As I stare beyond my laptop and out of my glass door, the morning light softly hugs the leaves. I notice how the trees have surged upwards. They are great spigots of chlorophyll, mysteriously pushed on by that magic we call life. Upward. Outward. Striving to reach beyond.
Growth. It’s the ambition of existence.
Through the mud frame of my window, all is moving outward. Every twig is now a rash of green flourishes. Every trunk thicker and rougher than before. Even my Mediterranean oak is no longer the scraggy shrub it was when I arrived. I’ve Celal to thank for that.
“Aye if you cut all the limbs back at the ground, and leave juss one, it’ll grow into a tree. Juss like that one over there in Dudu’s land.”
I’d stared at Dudu’s oak in bewilderment that day. I couldn’t see how the mess of brambles before me could ever evolve into that. But it has. Or at least, it’s well on the way. Growing. Ever higher.
Everything in nature grows. We humans have observed this pattern and created our own systems to mirror it; economic, personal, vocational. Unfortunately something was lost in translation. We have understood growth as ‘bigness’, and ‘more’. Thus we join the modern accumulation race. A race we never win.
Growth isn’t just a larger, more numerous repetition of the same thing. No. That’s not how nature does things. For Gaia, growth doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with size or quantity (though a careless glance might misconstrue it that way). Growth can be reproduction. But it can also be adaptation. Or integration. Or evolution. It can be increased complexity, depth and sensitivity too. In the case of metamorphosis, growth is the manifestation of an entirely different creature.
Growth is when an organism stretches beyond the boundaries of what it is, into what it will become. And that space beyond is sacred. Because it’s an unknown. It’s not ‘more’ nature yearns for. Nor bigger. But for beyond.
Which brings me to the subject of this blog. And this website.
“I will miss Mud Mountain blog, and the anticipation of seeing you overcoming all the challenges of your life there.”
My inbox has been busy since my last post.
And slowly it dawns on me. Many think The Mud website is winding down, readying itself for death. This is a little disconcerting. Because The Mud online is not slowing down. Not at all.
It may appear that the cyber element of The Mud is no more than a transparent canvas upon which my Mud world is painted. But it’s not. The website is alive. Just like the trees and the plants. Since 2012 it has grown organically. Changed course here and there. Today it claims nearly 7000 subscribers. I must admit, for someone who didn’t know what a PDF file was five years ago, I’ve become a little enthralled with the internet. It possesses its own kind of magic. Its own kind of growth.
The Mud website is an ephemeral boundary between my mud home here in Turkey and the outside world. It’s a meeting point. The place where the beyond can tap on my window, drop hints and whisper. As time goes by the flow rate between out there and in here increases. When that happens growth is inevitable.
The Mud cannot end, because my fascination with dirt, and earth and building hasn’t ended. My first earthbag building course is on the horizon, and will be detailed in the coming weeks. There are already a number of exciting developments in the virtual pipeline, so stay tuned for those. And if you’d like a say in how The Mud website evolves, then please fill in the survey.
So you see, I may be embarking on a new branch of a my journey, but it’s still a very muddy one. Wherever I go, I’ll be searching for my next Mud Mountain, for my spot of Gaia. I’ll be feeling each space and letting it inspire me, speak to me. Then hopefully, if it allows me to translate, I’ll relay what it says.
Meanwhile www.themudhome.com is growing. It’s no longer about one woman in one mud home on a hill, but about a world of Mudsters. It’s about you as much as about me. Just like my Mediterranean oak, before it was a straggly shrub, and now it’s a tree. It hasn’t simply colonised more space. It’s not really the same plant. Its roots are deeper. Its foliage is fuller. It’s moved beyond.
If you want to read another critique on the failed economic lunge after 'bigness', Paul Kingsnorth's article is well worth a read.
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It’s not like me to write two posts in a month, but then things are changing. When were they not?
There was such a heart-felt response to the bulldozer incident, I wanted to convey better what is happening. Because I sensed I had failed somewhat in my last post. As I scrolled down the comments, both on social media and on the blog itself, I was honoured at the extent people cared. I don’t know why, call it naivety, blind stupidity or a lack of self-worth, but I hadn’t banked on the impact. At least not really. I think Jodie's comment probably sums up the group emotion.
