humanity, and something to be banished and contained.
We will be rediscovering the sanctity of nature, and these jotuns as representatives of greater cyclic systems of the world and the individual body. We will be learning myth, meditations, spells and basic self care based on a holistic approach.
Cost: 45 euro
Duration: 30 days. Recommended time spent will vary between 5 min to 30 min a day, with a 10 min average. Links for suggested studies will be provided.
Practicalities: The course material will be posted online. You get a text for each day, and the option of one 30 min or two 15 min. personal online counseling at a chosen time during the course. I will be setting up suggested timeslots via a calendar posted to the group, or it can be sent via email.
I will be hosting a server on discord for links, group discussion and the included video chat. If you don’t have or don’t wish to set up a discord account, links can be sent via email, and online counseling can be done via zoom or google.
Now that spring is here I have begun preparations to move along to the mountain regions. There’s still too much snow to bring my house for probably a few months, but there is quite a bit of work to do with the land and the buildings that are already at the place I’ll be staying, probably for a goodish while.
This means that a lot of plans are put on hold. This again makes it tempting to place a lot of hopes and dreams and expectations on how great it will be when things finally comes together. Which brings us to the third and for now last part of our tiny course. To always make the most of the current situation, and don’t place your happiness in the hands of a fantasy of the future.
When the road is your goal, there is no great reward at the end of the journey. To fully travel, you need to be fully where you are at all times, and this means taking care of the body in the here and now.
in stories, protagonists usually go through a bunch of troubles, forsaking momentary pleasures for a grand reward at the end of the journey. This makes for a great narrative, but a stressful life.
Holding out and not giving up might be necessary now and then, but as a general rule, it’s always easier to attend to a minor unpleasantness before it turns into a great problem. Don’t wait until you are exhausted to rest, rest when you can, eat when you can, drink when you can, and keep your feet as warm and dry as possible.
These are the little things that will keep you going in the long run, when the road has no end,
Holding on for an expected reward can also create false or exaggerated hopes, which will be impossible to ever be fulfilled and lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.
While making your body happier, this also sets the mind into a state of continuous motion, rather than a fixed mindset with a still-life goal. It is this motion that is some of the point of a nomadic life style, and why the common ballad of the weary traveler is mostly a cautionary tale. It’s not like we never rest or never can find peace, or are all always looking for new things, it’s that we seek a communication with a constantly changing world, externalizing rather than internalizing and fixing reality. Be it changing seasons, climate, or circumstances, the goal is to keep the dialog with these things going, and that is the true journey.
The next step, after losing yourself in finding the land and the road, is finding out where you are. Not in terms of how the space is defined, like a gas station, a shopping mall, or a park, but what the land is. Is it a swamp? A mountain? A wide plain or a riverbed? Is the soil deep and moist or is it dry and hard? Even in places that look wild, in the sense that they have no houses on them, they have often been modified by human intervention. Mostly by agriculture or by nearby buildings or roads.
This is an exercise mostly for the placed that have been built on or altered, which are most places right now, so they should be easy to find. You don’t even need to get lost for this, it can be done anywhere, including inside your current house, but it’s easier to look properly at a place you haven’t been before.
The true land is today made invisible most places by the illusion of civilization. Therefore, in order to find out where you are, and what path to take next, you need to look beyond what you’re accustomed to look at. If you have managed to get yourself out into wild nature, congratulations, you have found a rare treasure. Here, it will be much easier to see what the land is. The easiest thing to do then, is to look for water. Water is not only your first need for survival, but it leads the way. Even under ground will it form a path between places. But since I’m not a huge expert and this is only a short blogpost, and not a long course, we can start with just looking for any river or open body of water on the surface. If you follow a river, you will end up somewhere. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to walk in circles, yet water never does on the surface. But this is not a wilderness survival guide (yet), and most of us will not find ourselves lost in wild nature (ever), but in some kind of meddled landscape. And this is a post to help you find out where you really are. It’s pretty easy really:
Look for what’s out of place.
