Attachment and the Homeland
It’s only when you leave that you understand you are attached. Some invisible hook has lodged itself beneath the eiderdown of your day-to-day thoughts; A spine? A thorn? A burr? It wasn’t there before. It didn’t exist. But now it does. It was swept in on a gust from the landscape, and before you knew it you were hooked.
This is what we do, we humans. Without even being aware of it, we pull twigs and stalks and feathers from our environment, and use them to line our psyches. The strands of what was once alien turf are soon woven into a fresh nest of familiarity. It’s only when we leave that the scales are lifted from our eyes. We leave and return. And we feel it. We are attached.
In the past month, I’ve left and returned three times, mainly to escape what has been a pretty harsh beginning to winter (Asturias endured 29 days of rain in November). Today I’m back, and unabashedly attached. I inhale my view (mine, yes mine) and feel my psychological muscles relax. Each ridge on the horizon has become a piece of me. The limestone creases rest in my memory, viewable from the catalogue of my mind even while lounging in an English living room.
Then there are the trees: The ashes and hazels and holly and chestnuts. None of these were my world before, yet today they all are. We are related now. For I’m quite certain the land is as used to me, as I am to it. Robin redbreast flutters by for breakfast, nodding at me to drop him a morsel or two. He does this every day. It’s now an expectation on both our parts. Here on Mud Pico, even the sunlight is personal. I sense the slightest change in tone, and can easily tell the time by it.
The weather has also become part of me, physically and mentally. There are shattering sunsets and science-fiction cloudscapes. There is snow and rain, too. My body has long adapted to a cooler climate, my very blood has thickened because of it. I am no longer who I was. That’s what connection does. It’s a two-way highway that will alter you forever.
Attachment is a concentric affair. Fanning out from the hub of my land, other links have formed, fronds that have stretched and intertwined below the surface of the visible to create a sustaining network. I am now part of a new culture and language, both utterly foreign to me two years ago, but now so familiar. Spanish has encroached upon large quadrants of my brain territory, lighting up synapses and forging circuits that weren’t there before. Tectonic plates in my subconscious have shifted, and I realise one day when I speak to a Turkish friend that I’m saying no instead of hayır, and that no pasa nada has replaced birşey olmaz.
There are human connections too: One day a burr lodged itself in my eye. Neighbours I had no idea existed a short while back, drove me to the doctor. Others bring me wood. Then there are all my new haunts: The nearest town. The cafes with wi-fi where I grab a coffee. My favourite eateries, where the waiters know my order by heart and bring it without even asking. When I think of these things, such a warmth fills my chest. I belong. This is my hood. My patch.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Am I even the same person I was? And who was that Turkish woman anyway, because as with every one of my past selves, the me of yesterday has become but a ghost haunting the corridors of my memories. It’s a kind of sorcery that we can weave new realities and soulscapes in this way! How did this all happen?
It happened via attachment.
Now, many philosophies harbour an aversion to attachment. Anicca (nothing is permanent) is the mantra of Vipassana after all. Because of course nothing lasts forever, all will crumble and die at some point, and the less attached you are, the less you suffer…
Or so they say.
Certainly when my dog died in 2017, I would have agreed wholeheartedly that I had been too attached. That I shouldn’t have loved her so deeply because dogs don’t last long and all that. But after two years on the road in a campervan, wandering free and unfettered, things soon looked different. To float aimlessly without bonding, without attaching, without caring (because that’s sort of what it amounts to unless you’re an enlightened being with sunbeams bursting from every orifice) is a lame kind of malediction. It’s the cowardly curse of hyper-intellectualism, and a reason for much of the malaise of the modern world. Without attachment, you have no belonging. You are endlessly free and endlessly lost, swimming wide but shallow waters where nothing really matters. And yet it does matter. A lot. We matter. The land matters.
Having moved about plenty in my life, I’m familiar with the typical undulations of cultural and geographical adaptions. The vague nausea you sense when dropped from a great height into a strange new world. The discombobulation. The faint agoraphobia, followed by the gradual familiarising of the environment. Whenever you relocate from one home to another, from one life to another, there are stages of assimilation. It doesn’t matter if you shift to a rural off-grid life from a conventional urban setting, or emigrate, there is always a series of culture shocks, and a process of adaptation. Because belonging isn’t some fateful feature of our lives that just happens when destiny shunts us into the right place. We create it, every minute of our lives.
But here’s the thing no one talks about regarding attachment. We don’t always attach, do we? Not everywhere becomes our home, just as not everyone becomes our lover. And no one really has the answer to why that is. For if everything is simply our projection, then what does it matter if we live in Manhattan or the Gobi Desert? Wouldn’t we weave nests of attachment regardless of the location? Both the Buddhists and the existentialists would say yes, the whole thing is an illusion, but I’m sorry, on at least one level they are wrong. Maybe it takes a witch or an indigenous person to point it out.
