A Motley Crew
“Eggs. Let’s see. Erm, I think these are fertilised.”
Julia’s hand hovered uncertainly over the egg holder. About a dozen eggs of varying sizes and hues hunkered there next to the aga. My neighbour arbitrarily picked out five as though pulling numbers out of a lucky dip. I placed them in cardboard box and shrugged.
“We’ll see,” I said, not particularly convinced they’d turn into anything.
Such was the blithe act of fate that separated those five eggs from a future in a frying pan. Yet this wasn’t the only random act in a succession of randomness that conspired to create life. I suppose it all started with the fox.
A brush with death
It was a soupy old day back in late May. My mountain was lost in a brume so cloying the rocks had come out in a cold sweat. I was pottering in the kitchen hut trying to avoid it all when I heard a terrible squawking from the chicken run. The last time I’d heard such a din was when the wildcat called by.
I reached the run to find a sleek, rust-grey fox pinning Priscilla hen to the floor. The coop was swirling with white feathers, and my other two hens were running around, well...like headless chickens, I suppose. Fox looked up. Then she looked down, undecided as to whether to attempt to eat Priscilla before escaping, or not.
Fight, flight, freeze. Priscilla chose the latter. She lay paralysed beneath her executioner, wing to brow, like a platinum victim in a tacky murder story. After some grappling, I wrenched open the wire and clambered into the run. Now it was fox’s turn to panic. Throwing herself repeatedly at the upper rim of the run, Fox somehow found a gap between the wire and the bird netting, and with an agility that awed me, she slid through. The last I saw of her was a bushy tail and her hind legs disappearing into the mist.
Incredibly, Priscilla stood up at this point and waddled over to me. I checked her over, amazed to find her unscathed, no doubt saved by her feathers. By the look of the coop she’d possessed enough to fill a duvet. But the event had etched a deep impression on her chicken mind. She spent the evening standing about looking very thoughtful. Do hens consider things like the fleeting gift of life? Do they have life missions they want to complete? I’m not a hen, so I can’t say anything for sure. All I know is the very next day Priscilla turned broody.
I didn’t want any more chickens, which is why when my neighbours passed by I asked Julia, “Would you like some chicks if she sits on the eggs?”
Julia scratched her ponytail absently. “Hmm. Yes, all right, why not?”
You see, no one was particularly invested here. It was a “whatever” kind of an act. Hence that evening five random eggs were picked from the egg holder like Countdown numbers (I’ll have two from the top and three from the bottom please Carol). I hustled them away to my land. As darkness engulfed the hen coop, I pushed the eggs under Priscilla. Her chicken eyes widened in joy.
Death and life
We usually say life and death because we see ourselves as living before we pop our clogs. But I think it’s the other way round, we have to die before we live. Only when something is lost, can something new be born.
The following week I went away and left my hens with my neighbours. During that time Frida (Priscilla’s mum) died – or rather disappeared into the woods never to be seen again – which is an appropriate ending for my most adventurous chicken. As always when one of the roost departs, there’s an eerie chicken-shaped gap. Hilde hen, bottom of the pack yet ironically the longest survivor, wandered forlornly around my land on my return. Frida her playmate was missing and Priscilla was currently useless as a friend. Despite moving coop twice, my snowy Queen of the Picos was still sitting resolutely on her eggs squawking at all those who dared approach.
Without dear Frida, a bird vacuum opened up. Suddenly there was a lack in our strange community. Something missing. The winds of destiny were swirling, drawing new life into the space...
Three weeks. That’s all it takes. It’s an absurdly short amount of time to turn an omelette candidate into a living, breathing, sentient creature. And when you observe it, it sort of blows your mind. I’m a big egg eater, usually munching two a day, so I’m intimate with these perfectly eco-packaged nutrient bombs; the richness of the yolks, the strange gloopiness of the albumin, soft boiled, hard boiled, over-easy or scrambled, I love an egg. When I hold one of these calcium capsules in my hand it always feels a little magical, a little fairy tale.
Three weeks. 21 days. Priscilla sat calm and happy while Hilde moped in sorrow. I began to pray that something would come out of them just to give Hilde some friends.
The Great Hatch
On the eve of day 21 I peered into the coop, pushing Priscilla off the eggs to see if anything was happening. Nothing. No noise. No crack. I groaned and shut the coop door. I won’t lie, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the Great Hatch. The last time I’d found myself embroiled in this business one poor chick couldn’t break out of the egg, and the late Frida hen had pecked it to death. Such harrowing atrocity wasn’t what I’d expected in a cutesy chick birth. Then again, these eggs could be duds like with my first broody hen. Perhaps nothing would happen? A part of me began to hope so.
But life doesn’t hinge around our gumptionless hopes, or what part of us feels. What manifests as our lives derives from a responsive web of clear intention, willpower, and sheer luck, which we share with many other beings. I wasn’t the only one with a horse in this race, and definitely not the most invested. My intention and willpower were nothing compared to Priscilla’s or indeed the life forces currently awakening inside the eggs.
The next morning I returned. Then I heard it. A distinct tapping sound. I bit my lip. Breaking out of an egg is a slow old process fraught with hazard and difficulty. For your information (should you find yourself in an egg one day) it takes a good 24 hours to hack your way out of an eggshell. So prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint.