The things that seem out of place, are the things that are really there, all else are temporary distractions. This can be a bug, and in knowing a bit about bugs, you can get an idea of what kind of biotope you’re in. It can be moss growing on concrete, or a dandelion, or other plants that are regarded as weeds and nuisances. Mostly, these are the things regarded as ‘dirty’ or ‘gross’, or as a sign of ‘decay’. Paying attention to these small things will slowly give you an understanding of where you really are.
In the nomadic mindset, you don’t try to impose a fantasy on the land of what you think it should be like, you try to see it for what it is. If you do build something, set camp, or change something, you keep it small and to an absolute minimum, you do not force your will or dreams on the land, you open to the dreams the land is already dreaming.
Some may say that the cities and the human buildings placed on the land it its reality now, but as long as it s not a living ecosystem of life and death, and completely dependent on constantly being fed from the surrounding areas, its not a living thing. And as long as there is a continued fight against the invaders of reality, such as moss and insects, it has no claim to an integral reality of its own, it exists in a pseudo-reality, constantly pushing aside or exploiting the reality beneath without being able to ever give anything back. Being perceptible by humans does not in itself make a thing real, but being digestible by something does.
It takes years of practice to connect beyond the concrete, but starting to look widens your world considerably. Just get used to look for the things out of place, and then slowly turn the perspective.
For most of this year, I’ve remained relatively still. I’ve been moving mostly from one place to another for practical reasons and staying for months in one place. For lengths of time I’ve stayed in more permanent structures than my house, like the family cabin, or various indoors during repair work. During this time, I’ve thought a lot about what differs the way I travel for the road, and when I travel to a specific place to do something there.
So I thought I would write a series of posts with thoughts and exercises for those who wish to know more about nomadic travel and perhaps broaden your world a bit. None of these require in themselves a lot of moving about. You will need to leave your house, but you don’t have to go very far.
Fist, I’ll need to get into what makes nomadic travel different. This not something I’ve seen written about other than as an anthropological curiosity, and always from the observers perspective. So it’s taken some time to find words in this unchartered territory.
In some of my previous posts, I’ve touched in on the subject, but as a framework, without having the words to explain outright what it is. It’s a practice rooted in a culture or oral tradition after all, and greatly vilified or ignored in written culture, so I’ve always thought of it as a practice beyond words. And of course, I’m writing about the philosophy of nomadic travel, a thought, and idea, but the practice is old and varied, and more or less successful or more or less present in the mind of the individual traveler. Let’s give it a try anyway.
The simplest way of describing nomadic travel is that it’s a dance with the land. It’s a way of connecting with the place you stay in or travel through and a way of connecting the places you travel with each other.
It’s still a common belief that the nomadic lifestyle is a form of escapism, of running away from responsibility, that it’s all about freedom or in some way childish. But the only responsibility anyone ever really has, is to the land that feeds them, not country, but land. The soil and water, plants and animals and spirit. And there are other ways to connect with land than to grow stuff on it. This is what I’ll be exploring in this series of posts.
Nomadic travel isn’t about moving away from land, it’s about moving with it. Rather than making a connection with land by staying in one place and imposing our will on it, making some things grow while killing off others, changing rivers, planting forests or burning them down, it’s a conversation and a dance.
There are, of course, several nomadic tribes, on all continents, with their unique way of moving. Some live with a herd of animals, and move with them, following the seasons and going where the food and water for the animals are, rather than forcing the food to grow and water to flow to them. Some are seasonal workers on farms or take their chances in cities. Some are confined to reservations. Most nomadic people won’t move terribly far away or cross the globe, it’s the consistency, not the length of the journey that matters.
And while some may have more ‘restless blood’ than others, and some may feel the call of the wild or the road stronger, it’s not like you can say that this is a specific genetic or even cultural thing. The very idea we have of culture, is a colonialist one. It’s one where culture is reduced to a handful of gods and a fancy dress. The real culture, the cosmology and connections to greater things than humans or the self, are in any case greatly damaged or destroyed. These posts are also a way of reviving that, not in a specific group of humans, but in the world.
