Behind the concrete, seeing what’s really there. Part 2 of how to be a traveler.

Signs, are usually not very helpful at all, and often quite misleading.

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. 

All hail the great Rot

This. Is God.

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.

The curse of the ninth

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This shore will always hold a mystery

Lately, I’ve vacated my house, la Chouette to do maintenance work on a family cabin. Since my dad passed away, it hasn’t been much in use. My mom doesn’t drive and I have no siblings and obviously I’m not going live in a fixed place, so we’re going to sell it. I have a lot of happy memories from this place, so I’ll hate to see it go, but I can’t keep something just for the sake of keeping it.

When I was little, this is where we’d go to get away from everything. There’s no electricity, there are kerosene lamps, an old cast iron stove, an outdoor toilet and if you want fresh meat for dinner, you’ll have to go fish (you could also try hunting in the woods, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The terrain is not for people). When building my own dream home, I leaned heavily on my experiences from summers here, such as how to make water last, what I need and what’s only distractions.

It’s also a special place because my dad built it himself, and there are numerous caring details and features that gives the cabin soul and heart.

However, in the last years before his death, and as his heart condition grew worse (that’s not what killed him, ironically), my dad also fell ill with the same madness that seems to spread everywhere. The madness of expansion over maintenance. Now, starting something new is always more fun than finishing something. And especially to a creative person. But at some point, the constant starting of new things becomes pathological.

Since I was there last, two new sun deck have been built around the cabin, one more apparently planned and a boat house large enough to live in has taken the place of the quay. There is also an incomprehensible doorway in the middle of the path to the cabin that I can’t for the life of me figure what was going to do. At the same time, the woodwork in the existing structure is, while not beyond hope, clearly bearing signs of neglect, and there is a water damage in one of the bedrooms. Still pretty easy to fix, but it’s been there for some time. Little things that needed to be done regularly has clearly been set aside in favor of new and completely unnecessary projects. Also, the cabin itself has been filled with various items that probably seemed useful in the store, but has no place or use at all in the daily life in the woods by the sea. It was a well-equipped cabin with integrity, and didn’t need to be filled with cheap junk.

And it seems everyone is building pointless things and filling every available space with junk.

Right now, there is a massive building of wind turbines in Norway. I saw them mar the landscape in Denmark and Germany, and now they’re filling the coast and mountains here. Whole islands are being covered in turbines up to 150m height, killing birds and insects and making the area uninhabitable for anyone, human or other animal. Most of these turbines are built to cater to the European marked and to the lie of cheap and sustainable energy. The lie of the plenty is destroying the planet we live on.

It’s not just the turbines. Mining, logging, road construction and the very last drop of oil, all destructive and disruptive human activity is madly speeding up, while at the same time it’s more and more obvious that the kind of world that these roads and skyscrapers and cities are made for is not going to happen. The brave new plastic sci-fi world of the post ww2 era was a terrible idea and now it’s dying. Globalism is failing, all the larger states are failing, and let’s face it, humanity is failing.

It might be, at some level, that this is the same phenomenon at play. That, in addition to the usual greed and stupidity that plague the species, humans in the ‘civilized’ world might also be experiencing the same madness that came over my dad before he died. His health was deteriorating, he must have known his time was running out. And I do think most humans also know at some level that the world as we know it is dying too. Yet I think people have a belief that if you start something, death will patiently wait and let you finish it. A belief that unfinished business will keep you linked to the world for longer, but to finish something, is to die.

As an artist, I experience this too. The fear of the finished piece, the curse of the ninth. It’s always there at the back of the brain. And of course, my own house won’t ever be finished. But it does have the advantage of obvious limitations, if I want to add a new thing, something else has to go, and I have to finish what I start. The need for change and hunger for expansion is probably present in all things,  but as I said, at some point it becomes pathological. Life might be expansion, but at some point the growth becomes cancerous (it was cancer that got my dad in the end, by the way).

But death doesn’t wait any more than life does. And you can’t cheat death, because it’s not playing a game. Even if our culture is littered with stories about how cheating death is a good and brave thing, it isn’t. Perhaps the time has come now for humanity to finish their symphony and care for what they have while they can.

