Friday, 23 September 2016

Autumn / Foghar


It’s really has to be one of my favourite seasons (along with winter, spring and summer...), for it really is glorious. And it’s coming.

That crispness in the air when you awaken.

That bright, clear harvest moon.

Those glittering stars with the promise of frost.

The geese returning, animals' habits changing. The wolf coming back to the forest.

Yes, it’s a good season.

For me, I’m thinking about hibernation. I’m thinking about down sleeping bags and blankets, and a crisp layer of dry leaves to curl up in with a warm body beside me. And of course, I'm thinking about making, creating, knitting, painting.

We’ve had the heady days of summer, we’ve had the insects, the endless days which last from before you awaken until after you go back to sleep, and we’ve had the sunburn, the swimming in the rivers and the endless green haze of the hills and forests.

Now we’re retreating back to our caves, back into the warmth. We’re lighting fires, gathering fuel. Checking out mushrooms and harvesting fruits. People are coming together again; it’s the time to rejoin. Enjoy the heat of the fire before you wrap yourself up warm again and go out to rosy cheeks and white breath hanging in the air.

It’s not winter yet, it’s autumn and it’s heavenly. The colours, the yellows, the reds, the oranges: The colour of fire for the fire is still there in the residual warmth coming from the earth and the last gasp of heat from the sun. Autumn: the season of red, fire, warmth, plenty.

It’s early days yet. The days are still t-shirt warm. But the nights are getting cooler. The urge to gather and retreat from the frost is coming... And I’m going to do just that.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Athnamulloch Bothy and the Meaning of Life

Spending a week in a basic bothy is the most surefire way I have ever come across to remember your priorities.

Imagine living in accommodation with no running water, a non-flushing toilet, no fridge and no heating. Imagine then living in this accommodation with strangers, and having to reach a level of living that you're all comfortable with.

Every morning, being first up, I would make it part of my routine to fill the two water containers that would get us through the day. The first day was a struggle, but it gradually became easier as I became more adept at handling big water containers and also, as my body started to become stronger.

There is nothing like having to work for your water to make you appreciate it.

And then there was lighting the fire. Every evening, as the drying room became more and more crowded with wellies, waterproofs and wet socks, a fire was required in order to dry these things off. Firstly, I'd cut some kindling with a blunt axe. The first day was a frustrating experience, with very little success, but the second day was better and by the end of the week I was handling that axe like a boss.

It came to me that actually, the success in life is so often deemed to be material wealth, possessions, and the number of Facebook 'likes', but that in actual real life success is being able to keep hydrated, to be able to keep warm and to be able to survive in hostile environments. What good is your smartphone if you don't get a signal?

This past week my priorities have changed again. I want this: I want to bring the wild back to my life. Talking with my co-focaliser on the last night I realised that my desires are simple. I want to have to light a fire every day to keep warm. I want to have some land. I want to have some sheep: I want to work with wool, I want to paint, I want to write. I want what we had in the bothy: stories and music and conversation as entertainment.

I want the dark stars of wilderness places, I want the feeling in the muscles of having worked, and of being tired physically and mentally. I want to make my clothes, spin with nettles, dance under shooting stars and rise with the sun. Brush my teeth outside and climb mountains in order to do handstands.

Thanks to a wonderful Trees for Life week, a wonderful group and a wonderful location.