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.
Life is, indeed, unpredictable. But another meaning of ‘vagus’ is to wander, or be in motion, without a particular goal in mind. Moving of the sake of movement.
Over the past months, a vast number of people have been moving differently than expected. It may be because of travel restrictions, or quarantine, or due to illness. People have been bed ridden and house bound and during this time, how we move has been brought to attention either explicit or implicit.
When you are in motion, you create a pattern. This is obvious in dance, but it’s also true for the motions of daily life.
When you move in the same manner, around the same objects, the pattern is deepened, fixated. Eventually it will become part of your mind and of your body, in the form of muscles and nerves.
To fixate and carve out a pattern can be a good thing, a strengthening thing, or it can dig you down in a hole. Repeating a pattern of something you want to enforce, a habit, a spell, a wood carving, can create something beautiful. But at some point, you have to stop repeating the pattern, or it will become a trap, and destroy what you set out to create.
For all our activity, most in western society live very monotonous lives. Motions are carried out in the same manner, in the same patterns, in the same frame of mind, even when you attempt to be ‘mindful’. For it is not the mind that moves the body, but the body that moves the mind.
To move is to change. We have been brought up to consider only the power of the mind, and that changes are made by making your mind up. But I will argue that without a change in how we move, no change is really made.
Moving in a new environment, even a new apartment, creates a from of change. This can be exhausting, and it is wonder most people feel a relief when they come home to their familiar surroundings, where they can make their coffee and bathe without giving a second thought to the physical part of preforming these tasks, because everything you need is placed where you know it will be and your body will remember how to move in these rooms. This is comfortable, for many even needed in order to rest and recharge.
But to stay in such an environment, where everything is familiar and nothing challenges your sense of motion, will also make you deteriorate over time.
While the way of the Trickster is often associated with humor, or practical jokes, at the heart of is is motion and the unpredictable. While the unpredictable certainly can make people laugh, in surprise or relief, it might as well disturb, shock, or make people feel strange.
The way of the Trickster is to be in the constant between- state, to look in all directions and choose none yet always keep moving. It is the living paradox.
And it is in the unpredictable that we find the deepest truths. And by doing something unpredictable, you might find out a lot more about yourself than any amount of pondering or meditation will show you.
Today I had a small insect bite under my left eye and I spent an hour or so being certain it would be the death of me.
Not because this was very likely, but because I was indoors. Outside, I would hardly notice
I don’t mean outside like out in the yard, but on the road, in the real.
The world inside walls is not real, because it is not connected. It’s not connected because nothing will recycle your body when you die. Well, eventually, but it will take an unnatural amount of time. There is no way to trust your instincts when you’re cut off from the cycle of life and death, it’s like having your whiskers cut off, I have no sense of proportions, indoors.
These days, a lot of people are spending a lot more time indoors than usually, because of restrictions put on very large populations in order to try to control an outbreak of an infectious disease.
I had already planned a time of seclusion to work on my book of hours, and I’m honestly not sure what I would do if I was on the road when the restrictions came into place.
I do know that the lockdown we’re experiencing globally now shows a great flaw in the system of borders and countries. A world that consists only of owned land and borders, with no or few vast spaces between, is suffocating. And it shows when there is no place to run. There are, for now, and for a few, places to hide. But only for the privileged, and you can’t hide for ever.
What is happening now show the need for human dwellings to be the exception, not the norm, of the face of the earth. There needs to be places to go, and to avoid human contact without locking yourself indoors or facing an outside with no food, no water and no functioning life.
For a very long time, human life has not been allowed to breathe, for it has been denied to know death.
Life and death are never enemies, it merely seems so because humans have been trading the life of everything around them in order to prolong their own form. Not merely to sustain it, but to keep clinging to it far beyond any reason. But life is not the temporary form of the individual.
Life does not happen after death, but in death, as death happens in life, at every moment, and at once.
Life is a song.
A song starts and ends. It has a form, but you cannot take one note and say that this is the truth of the song. A song must change, but it changes after a pattern. It is a temporary harmonious meeting of a myriad of notes, of cells and microbes, and tiny organisms in and around you, the heartbeat and the lyrics.
There is a lot of high talk about ‘winning’ over diseases of all kinds, and of beating it at all costs. But it’s presented as if there is a government who pay the price and it isn’t, it’s nature.
