“We think of ourselves as ‘in’ landscape, but sometimes we forget that landscape is also in us,” Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life.
It had been little more than a week. A flying visit to Britain and back, to that old moneyed island so sure of itself, yet in fundamental terms as precarious as anywhere else. With the ageing seams of Westminster pulled taut, the tension was palpable.
For those outside the UK, I am of course referring to Brexit, which when you’re inside the country/ies is a drama of outstanding proportions, the Houses of Parliament now apparently a film co-directed by Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. Yet, strangely, fascinatingly, as soon as you leave the British coastline, disappears into the Atlantic mist.
Blinking, I stepped out of the tiny Santander airport. The rain was hammering on the tarmac, a million sodden sticks rapping on the drum of the Earth. It was like stepping out of a dream. Or at least someone else’s dream. Because we are all dreaming, aren’t we? The question is what kind of dream?
As I drove along the back of Cantabria and Asturias, the familiar arc of the mountains reached inside me. Everything was recognized. The swerves of the A8 so beautifully irrational, the glimpses of the Cantabrian sea thrashing at the cliffs of my heart. The closer I drew to home, the more intimate the land became. Until each rock and ridge were mine.
My dog died in the folds of this dirt. I found my land within it too. I’ve cried tears of sadness and joy here that have seeped into the Celtic soil. This topography and I now share history. And I marvel at how beautiful this place is. How resilient this capacity for bonding we hold within us. This power that despite the onslaught of propaganda against it, despite all our losses and disappointments, pushes on out through the cracks of our defences like wild flowers breaking apart concrete.
This is life. And it cannot be stopped. It will not be stopped. No matter which devices are contrived to ‘control’ or destroy it, they will fail. Because those devices are based on illusion, the illusion that we are separate. The odd concept that we are somehow not all expressions of this life force, growing from the earth of this incredible planet, breathing the same air.
We forget, we are not simply in the world. The world is in us too. Literally.
Soon enough I’m back on my land, rake in hand, staring out at my new world. As I gaze upon the hills, sunlight from 93 million miles away strikes the mountain flank, and the grass shimmers emerald beneath its touch. Some of that light is reflected off the mountainside, travelling until it hits my eye and enters my cornea. It then passes through the lens onto the retina, which converts the image into an electrical impulse for the brain to create my visual reality with.
A similar type of invasion occurs when I smell the sea. Or breathe. Or heat is transferred via touch. Or sound waves enter my ear. Everything I eat and drink literally becomes a part of me. There is no point in our lives when we are not being transformed by the landscape in which we find ourselves. Separation is a physical impossibility.
People who don’t know me too well often misunderstand my love of independence as isolationism, and my love of solitude as a refusal to connect. People also often wonder how I manage ‘all alone’. This is because somewhere along the line, we have have confused independence with separation. And healthy boundaries with trench warfare. There is no alone. There is no isolation. What there is, is plenty of noise pollution, distraction, intolerant (even violent) opinion, empty babble, and dubious agendas when interracting with humans. So naturally I try to avoid those types of engagement, because they pull me out of the experience that I am a living branch of this miraculous Earth tree pulsing full of star light.
We inhabit a time (perhaps we always have) where words and concepts are bandied about without much analysis of their meaning. Thus somehow in the group mind, independence has come to signify securing the perimeter and installing a few machine gun nests. If people looked inside themselves a little more than they looked outside, they might become clearer. What we really want when we bang on about independence is sovereignty over our own lives.
Meanwhile, back in the hippy love camp, the concept of ‘oneness’ and connection has been equally bastardised. Oh the ‘We are all one,’ shtick. It usually cruises under our noses under the guise of a vapid meme, probably with a sunset attached, where connection equals becoming the human equivalent of a bunny rabbit.
Thus in this vein:
Independence = Building walls, sealing borders and buying artillery.
Oneness/Connection = Being ‘nice’ to everyone, having no boundaries, and letting everyone screw you over.
These two misnomers have been created (or at least exploited and cemented) by left/right liberal/conservative politics. And this is why I won’t throw my energy into that arena. Because no matter which political football team you choose to support, it’s not founded in truth. The game is not founded in truth. What it’s founded in, is the manipulation of words and ideas to create conflict – divide and rule power games where the masses fight about vague concepts they often don’t understand for someone else’s gain. It’s sad. And I can’t believe in a day and age where you can access this much information, so many people are willing to throw their valuable life energy into giving some alien group they’ve never met, and who probably (once they’ve nabbed their vote) wouldn’t even give them the time of day, that much power.
Back in my corner of dreamland, three stone houses cling to a crag. The sun dips under. The air thickens into a silver paste. I walk to my favourite rock. Each rut on her hide is familiar. Each nobble is transmitted onto my retina in pearly light before the image is inverted and recorded somewhere in my mind. When I close my eyes I can still see my rock. She has become embedded in my memories, and thus a part of who I am. I grapple with the idea that this space has even changed my neural pathways.
Do we really understand what affects what in this world? Can we be so sure of how we influence this dream we call reality?
As I hunch down, my body heat enters the stone. Simultaneously her coolness enters me. The wind brushes my cheek, and as I smile the warm air from my lungs mixes with the air of the land. The eye of the moon rises, blinking through the clouds.
The entire planet (and beyond) is both within us and without us. It's communicating with us every second of every day and night. It’s feeding us, energising us, purifying us, inspiring us with its beauty and intelligence, responding to us, and creating with us in every thing we do. When you know this in your bones, when you sense it with every step you walk and draw on its power, then you are truly sovereign over your life. You are free.
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Atulya K Bingham
Author, Lone Off-Gridder, and Natural Builder.
"Reality meets fantasy, myth, dirt and poetry. I'm hooked!" Jodie Harburt, Multitude of Ones.