The habits of habitat. Also, a poem

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my house, wondering if this could be her natural habitat

I said I would write about human habitat and I will. In building a house and in placing it in different types of settings, a static room in a changing environment, I have gone further than before in exploring the relationship between human and habitat.

I could rant about this endlessly, about how we still see nature as something outside our bodies, something put here for our sake, and not as what we are.

About how we think we can build ourselves away from the water we drink and the air that we breathe.

About how we want to save trees, but not the earthworm, fungi, bacteria, and beetle that make it possible for trees to exist.

About how we ruin the places we could have lived with little effort in order to make habitable the places of the planet less suited for our hairless, soft bodies, even willing to wipe out everything in order to find a new planet to ruin, thinking that space travel is a magical thing that doesn’t use earth’s resources instead of the ultimate consumerist fantasy.

But I’m tired of the sound of words, so I’ll condense it all in a jolly little poem. I call it:

De Naturae (from nature)

I thought that we made this abundantly clear

your new promised land doesn’t want you here

If the ground is covered with nettles that stings

it’s because it was made for the things that have wings

For the fur and the claw and the shimmering scale

the long curving tooth and the short stubby tail

If the sun is too sharp and the insects all bite

it’s a place for the things that will come out at night

If the rain is too cold and the wind blows right through

it was meant for the ones with skin tougher than you

If you need to make houses of concrete and steel

come here fiddlemonkey, I’ll make you a deal

Human, go back to your Eden and rest

leave the bear to her den and the bird to his nest

And if overcrowding should bring you distress

then limit your numbers, make yourself less

And should your creator with this not agree

Then tell the old bugger to piss off from me

 

Why freedom is always better

Let’s get this settled once and for all, people. An unsafe life in freedom is always, always better than a supposedly safe one in captivity. This goes for both animals and humans and it has nothing to do with your own free will. It is a matter of the existence of life itself.

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Always. Even when the pleasant looking green on the ground are poison nettles that burn.

For the past months, pretty much nothing I have been doing has been safe, probably not much of it legal either. In just getting up in the morning and climbing out of bed I’m most likely violating several laws and regulations invented for what is termed ‘my own safety’. I have never been happier. And I never knew why before now. And it’s not about the rush, it’s not about roaming about, doing who and what I please.

In western philosophy, freedom been given a problem of justification, of relativisation, explained as a personal matter, as being able to say words you find pleasing and wear the clothes you like. It has been reduced to a hypothetical question of free will, and then caught up in the discussion if there is such a thing as will at all. Or worse, reduced to a consumers choice of breakfast cereals. But it goes far beyond that.

If incarcerated, either by force or by the more subtle means of a net of expectations and invented needs, or just the massive overbuilding of cities, making houses a necessity as everything else is made unpleasant or impossible, it’s not your free will that suffers the most, it’s your attachment to the earth. The possibility to be part of a greater network of life that is night and light and day and death, of the mould and the fungi. It is having severed every little thread that attached you to the previous and the possible lives, from the great old trees to the tiny mayfly.  Most people today might not be aware of this, but your bodies are, even if your minds don’t have the language. By making freedom about the individual, and an individual choice, we’re really making it into a concept to be discussed rather than the obvious way of living.

I have earlier written about the fear of the dark indoors, and it’s this. The fear of knowing that you’re not part of life, and in a way, already dead, or in the limbo that civilisation is. Nowadays, there are really no places left to be truly free, for everything is touched by civilisation, and the freedom you have is really mostly marginalisation in society. But I believe it’s possible to push those margins until they become a space.

To be locked indoors is to be denied communication with trees and rain and shift your body through existence knowing that you interact with a greater network of life. And to have someone believe they can decide where your body goes, in life and in death, is to claim a piece of matter away from life itself.

To remove anything from the cycle of life and death is, indeed, the only true evil. It has nothing to do with your soul, or what western people think of as the soul, or gods, or a succession of new humans. It has to do with the physical pieces needed to make other things, to make life possible.

These claims will probably disturb a lot of kind, well meaning people, who want to protect their loved ones, human and animal, from harm, but you can’t. And it is the invention of the idea that you can that is really killing the earth.

This, I will get back to in my next post.