Whenever the question of the cost of a life arises, it’s only ever talked about monetary costs, never about actual costs. Nowhere do you see an account of how many rivers are dried up, swamps drained, moors burned or forests chopped down to build hospitals, pharmaceutical factories or windmills for electricity for life-prolonging machines.
This is not a question of attacking the weak and the ill, not a question of survival of the more adapted, but of humans accepting their mortality.
Everything living already have a life, it’s never a question of fighting for a life, it’s a question of prolonging what is already there.
Death is not the enemy of life, but the beginning and the end of it. it is a very long stretch from maintaining a life to destroying everything in your wake to expand it. To survive at any cost at some point stops being brave and becomes greedy.
I certainly don’t want to die, and I’ll gladly feed on other life. But I hardly think it’s worth destroying entire ecosystems simply to prolong my existence a bit.
Otherwise, after all, you’ll have nowhere to go after you die. Nothing for your biomass or soul to be reabsorbed in.
So when I get panic attacks and anxiety from minor things indoors, it’s being disconnected I fear, death in the form of stagnation. The true death.
Not all of it, just a part, showing the advantage of building in individual sections rather than a whole fixed structure. It was easy enough to fix and luckily it happened while I was resting at a stellplatz in Germany and not while driving on the autobahn. Because that would have been unfortunate.
It has been a stormy few weeks in Europe, in many ways. And driving across the continent felt like driving with a thunderstorm on my tracks. Creatures who live close to the elements will have noticed that there is a relentlessness to the weather now, the wind and the rain is harder and it doesn’t take breaks like before.
To drive a house on wheels in near gale and heavy rain is at every turn an adventure and truly uncharted territory. I had originally planned to go through Denmark, but because of family reasons I needed to make my way to Norway fairly quick. I ended up taking the ferry from Kiel to Göteborg, planning to place my house near the border and take the car the rest of the way to Bergen. Because while I might get my house to Bergen, I’m not all that sure of getting it out again. I have to admit, I have also been a bit nervous about getting stuck on a ferry with People if one of the passengers should have become infected with the new virus. So I took the ferry to Göteborg. Which is not a very long drive from the border. Usually.
The wind, barely noticeable at sea for some reason, swept in over the road and I had to drive at a third of my normal speed to feel safe. At one point, I was considering stopping overnight and driving on in the morning. On one hand, I was getting tired, but on the other hand, the weather report for the next few days didn’t look much better. And then I got to the Uddevalla bridge.
The Uddevalla bridge spans the Sunninge strait and is ranked on the top ten of scary bridges of the world due to the intense gusts of wind coming in from the sea. I’m honestly not sure if I would have been mad enough to cross it under those circumstances or not, but I never got to choose, because it was closed. Luckily, there was a winter open camping ground near by, where I could spend a, rather shaky, night.
The next morning, the house was still standing, and had all of the bits on, and I was able to take the old road the rest of the way. It’s longer, but it runs through a valley and is protected from the costal weather. It was a nice drive, though. Sunny and few other cars. And not a customs officer in sight as I crossed the border.
And it’s not just the weather, the roads washed out or blocked by debris, not just the growing restrictions on travel from novel corona, the demonstrations and the strikes and the emptying shelves at supermarkets, it’s an overall mood like when the last of the water drains form a sink. The spiral speeds up as things vanish.
I still don’t know how this all will effect my movements in the foreseeable future. It may be difficult to get around for a while. And then it may be necessary to move more often and further. For now, my house and I are both safe in harbor. But I need to plan my next step carefully.
For the benefit of the curious, I thought I’d share my field notes from the road. I set out northbound a week ago, after some consideration on going further south for winter or starting on the northbound journey for spring. Since winter has been cancelled due to unstable climate (or probably it’ll hit in July) I’m going north now. A storm, or several storms have been raging on the European continent lately, and here are my notes from the following, harrowing week:
Started out. Sunny, but windy. After about 60-70km it became clear that some of the reconstructive work on the wagon were not suitable for heavier weather. Bits started to come loose. Stopped at a rest stop for the night to get my bearings.
Picked kindling from the forest by the rest stop, got bitten by something. Probably bird fleas.
