“Don’t you get lonely up here?”
It has to be the question I hear most often whenever someone is intrepid enough to pay me a visit. True, that question make take a while to form.The journey to my home is a process after all. Tongues loll out as friends hike down the sun-broiled track. At the bottom they spot my earthroof, and my water tank skulking behind the undergrowth. A corner is turned. Hearts probably sink as my guests step past my compost heap on the right and a tower of dusty lime bags on the left. I admit the entrance needs some work. Finally the land is reached. The view rolls away from the visitors. It’s a fir-speckled rug of undulations unravelling down to the sea.
My earthbag house now looms. It's a circle of dirt poking out of the land like an upturned hat. There is often some analogy to the Smurfs at this point, and more pertinently to Smurfette.
My visitors take a peek inside. They imbibe the earthplaster sculptures, and again the view framed in the doorway. They become quiet. My land has a habit of quieting people, I’ve noticed that. The key is turned in imaginations, and visions move into gear. I think I know what my friends are thinking. Could I do this? Would I want to do this? And if I did this, what would I do differently?”
Sooner or later the question pops out. “Don’t you get lonely up here?”
And I don’t know how to answer it, because the answer I give always sounds trite. No. I NEVER get lonely. But this isn’t because I’m a freak, nor a Buddha, nor even Smurfette. I’ve felt lonely many times in my life; lonely in crowds, lonely at parties, lonely when I didn’t fit in, and loneliest of all in romantic relationships. But it’s difficult to explain why there’s no loneliness here in the mountains unless you experience it. I think loneliness is the sensation of not being accepted for who you are. It is also a feeling of disconnectedness, of not fitting in. And here snuggled in the arms of pure nature, where the judgments of other humans are inaudible, I am accepted. I am whole. I fit in.
I am also never alone. It might look as though I’m alone if you think aloneness is merely the absence of other human beings. But I’m not. I’ve become very clear about that over the last two years. The land and every living entity in it communes with me. It is obvious. But only if you are quiet. And only if you meet it half way. People scoff at the idea of plants and insects possessing any kind of sophisticated sentience. I would certainly agree that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So you can choose. Either you see life and love in all things, or you don’t. Either you reach out to the trees and the lizards, and let them speak to you, or you focus blindly on humanity as the only source of intelligence and filter your ability to connect accordingly. It’s a free world. It’s a choice.
But when you do give nature a chance, when you ratchet up the sensitivity dial inside you and tune in, magic blooms. Vegetable plants burgeon before your eyes, trees pour energy into you, vipers leave you alone, and camel spiders begin to look charming. Whether it’s pheromones, energy fields or some sort of shared consciousness I have no idea. I only know that attitude is everything. The moment you treat any living being with respect, when you
consider it as your partner or friend or equal, when you genuinely care for it, that being transforms. And conversely when you mock, abuse, fear or disregard the same thing, it disengages from you or attacks you.
So when the sun sinks a little lower behind the great pines, and the coffee pot is empty, my visitors make their way up the track and back to the world out there. As dusk rises and does away with the shadows, the plants begin to glow. It’s an ensorcelling colour green they emit at that hour, a light that evokes Narnias and Secret Gardens. I begin my watering ritual. As my vegetable patch shudders under my simulation of rain, I feel a sense of connection and well-being I rarely experience with people. It seems to radiate through the pores in my skin and fill up the entire garden. This land is a part of me, and I’m a part of it. This has made me understand my place on the planet too, a
place of connected participation.
I see the first street lamp pierce the evening down in Alakir bay. I imagine the prattle and the gossip down there, the noise of humans and their desperate clamour for attention, the competitiveness, the condemnations hidden in the creases of smiles, the obsessive need to be right, the disguised slights, the guilt-tripping, the empty talk about nothing. Perhaps not all human interaction is quite this negative, but when you pull the façade off most conversations, how many are really based on mutual respect, kindness and caring? How many make you feel truly
Then it’s my turn to ask. I whisper into the wind, and let it carry my words all the way over to the lights at sea-level. “Don’t you get lonely down there?”
Atulya K Bingham
Sick of the screen?
Just released! There is now a beautiful, illustrated paperback edition of Mud Mountain.
"Beautifully written and inspiring." The Owner Builder Magazine.
Want to follow my journey?