So let’s say you want to do this thing. That you want to dance, connect with the road. Where do you start? I’m going to write a few posts with exercises on how to change your perspective, even if just a little. And then on how to dance.
The first thing to do if you want to travel is to get lost. It doesn’t matter where, it can be in a city, or a forest or a suburb. Even with travel restrictions, it’s still quite possible to get lost. Turn off you phone or leave it behind, go somewhere you haven’t been. Take the bus, or take that Other path that leads the Wrong Way from where you usually walk. Don’t bring anything and don’t have a goal. Make peace with the chance that you’ll never return home. Most likely you will, but it’s a good thing to let your mind get comfortable with. You can ride your bike or horse or wheelchair or whatever, but the closer you are to the ground, and the slower you move, the better.
Now some people are cursed with a perfect sense of direction, but most people are about ten steps and two corners away from being lost at all times. You just pick a road you haven’t walked, and then follow it. To make it easier, take as many twists and turns as possible, or if you’re in the woods, get away from the beaten path as soon as possible. If it’s dark, try not to use any light, there’s usually enough light pollution and moonlight to see where you’re going. A lot of people may say that this is dangerous, and it certainly is. Not as much as most people think, but a bit. Life is danger, only death is completely safe.
You don’t have to walk very far though, just to the point where you can with confidence look around you and say to yourself that you have no idea where you are. Now, look around you again, because when lost, your eyes become sharper. Try to notice things, sounds of water or traffic, familiar houses or trees, and you’re already looking at the world with wider eyes than before you started.
Now you stay here a bit, being lost. Don’t try to find your way back at once, you’re not doing this as a tracking exercise. The things is, you’re not lost, you’re never lost. You just need to find some basic things. Like food, water and shelter. That’s all. These things may be in a specific place, but as you look around, they are other places as well. (If you plan to get lost in the woods, by the way, it’s helpful to have at least some basic knowledge of edible plants and to not start doing this at winter).
When you’re comfortable with being lost, make your way back. Do not rush, and pay attention to everything, insects, plants growing out of the asphalt, birds flying over head, the call of a crow, the wind. These are the things that you will gradually start following. If you haven’t walked too far, you’re probably going to find your way back pretty soon. If you should get more and more lost, don’t panic, stop walking. Wait. Somewhere there will be something you recognize, a hill in the distance, or a light. You will find someone and they will help. The trick is to not be too vigorous and try to cover too much distance. You only need to get a little bit lost, not set off a rescue mission.
It is perfectly acceptable to ask strangers for help at this point if you should find your self more lost as you go. This is probably something you’ll have to do a lot in your travels. You will need a hand now and then, and might as well get used to asking for help if you’re not used to it before. Politeness and a slight bewilderment goes a long way. Also, if you’re not currently using your gut feeling about who to talk to and who to avoid, it’s best to start listening to that as well. I have knocked on a few doors in my time and disturbed a few dinners in order to ask random strangers if they could please tell me where I am.
The point of this exercise is in any case not to become a great outdoors person or streetwise, but first of all to get used to seeing the world as a place of possibilities. To focus on what you actually need in it, and to see that these things are not linked to one place. This will come gradually and will already be familiar to people who travel in a conventional way in their work.
The second part is to start to notice your surroundings and in time, to let them guide you rather than to plow your way to a goal. This, I’ll be writing more about next time.
As I spent some months away from my house this summer, to fix the cabin, there was a bit of repair work to do when I got back.
I say ‘a bit’ here in the most British sense of the word, as there had been a leak in part of the roof and unusually warm and wet weather where it stood, leading to extensive water damage.
A major difference between living in a house I build myself, rather than a house belonging to someone else, or a bank, is that I’m always faced with the choice of whether to keep rebuilding or not.
On the plus side, I can make the changes I want, when and how I want. I don’t need to wait around for someone else to do things, and it costs a fraction of what a similar repair would be on a typical house.
On the heavier side, I do need to keep making that decision. The question is always there, not only if I should give up, but if it’s worth taking other matter, trees, water, space to keep making this. Does it really need to keep existing?