It’s dark and stormy and there are cops everywhere. Three patrol cars and about six motorbikes. I know they’re probably much more interested in the suspicious lorry drivers than little old me, but the presence of people who think themselves authorities makes me nervous. Much more nervous than any suspicious lorry driver ever did. After a few miles, more cops showed up along the road. Decided to stop at the next rest stop and see if they would go away. Needed lunch anyway. Managed to back my trailer into a road sign due to complete lack of sight in the heavy rain and smashed one tail light. Decided not to go out again with broken tail light on roads filled with cops.
Headed out early, on the lookout for a garage or well-stocked gas station for light bulb. French roads are generally quite good, both the highway and the country roads. The downside of the highway, apart from being highways, is that there are a lot of toll booths and huge road taxes (which of course helps with keeping the roads in shape, but with a large trailer it can be very expensive). The smaller roads are also in good shape, and go through a lot of charming villages. The problem here is that the road really goes right through the charming old villages, often from the middle ages, and with a road system meant for horse drawn wagons and meant to confusing viking invaders, such as myself.
It was nearly dark as I weaved my way to the district of Chablis and found a motor home stop. There was nobody else in sight and I let myself in via the eerie automatic system thingy. No rain tonight, only wind.
Took an evening stroll to stretch my legs. There are three shops and a huge monastery, looming over the river and gleaming in white under the drifting clouds and fluttering glimpses of the full moon.
Went out for fruit and cheese and came back with a case of Chablis. Not sure how this happened.
There is an old mill by the parking lot. There are geese and cats playing among the ponds and bamboo and tea rose bushes, and a portly man selling wine from a tiny shop.
I think it’s ok to have a small drink before driving in France.
Set out northbound again.
As i said, the smaller roads in France are pretty good. But another problem with taking these roads is that a lot of other people, and especially trailers do too, probably also to avoid road taxes. And the speed limit is not much slower, and nobody heeds it anyway. And having huge trailers zooming by on a highway is bad enough, but it’s much worse on the smaller roads where there are only two lanes, and only a few inches between you and the thundering trucks coming right at you. The air impact of one of these alone is equivalent to a full storm. And you’ll have dozens in a non stop streak. Nerves in shreds. Weather today calmer, though.
Arrived Chalons en Champagne in the afternoon and parked myself at a champagne house in one of the little surrounding villages. Went straight for the tasting room. I now have a lot of champagne.
The district is paced with wine houses. In later years, a lot of the vineyards that used to deliver to the larger houses has gone indie, and now there are hundreds (it seems) smaller houses. The streets in every village here are lined with champagne houses. Not much else, though.
Spent a quiet night under the pine tree at the parking yards with an owl for a neighbour.
As I got ready to go, my car informed me that I needed to check the cooler liquid level. Towing a house with insufficient cooler liquid is never a good idea, so I decided to let the house stay put while a found a gas station. I did not find a gas station. There is petrol available at a lot of the supermarkeds, but they didn’t have any other car products. Decided not to try to use champagne instead. Finally found a supermarked that stocked carstuff, but the clerk (who had the rubberball perkyness of a race car enthusiast himself) advised me to go to a garage in the next village to make sure I got the right type. Took his advice and had both cooler liquid added, motor oil filled up, and a touch up on the hydraulic liquid, plus a check on air pressure in the tires.
As I got back, a new storm center swept by. Decided to have lunch and wait it out.
A few hours later, the weather cleared, the sun shone over the fields, and I drove the 20km or so to the next champagne house that allowed overnight parking. Only got a little bit lost in what must be the only steep hill and the smallest village in the area. Got help from a little old lady who also had a champagne house, and whose neighbours’ grandson was the guy I was heading for. After a little while, he came in his car to guide me the last bit to the vineyard.
Drank quite a bit of champagne. Bought some more. Stormy night.
One of the roof plates has been knocked out of position by either the storms or the oncoming trucks or the maneuvering around on hills or all of the above. Rain comes in through a gap. All of the rain. Fixed it as best as I could, but will need larger repair later. Unsure if I should continue, but decided to go as this is a nice spot to visit, but not to stay if you need to do anything else apart from drinking champagne. Sadly, sometimes you do.
