I might as well admit that I am planning to live to be 100. I have always been fond of old women and I think I’ll make a nice quirky one. That leaves me with 53 more years of cooking and eating, 53 more years of creative work, more physical at this end and more contemplative at the other I guess ; so I have an open list of what I’d like to try my hand at, what I feel I would enjoy. So far I have included making things like ceramic, furniture, big wooden objects, fabric design, clothes, but there are plenty more like getting better at juggling, trying to raise snails, getting a tunnel, writing more, remembering my German and learning Italian.
In the shorter term I am looking at what grows well for me in the soil that I work with, what I can raise happily, and how I can transform what I produce inventively in order to sell it at a price that justifies the work I would have put into it. I look at my decision to live on the land and to produce food first and foremost for my people as a political rather than a lifestyle choice. I like that when I am hoeing my soil I can feel that my gesture echoes so many on the earth’s surface this day and ever since the invention of tools. It is important for me to put as much of my own physical energy in my physical survival and in that to feel included in the side of humanity that I have so much respect for.
Here I am, on a Sunday in July, alive indeed, happy, and dreaming up my hand-made life on the earth’s surface, bobbing on the tide that the universe breathes in and out and tasting the water as I go. Fun.
I have been away leaving G, my neighbour, in charge of feeding the animals : a holiday of sorts for a handful of days, very far away and always closer to me, slow progress, a car, a train, a boat, a lot of sitting down and looking and seeing, a lot of waiting, walking, a drive, a field full of people I had never met before. Wait, remembering to breathe, to make a wish, I am safe. I felt a lot of things I do not necessary have words for, a lot took place outside of my head, farther than the mind, precious. Talked a lot, listened a lot, enjoyed people (and some may become friends), learned a new song, stretched my awareness.
I came back in a little cloud of gratitude, it took a long time to feel I had landed back onto this soil although it feels I always carry it with me, but eh, the renewed perspectives ! A trip that was like a warm hug, and I like hugs. I had packed my tent, clothes and things in a large US postal bag loaded up onto a trolley I had bought when I was in New York in 1997, perhaps all travelling is linked somehow.
M gave me a fencing tool to bring back to my everyday, I did not mention it but he must have guessed that I treasure rusty metal and would not mind the added weight. A tool for cutting metal and stretching wire and remembering our conversations. A tool to hold and remember that when you struggle with your job in your field you are not alone, ever. I aim to send him a little parcel of hand-made things from fruit, leaf, wood or flower from here as barter.
I came back to enjoy steamed new potatoes, with butter and a basil leaf with every bite. Is that a recipe ? Perhaps it is too simple to be called a recipe, but it is indeed a marvel for July.
I have been on self-elected holiday from fencing since early last week, I have another large field and two addenda to do but earlier last week I admitted to myself that the mere idea of fencing exhausted me. I have worked really hard and am almost done as I got good help but I am a rather small human (with quite muscly arms) and fencing is a tough job. For the last few weeks I have been fencing against the clock making sure the next field was ready for the goats to move into. The idea is that the goats are rotated between fields staying a week or so in each before moving on to the next refreshed pasture. This is for food management and also to help them beat the parasite cycle. So they will go through a truncated cycle until I am ready to pick up my heavy fencing tools again.
Truanting from the Big Fencing Job all the little jobs that had been piling up don’t seem like jobs at all. I made delicious jam, infused honey and oils, cooked prolific Tayberries into a succession of cakes (like this one), fixed an old camping seat, sewn a bag, did some weeding, grass cutting, planting, and am now building clever wooden planters to stand around the house. A lot of outdoor pursuits but I did find time to read neglected copies of the London Review of Books too. Happy in the dry weather today, quite bitten by horseflies though.
Ignatia is an amazingly powerful Homeopathic remedy for grief.
Over the years it has helped me to deal with very deep grief locked inside my body that I felt was too large to face, that I felt had the power to engulf me, and it has allowed me to learn from it. To end my second year of professional training I had to choose a remedy to make a piece of work on, and I chose to make this short film as an exploration of the energy that took hold of my life in the past and that I am ready to let go of.
You do have to embrace your darkest corners (and then renounce the seduction of the pain too) to be able to fully embrace the light. I looked back and I am ready to stand up for my own life (in full sunlight gratefully today). Yes.
There is a badly constructed gate in great need of reinvention that was erected to keep the free-spirited chickens from invading the vegetable garden, although this year I am not really vegetable gardening as I am concentrating on my perennials and permanents and assorted etceteras. Keeping the cats away from the beds would be a great idea too but I have long given up on that notion, so they generally jump atop one of the side posts or sometimes crawl under the gate, they sleep in the hay that lives on the vegetable side but they are fed on the chicken side and they like to wait around there for my daily arrivals. If I am crossing the divide and a cat is following me, my instinct is always to politely hold the gate open, but they almost never seize the opportunity. They mostly wait till the gate resumes its usual closed position and cross it athletically as usual.
I have been pondering on that one long enough that I have recognized the same behaviour in me, There would have been a time that if I had brazen myself for a tough ride I would be suspicious of an unexpected helping hand and would have rather struggled on in my familiar way. I no longer am that person I think and yet I have witnessed times that I would have been set—too rigidly—on what I thought I needed/wanted to actually see that what had been thrown towards me was for me, was my own homely miracle, the embodiment of my intention in a material form that was totally unexpected.
So the aim is to keep my eyes on a broader target, open-minded open-eared and confident, and allow for days when it is all blurred and perhaps I am all blurred too as perhaps these are the days I am allowing myself to grow into me.
What did I find, sculptural shapes, not a lot of time to write, that fencing progresses slowly but that I will get there eventually, that I’m not sure I want an art career but that most of the things I make I would easily categorize as art—even the way I brought up my children I’d say—and that it suits me, that I am aiming to be a good Homeopath, and that I love the fact that I planted trees all those years ago and that I find them so big and tall, so big and tall, from pretty small seeds, just like you or I. Such miracle.
For it is not the physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation. It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us. Both of us were wandering in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourished us—or having found them dry. Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.
Gift from the sea Anne Morrow-Lindbergh
I have been tinkering with wild stuffs, garden and freezer remnants, pickling buds, making salads, cakes with frozen garden fruit, drinks and infused oils, dandelions, ramsons, mixed heads of flowering brassicas. I have been a little accident prone reposting and rewiring the electric fencing for the goats, but I asked for help and gratefully received it. I returned to an old book friend, Gift from the sea and wished I could give it to read to everyone I know and everyone else too : take time out, read this, return to your self, be of the world.
There is a lot to write about but I am choosing to let it all sit and infuse a little longer, knowing that what needs to be told will be in the appropriate space and time. This was a lovely Sunday, breakfast out and home with my lovely lovely children and we are all heading to bed early like wise hens.
(I have been feasting on library books and I must warmly recommend Hedgerow Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal learn to enjoy your neighbourly plants…)