The Call of the Land
Sometimes the land calls. Sometimes she doesn’t. And that’s because the planet herself has a trajectory in which every human plays a part. Sometimes Earth missions are short, sometimes they last decades, and sometimes we are simply not in the right place at the right time.
I remember far, far away from here, living in the east Asian island of Taiwan. It was a short commitment for me. I worked there for nearly two years, and if you’re reading anything on this website, it’s thanks to hi-tech, fast-paced Taiwan. But while we shared a short and at times quite magical connection, it was never home. I sensed very early on that we were in a temporary relationship, and I missed my homeland Turkey throughout.
Then there’s England. What happened between me and England I have no idea, but we simply do not get on, and we never have, not since the day I was born. There is no obvious external reason for my lack of affinity. My parents were decent British people. I enjoyed an excellent free state education and was offered many chances there. Yet England (and it’s specifically England, because by contrast Scotland’s west coast beguiles me) has never been my homeland. The first time I travelled abroad as a teenager, I felt as though I’d been released from some miserable dank jail. A lifetime of nausea lifted. Why?
It’s because the loamy skin of this incredible planet is alive and sentient. It absorbs us as we absorb it. It has memories etched deep into its rocky hide, and yearns for certain souls while spitting others out. Sometimes the terrain calls us hither, sometimes it pushes us away. Sometimes it’s wholly ambivalent. A communication occurs above and beyond the physical, a contract between the land and ourselves. And this is the real reason we become attached. That sense of belonging is a pledge between the planet and our souls. It’s a sign we are in the right place at the right time.
So many people are forging new paths right now. Indeed humanity itself is forging one, too. We’re inhabiting a drastically different landscape than we were ten years ago, and there’s a new culture and language to learn. But even if we are unaware of it, or buttress ourselves against it, our souls are gathering this and that from the present world around us, braiding them into a new homeland.
Yet the question of whether we will belong in this new world, whether we will love it and be loved by it, whether it will hold meaning and joy for us, and whether we will fulfil our soul missions upon it, actually comes down not only to us but the Earth herself. Will she spit us out? Or draw us closer? And who? And where? Because while we exist as a species, we also exist as cultures, neighbourhoods, and individuals. And what I’ve come to understand is this: the land speaks to us on all levels. Whether we are aware of it or not, a contract is being written between every soul and every location, every single minute.
No one has the power (or the right) to change the mind of an entire species, nor do they need to. Even countries are not the point. The nation-state is a fiction that is fragmenting, and you’d be best not to waste your energy on it. Our power and our covenants exist between us, our land and our communities, some of which occupy digital as well as physical space. It is this Homeland that counts.
So the question has to be this: Are you attached? Are you home? Do you belong? If so, good for you! Don’t let other people’s panic and drama regarding their perception of “the human story” distract you from your beautiful, vital, and very personal relationship with your space. You have work to do, and only you know what it is.
If, on the other hand, attachment and belonging are missing, then maybe the Earth and your soul are speaking to you. Maybe it’s time to listen, and to create a real Homeland of your own.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, to our lovely community of sustainers and supporters funding The Mud Home and the Earth Whispering Blog on Patreon. You are so appreciated, and I very much value each contribution.
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I thought of you this morning and sent a personal message to ask how you are doing. And within hours I get my answer here!
1/1/2020 12:58:46 pm
This is it: "to explore and nurture, to learn from and find a sense of myself, rooted, earthed, connected to the hundreds of generations of inhabitants that had dedicated their lives to those places before me." Yes, I love that story that the land holds. And if you're in Cornwall I'll wave over the Bay of Biscay to you:)
30/12/2019 11:33:50 pm
Oh this is a truly lovely piece of writing and the whole concept of belonging and what to, is close to my heart aka. a giant chasm in my being! This paragraph in particular really spoke to me like a lullaby from the earth herself "It’s because the loamy skin of this incredible planet is alive and sentient... "
1/1/2020 01:04:06 pm
Planet Earth is such an amazing place, talking to us all like this, interconnecting us. We all belong or we wouldn't be here.
31/12/2019 08:46:30 pm
2/1/2020 01:17:22 pm
Thank you so much Dan! How's it going your homeland of Kenya?
1/1/2020 01:34:41 pm
It's so true Kerry,
2/1/2020 01:19:36 pm
"Sometimes home has felt like two places at the same time and I've felt like I'm stuck in the nowhere land in between..." this really interests me. I once entertained this as a dream, but then realised when it comes to homes I'm extremely monogamous:))
2/1/2020 10:23:30 am
This made me cry, beautiful, beautiful ... Next time somebody asks me why I'm living the way I do, I'll show them this. Thank you for putting such sensitive thoughts and feelings into words.