Drove straight through Belgium. The roads were bumpy and there was mud everywhere. Strange, rusty piles of cliffs, like caked blood. There’s probably a beautiful country somewhere beyond the main roads, but I’m in no condition to explore. The radio had the insight to play ‘In the hall of the Mountain King’ as I crossed the border.
Stopped only for lunch at a gas station and crossed over to Germany in the late afternoon. Nearly dark as I ambled my way in to the nearest little village straight across the border and to the nearest stellplatz. No rain today, fortunately.
Headed to a home depot to get things to fix my roof and trailer and such. On the way back there was an horrible sploshing sound from the passenger side. It turns out the water tank, that I keep in the car while driving, has sprung a leak and several liters of water has found it’s way under the seat. Checked to see if I could remove the seat to drain out the water, but the car is to new for that. All the garages are closed over the weekend, so I have to wait until Monday morning to get someone to look at it. Hopefully the electronics won’t be completely screwed, or the rust gotten too bad.
There are about fifty thousand bath houses and spas in the area, so at least I’ll have something to do while I wait for my car to be fixed.
Huge bloody storm at night, luckily I has the foresight to put up an extra tarpaulin over the part of the roof where the damage was.
It has been a quiet autumn, and a fairly quiet start of the year. Mostly because I have been parked in one spot, and spent my time on alterations and repairs, but also on trying to get to know the landscape I’m in. For me, this rolling farmland in the southern parts of France is quite different from where I grew up and also from most places that I lived for any longer periods of time. To get acquainted with a new type of land, the weather, soil, animals and plants has been an interesting time.
One thing that differs greatly from both colder climates and urban life, is how much faster the cycle of life and death is in the warmer and more humid climate. It’s good to see that so little goes to waste, that what dies gets picked up again in the cycle. It has had an impact on my understanding of ‘waste’ also. While I for some time had the notion that ‘waste’ is what the flora and fauna of a place can’t make use of to grow, I see it more clearly and on a day to day basis here.
On the downside, the maintenance of the house also requires more attention. Nothing can be left for very long before something else moves in, or before the mold starts to appear. It might seem like a placid sort of place, but in a way it’s even more hectic than any city I’ve lived in in terms of constant movement and the need to pay attention.
The difference between land and landscape is also increasingly clear. The landscape is farmland, the land, is a forest. I use, of course, the term land here to describe the formation of the rocks and earth and the general climate, and the term landscape to describe how humans use it. The formation of the land is soft, gently sloping acidic soil. It rains a great deal here, and there is a river running down in the valley that defines the area. Trees wants to grow here, particularly chestnut and oak. And it only takes a few weeks for the first saplings to start covering the ground if left alone.
It may seem obvious, the impact humans have had in forming their habitat for the last millenniums. But it’s always different to literary see things happening before your eyes than to read of them. And so many places have been altered to such a degree that you can’t even see what they were meant to be. It’s a pretty well known how humans alter their surroundings to suit them. Fortunately, the belief that this is both necessary and good is dwindling.
There is little doubt that the land would be healthier if left alone. Most of the farms have cows as their main operation. And while it should seem obvious that large amounts of huge, hoofed animals is not what you want on soft, wet land, it’s easy to think so if you only look at the surface, the open meadows, the apparently friendly surrounding. But the sheer amount of mud, the insects, the increasingly either scorched or drenched earth practically screams for more trees with deep roots, and less plondering flatfeet.
It was much more obvious, when I stayed in betonbois where the ground was all covered in giant hogweed, that the land pretty much said ‘sod off, I’m healing’. Here, it takes more time to discover that the kind looking land really isn’t very fond of visitors at all. The more ground I cover, the more I travel and the slower I move, the more explicit it becomes that humans really need to take several steps back and look at where they really are instead of striving so hard to push a fantasy onto their surroundings. And tomorrow, I’ll be on the road again.
Or; The book of hours, or Whatever Happened to 2019?
Pretty much every conversation I’ve had over the holidays have at some point converged into the following question; What Happened to 2019? Now, one might argue that my friends and I are all getting older and this is something people are expected to ask, like a conversational ritual, from a certain age (ca 21 and up). None the less, there is a general feeling that time, hours, days, years, are slipping through our fingers. Part of it, I think, has to do with the artificial way the modern day is constructed, aiming to make as much time as possible into an identical, dull mass with such tools as clocks, electric lights and paid work.