"I had to question why I felt tearful...was it because of the hope you and your place gave me, was it that singular yet amazing day spent with you there, was it my fear that you would be lost without that place, was it fear that all beautiful places are at the same risk and nowhere can be paradise and safe? All of these."
This was pretty much the skein of my own thoughts, too. Though of course, by the time I wrote about it, I’d had two months to integrate the situation, hadn’t I? It was already past tense for me. For you, the excavator was chomping outside your door, there and then. It was brutal.
Then I noticed something beautiful has transpired. It’s called community. Thank you, each and every one of you, for participating with me in it. I so enjoy your company. (Big words for a hermit:))
So without further ado, let’s get this straight vis-à-vis my land: Believe it or not, I am not face down in the dirt, fists scrunched, beating the ground and wailing. Though I did shake my fist at the excavator driver and lecture him on the souls of trees (he looked mortified). I also spent the first week wandering about like a refugee. But since then it has been a little odd. Because as soon as my mind was shunted from one rail of perspective onto another, the sorrow evaporated and excitement prevailed. I pondered on this. Was this because I’m a callous witch? Didn't I care about my land? Had I spent the past five years imagining our connection?
No! Each day since I've talked to the trees, absorbing the light on the leaves, hearing them, hugging them, imbibing each precious moment. Then I remembered a phenomenon the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom observed:
“We found strong evidence that many of the widows who had the best marriages went through the bereavement and detachment process more easily than those who had a deeply conflicted one.” (Momma and the meaning of Life)
Yes Irv. That’s right. And I know why. There’s no regret.
Nothing has topped the joy I’ve felt here on this space. There is not an ounce of remorse, not one single point where I wished I'd done something, but didn't. Nearly every minute here was (and is) incredible. Even the terrifying challenges were incredible. This land completed me. It breathed life into me. My home is a mud womb. I’ve gestated, and I’m about to descend the birth canal. There is no grief in this. People don’t grieve births, they grieve deaths. And they grieve lives never lived.
Now, had I spent £100 000 or dollars on my house, had I mortgaged myself to the hilt, had I compromised my soul and spent years grafting miserably to purchase a patch of ephemeral security, had I perceived the past five years as some sort of sacrificial lamb for a dream future, I’d probably be grieving. Hard.
What I feel at the moment is gratitude. Alright, alright, there are a few spadefuls of trepidation too. Yet this I know: Our planet is a propitious wonderland. It possesses powers and gifts we don’t even vaguely understand. I've no idea what my land is exactly, or why it behaves the way it does. All I know is, it has filled me to the brim with a light and a love that make me carefree. I’m profoundly grateful. An unprecedented desire has developed. I want to take that light and plant it elsewhere. Spread it. Grow it. Meanwhile, some other charmed soul will now be able to come here and experience their own adventure. And that is so very Mother Nature, isn't it? Grow. Bud. Drop fruit. Seed. Grow.
So here's the plan.
At this moment, I intend to let go of my land to the right person, buy a van, customise the interior and travel with my dog around Europe for a while. Even the thought of tyres turning on tarmac, the freedom and the unknown, sets me on fire.
Yet visions are the easy part, aren’t they? It’s when you start living them that your mettle is tested. Who knows? Perhaps life has other plans for me. It may take a while for this to arise. It may not. And yes, the idea of stepping out from this cosy bill-free den of abundance, and into the real world is a little terrifying. But since when has anything of any value ever been achieved without the odd bitten nail?
I owe my land many things: I’m not the person I was when I arrived here. Now I possess a brand new skill set, new drive and strength. Certainly, I feel younger than when I arrived. Before too long, I shall find another patch of Gaia, more remote, wilder, and live this adventure again. Oh let me build more mud dreams, create a mud palace and another beautiful world! Let me meet more animals and trees and spirits. Because it is a game. A magical, divine game. I am privileged to be able to play it. We all are.
Atulya K Bingham
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