2/1/2020 01:21:28 pm
Dear Daniela thank you. Yes, someone said I was camping up here the other week, and it really irritated me. Because while I may not have a shower yet, this is my home! :))
2/1/2020 04:34:30 pm
this is beautiful and resonates with me deeply . and it has helped me somewhat knowing I am not alone in my attachment to the places I have lived in .Turkey is in my soul I grew up there in the 1960s and 1970s and knew it when it was an undiscovered paradise ,and still live there today but in recent times it has become increasingly a bittersweet experience for me .as politics has destroyed a successful business and now I am considering a move elsewhere . likewise the rampant destruction of heritage and environment has become almost to much to bear witness to . Im forced to move but I am so deeply attached after a childhood and 35 years of living and struggling with a country that largely rejects everything I find sacred about the place . I suppose I fear the thought of starting again from scratch ( the expatriate curse ) I have done it before as I lived many years in Kenya and india . but now realise I can only make myself my spiritual home .as the world and particularly non europe . changes too quickly to get a handle on . I have also built many houses and projects and know that happiness of having days of simplicity where only some wall plastering needs to be achieved . and after all the journey has always been the most satisfying part of my projects and seldom their completion ... god bless you all x
3/1/2020 01:40:51 pm
Ian, how strange we never met because I heard about Huzur Vadesi a million times and was not that far away in Kabak at one (rather unhappy) point. "35 years of living and struggling with a country that largely rejects everything I find sacred about the place." God that really summed it up. That's exactly how I felt about it. It's such an amazing magical precious country, and yet as you say the vast majority of its inhabitants seem to detest everything amazing, magical and precious about it.
3/1/2020 05:47:14 am
I am searching my mind for someone with whom to share this achingly beautiful piece as if to say: "Here, read this! It will explain how attached I am to this place I live in the crystal-lined Blue Ridge mountains of Western North Carolina, USA. You will know everything about me if you read this!" Alas, I can only sigh in delight and reverence for this masterpiece of truth. Thank you, Atulya!
3/1/2020 01:44:30 pm
Hello Kathryn! And thank you for your incredibly generous words. It was a subject I was pondering on, and I let the land and its spirits speak, so I can't take the credit really. Enjoy your crystal-line Blue Ridge mountains.
4/1/2020 12:54:01 pm
Hi Atulya, I'm Ian's sister, living on the family land in West Wales after years in Turkey. I just love your blog... brilliant, honest, thoughtful, inspirational and beautifully written. (Have I left anything out? :-)) It resonated on so many levels, not least as I also spent quite a lot of time living in a tent in Turkey, there can't be many women who share that particular experience! I love how you describe a sense of connection to the land and a particular place. I once had a strange 'psychic' experience with the spirit of a woman who died in Wales at the end of the 19th century, who had lived her whole life in one house (where I was living at the time) and had never been further than a village three miles away. Her spirit was still there as the connection and love of place was so strong in her, I 'experienced' it through her - don't ask me how - and it was quite unlike any other feeling, so profound and beautiful in a way that I realised very few modern people ever experience, including me. It was quite an eye opener, or should I say heart opener. I feel that connection, albeit to a lesser degree, here on our few acres on the Celtic fringe. I also felt it strongly in Turkey, but not so much now. That time seems to have passed. Coincidentally (or not) in the last three years, after having to diversify due to difficulties in Turkey, we have partially relocated to work in Spain, never having been there before and having to start afresh with the language and connections. Life is such a voyage! Thanks for the inspiration. x
6/1/2020 01:09:59 pm
Hello Jane! Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. What a beautiful story! Yes I'm am quite certain the land holds a residue or spirit of the people who lived on it, particularly when there's such a deep connection like the one you are talking about. I felt it many times in Turkey. And here in my stone hut too. It's really special, and a subject I want to explore more. And yes, this Celtic fringe is something else. The spirits within these lands somehow defy every attempt by the modern world to colonise them. The Celts were powerful.
9/1/2020 02:59:23 pm
Hi Atulya, Nice to hear back from you! Will follow your journey with interest :-) Jane x
6/1/2020 05:03:21 pm
It's rare to read something that really resonates with one's personal experiences. My parents emigrated from the UK to, first Australia, and then NZ, when I was 10. Although I formed a close attachment to the land and still call myself a NZer, I don't have nearly the same connection that my school friends still have, yearning to return although all of us long ago left the small town. I always thought the world so big, NZ so small and always felt so constrained within the confines of those islands. But decades later, I've accepted that my life is never going to emulate those who feel such an affinity to place. Some of the places I've lived have proven to be completely incombatible, some will always have a place in my heart, but they were always going to be shortlived experiences. Without wanting to jinx it, I think I've found my home finally and it's not that far from you. Life truly is a magical mystery tour!
7/1/2020 10:53:29 pm
Thank you for sharing this. So many perspectives on belonging and attachment, it's beautiful to read all the stories from all over this incredible planet. Are you now in Spain or Portugal?
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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.