I find myself more and more adverse to buying materials, it has become frightfully apparent in this process that these materials are corpses of trees, and often healthy habitats have been destroyed to make way for plantations of fast growing woodland. And I don’t think I can convince myself that my house is worth sacrificing all these lives for.
Everything feeds off something else, not only is it inevitable, it’s the only way of keeping life going, the only way of reintroducing matter. If life is to even exist, things need to consume other things and by that not only keep alive themselves, but make sure matter is being brought back properly.
But a dream is not actually needed to live, no matter what popular stories will tell you. And a house is always a dream of some sort. And dreams tend to loose their connection to reality. Not in the sense of whether or not what you want is possible, but in the sense of making that constant choice and the realization that every little bit of reality you take, you take from something else. And sooner or later, all dreams will become monsters if you don’t stop. Sooner or later, everything you have borrowed, will be taken back by the spiral. At some point, your dream, your visions, your life, will take more than it can ever return. And then it’s a monster.
My solution so far is to make use of repurposed materials as much as possible, or use trees that have fallen in storms or been cut down and left. Even then, I’m interfering in some way, keeping a part of the great spiral locked in a form. That choice, I have to keep making and keep considering and hope I’m connected enough to give up before it becomes a travesty.
Eventually, of course, I will also die, and hopefully be quickly taken up in the spiral, and as this summer has showed, it won’t take very long for my house to be reclaimed by nature either, for the most part.
These last few years has also changed how I look at beauty. Where I used to consider things like proportions and integrity, I now also consider the beauty of a thing or creature as linked to the balance of integrity and how easily it will be for nature to reclaim.
In this light, the great Rot in the picture, is the most beautiful creature I have met this summer. It’s origin is a large tree that has fallen in the woods and been let long enough for life to sprout around it, birds to nest it it’s branches, fungi to form neural links to water and other plants and life forms, green vines to bloom at its heart. It lives now in a between state of life and non-life, of decay and growth, of returning and preserving and it can evoke awe in anyone who looks upon it in the forest. This in other words, is now a god.
I didn’t just set out living in a small, self-made cabin on wheels with no running water or electricity entirely on a whim. The cabin where I spent a lot of time as a kid and where I’m now staying forms much of the ideas for and practice for my current house.
The cabin is on a peninsula by a fjord, so there’s no fresh water, no electricity or other so-called modern facilities. There is, or was, peace and quiet, living creatures and weird things in the woods.
The cabin is not by any sane standards ‘primitive’, it’s quite full of comfortable solutions, like a cooling cabinet dug close to the rock that will keep drinks chilled and most not-terribly perishable foods, like eggs and cheese, preserved. Most of these ideas I’ve grown up with and could in various ways adapt to my wagon.
I really believe spending so much time here made me better prepared for a life on the road, for finding solutions to a lifestyle on the edge of society. There are so many small things that needs to be learned, or better, internalized as a way of being, of moving. As an adult, I probably would have had a harder time getting used to little tings like not throwing out the water you boiled your morning eggs in purely on reflex, or collecting rain water for washing.
There is a lot (well, not a lot, not as much as it should be, but more than a while ago) of talk about adapting to climate change and system collapse. A growing number of people are starting to doubt that their current lives are going to continue along the same lines. And very often, we are presented with a bunch of ‘smart’ solutions. That we can buy. For a price. But the key to adapting is really quite simple. You look, and you listen.
You look at where you actually, physically are, and what else is there. And you listen to your surroundings. Water is not always above ground, animal paths lead ways through the forest. Because as much as I have picked up clever ways of cooling by drinks and storing water, the main thing I learnt by being largely self reliant, is that things really exist. It sounds obvious, but it’s something largely gone from our modern minds. We live on the planet as if it’s already dead and we’re the only real creatures left on in. Some delve into fantasies about living in simulations or illusions.
But things are real, even the things you can’t see. You can live outside society, but it takes a lot more room and a lot more practice than just casting the yoke and running off. And while money doesn’t grow on trees, food actually does. Unless some mad bastard has chopped them down to make money.