Written by Tom Morgan
Nov 24 2017
I was a curious going into this two month walk about the culture that we might create together or should I say the culture that may evolve between us with such a long time living out in the woods. How would our natural surroundings shape the way we spent our time? And what we held sacred?
Before setting out on the trip I had set myself all sorts of intentions and personal practices and goals to deepen my connection with nature as well as ideas of ceremonies and processes and games we could do as a group. The intention to explore creating a culture with nature connection at its heart.
I don't think I am only speaking for myself when I say that I wildly overestimated the amount of free time and space I would have once all the practical business of living outside and in community was seen to.Its amazing how much time it takes to collect wood and prepare fires and food and make camp and to have time to be together as a group and share practical matters. I want to reflect on all the things we did do to honour the spaces we lived in. I should say as a disclaimer that we were a group of 13 (a number prone to fluctuation) and I can only speak from my own perspective. Never the less....
Having now rejoined the fast paced whizz and whirligig of cities and smart phones and emails and flushing toilets and kettles. I feel I am in a good position to reflect a little on the "culture" we created living close to the land.I have come to see that those practical tasks I speak of, eating up all our time, actually offered such a wonderful and immersive opportunity to connect to nature. If we wanted a cup of tea we needed to find a river or a spring, suitable dry wood, a safe place to have a fire and some herbs or chaga to brew. If we wanted to have a poo, we needed to find a suitable spot which might be in need of some fertilising, dig a hole with our hands like a badger (some of us may have used the trowel but I usually didn't have the foresight or time to locate the toilet bag) and find a soft patch of moss to wipe our chilly bums. If we wanted to wash we needed to pluck up enough courage to plunge ourselves into the nearest icy cold stream, lake or ocean and endure the burn long enough to for the water to wash away some of the stink from our pits. And then bask in the sun or create our own in the hearth to warm and dry ourselves. If we wanted to wash clothes we were dependent on the sun and enough time to dry (which is why most of us explored the limits of how many days/weeks it's appropriate to keep wearing the same pair of pants). If we wanted to have something other than rice and lentils for dinner we would have to go hunting for tasty mushrooms, wild salads and yummy berries, remembering little by little the long lost art of gathering wild foods.
Each of these tasks offered an opportunity to immerse ourselves in our surroundings, to accept her gifts, an opportunity also for gratitude.There were other ways in which we honored the land, ways that might be considered more "cultural". We often had gratitude circles where we shared things we were grateful for. Singing became such a beautiful part of our group time, one of us would volunteer each morning to do the morning wake up song, of the songs that became favorites, most of them contained prayer and praise for the natural world or the elements. Most mornings before setting off on our walk we would make space to each spend some time In silence and solitude to thank our camp and other than human hosts. On several occasions we made mandalas and spoke out our intentions and gratitude to do with our relationships to the land.
Most of all, the way I see it, we praised the land by living upon it in such simplicity, by accepting it's gifts; it's delicious berries, ice cold water, the stunning light shows in the tapered ends of each day, contrasts of colours, bright red lingon berry upon ashen green lichen, it's songs and it's silence and its delicious array of fungi to feast upon.
By living this way I can say for myself I have continued to rekindle an age old connection, It is the simple things in life where there is the most beauty to be found and in sharing this with others comes the kind of culture I hope to live in. If there is something I have gained from this experience it is a deepening of that very simple understanding.
Here's a praise to all the beings over the 2 months that have fed me, body and spirit and to all the human beings who's companionship kept my heart warm in the frost.