After a year or so on the road I have made acquaintance with different paths, lines, rhythms, animals and seasons and this year I have decided to summarize them in a book of hours. I want a tool to slow down and structure the day and the year in an non invasive way, a way connected to nature. And I want it to be beautiful.
For those born in recent times, a book of hours was a popular item, first with the nobility and with the invention of the printed press a wider public, for centuries in Europe, mainly from ca 1400 to mid-1600. It is essentially an individualized pocket-tome of prayers, saints and meditations. The prayer part would be dedicated to the virgin Mary and follow the liturgy hours of monastery life. Often a calendar with feasts of saints would be included, as well as personal part with the owner’s favorite saints etc. Some versions would also have a memento mori part following the hours that Jesus spent on the cross.
My version will be a small book meant to be carried like the books of hours were. The first part will be a calendar over festivals connected to nature and the turn of seasons. Then, a part with the hours of the day inspired by the Chinese animal clock. After that, a section honoring the different life forms that will reintroduce your body to nature after you’re done in this life. I will also have a personal section dedicated to my central deities.
I have found the Pagan book of hours from the Breviary of the Asphodel tradition online, and while it seems an impressive collection of festivals, rites and prayers, I need something more connected to nature itself. Also, the portable format is something that speaks to me in a time that everyone has their altar with them in the form of their phones.
Now, I just need to find a good place to work in peace and quiet…
From a tiny house on wheels, you notice a lot about the world. You get close to its current state. And there is little doubt that there is a crisis going on. It’s noticed in the condition of the roads, the cost of moving, the sheer amount of people you compete with for a place to park or to fill your water tank. The lack of places to go and of nature that isn’t poisoned or fenced off. And on the changes in the climate.
The choices of climate this autumn has been one of drowning or burning. Half the world is literally on fire and the other is drenched. I’m in the part with the water.
And I have also been, as some of you might remember, making quite a few shifts and changes to my house. This means new vulnerable places while it settles and of course, leaks. And of course, with every new attempt of fixing the problem, I hope that this time it will work.
There is a lot of talk of hope these days. Most of the focus of environmental groups in the media seems to be on presenting solutions to give people hope. But hope is nothing in itself and to keep holding it up like a holy grail is downright dangerous.
In my case, it took me weeks of patching a part of the roof before I took down the wall close to it and discovered that the water that I thought was coming from one place, was in fact being led in via a knot hole in one of the beams that I had not thought about at the time of construction.
I this situation, hope made matters worse by letting me cling to a structure that clearly wasn’t working instead of carefully deconstructing it and make something else. Hope is not what gets you out of a difficult situation, it’s more often what keeps you in it.
For my generation, we’ve been brought up on talk of hope as some sort of magic. In songs, films, books, media, we have been fed with hope as all you need to get you through and that you have nothing without hope. And yet, if you read accounts of people who have been in truly dire situations, clear thinking and quick reflexes has been far more helpful than hope. Also, carrying a grudge can get you really far.
Hope, of course, costs nothing and is absolutely no threat to any form of authorities. A person who is hoping, is a quiet one, and has something to lose. Only when you really have nothing, will you risk everything.
To keep ranting on about ‘not giving up hope’ and ‘not letting hopelessness win’ is really keeping people from accepting and analyzing the situation. Even then, to come back to the climate-issue, people will still not agree on the course of action. But at least we have a chance to know what we’re disagreeing on.
Hope is not without importance. It’s the icing on the cake. The light glimmer of the possibility of better times. But it’s not something to base your actions or decisions on. Accepting the situation, analyzing the facts and possibilities in that situation, and forming a plan from that analysis, are. It is important to point out though, that accept is not giving in. It merely means seeing things for what they are at the moment, the better to change what’s really there.
The way things are now, ‘hope’ in climate issues is rapidly becoming synonymous with rash, superficial or short-term solutions. Many of there presented in the ‘new green deal’ and many with far more potential for irreparable damage than the situation we’re in.
If you get bitten by a snake and ask your companion if it’s a poisonous one, ‘I hope not’ is a lot less reassuring of an answer than ‘I don’t know’ or even; ‘yes’. And you certainly wouldn’t want to hear ‘I hope so’.