By evening I saw the top of one of the eggs on the floor of the coop. That meant the hatchling was half in half out...Gulp. Later I returned with bated breath. Gently I pushed Priscilla up. She squawked but didn’t peck. Then I saw it! A golden fluffball hiding beneath her. I could hear more tapping too.
Over the course of the next three days the eggs hatched one by one. Unlike the previous batch, this lot seemed to have read the instruction manual before embarking on their great escape, each one scissoring off the egg top smoothly, then step by step demolishing the rest. By day 23 we had four little chicks tweeting and buzzing round the coop. What a motley crew they were! Every single one was a different colour: gold, yellow, brown, and black. The smallest one looked like a baby penguin.
What this haphazard jumble of fluffballs will turn into, I dread to think. Last time it was Priscilla the brahma after all. But one thing I do know is that life can be very random at times. Each of those chicks is here only thanks to a succession of flukes, and could easily have turned into a tortilla instead. Had the fox not broken into the coop, had Julia’s hand swayed a little to the left or right, had Priscilla not sat so patiently and determinedly in a time of great upheaval, had the shell been too hard or too brittle, had the cockerel fired blanks, had I simply said no, and had no doubt a million other factors that merged and met and twisted into the thread of life not happened, then those chicks wouldn’t exist.
Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly said something along the lines of, “I’d rather have a lucky general than a skilful one.” Whether or not he really said that, I know what he means. Most of us understand that without the oil of good fortune greasing the wheels of our effort, we'd be grinding to an ignominious standstill. So sometimes in times of chaos it can seem our intention or resolution is of little value. What’s the point in trying if it’s all down to luck, after all?
But what is luck exactly? A certain serendipity may be the happy link in a chain of reactions that makes a dream appear, yet in truth it’s more often our foggy intentions, our wishy-washy focus, and our lack of gumption or belief that ruptures the process. Sometimes life does say no. Sometimes it crashes our worlds to force us out of a rut. Sometimes road blocks appear and divert us onto a new path. But just as often life waits and watches. Do we know what we want? Are we willing to go the distance for it? Do we believe in ourselves and value ourselves enough to go for it? Life is sentient and interconnected. In some ways I think life is our Gaian self. It’s the natural field of our existence which merges with that of all the humans and creatures we come into contact with. Other beings are a part of us just as we are a part of them, and whoever holds the most resolute intention makes it happen, no matter how small or feathered they are. Yes, we share our creation spaces, which is why it’s important who exactly we’re sharing them with.
So kudos to Priscilla Queen of the Picos this month, for knowing what she wanted, committing to it, and winning hands down in the reality creation space of our home. Not that she’s the only winner, mind you. Look at those cutesters bringing a ray of chick sunshine into my day!
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Panic in the Stone Hut
May is nearly here and I’m not ready. Nowhere near. The roof hasn’t been touched, I’m only just getting the hang of the mortar, and my ‘bedroom’ is still a dusty heap of rotten wood. I can feel the pressure inching up my abdomen. It would be easy to panic now.
In fact last night I did panic. It was a fairly average case of the 3:00 am prod-of-terror. One minute I was happily asleep, the next minute my ‘to-do’ list decided to unfurl in its entirety beneath my eyelids. And it demanded solutions to everything, there and then. No matter how fast my neurons fired, I couldn’t find enough answers. There beneath my duvet, roofs collapsed, money ran out, and a hundred and one hitherto unforeseen disasters lurked in the darkness. These calamities never showed their faces, but growled menacingly from my subconscious.
I’ve spoken to a lot of builders. Most seem to have a 3:00 am panic from time to time. Because there’s something about building which engenders a huge leap of faith. You are constructing something larger than you, and many times it’s not at all clear how it’s going to materialise. At all. I’m standing at the threshold of such a time. How easy it would be to throw up my hands and yell into the brisk north-westerly coursing across my land, “Agh! I’ll never make it in time. I can’t do it! I give up!” Or indeed just run away and never come back.
But I’m in this with Gaia. Even in the pre-dawn pitch, I know deep down as long as I keep stepping forwards, I’ll get there – usually just in the nick of time. It’s a question of trust now. And trust is something we moderns sorely lack. That’s why we love calculations and future prediction models and algorithms. That’s why we obsess about plans, and tie ourselves in knots trying to stick to them. Because we don’t trust that Gaia has our back. We don’t trust life. We don’t trust ourselves.
I’m passionate about creating tiny off-grid Edens for so many reasons: They are liberating, sustainable, and invite a deep awareness of the environment and our impact upon it. But perhaps my favourite aspect is the process of the build itself. The trust it demands of me. It’s me and the land joining forces to create a new world. As soon as I physically begin working with a vision in mind, creation just sort of happens. I honestly don’t know how. It's a kind of magic.
The power to create isn't to be found in plans or solutions. Nor is it some sort of macho brute strength phenomenon. Power is in life itself, and either you are aware of it and access it, or you aren’t.
Today as I stand, wellie-clad, feet firmly planted upon the cool dirt, I sense it. The very life inside me. That wave of power. And I know if I trust it, I can ride it. That creative force makes a mockery of my 3:00 am mind and its limited ideas of who I am and what I can achieve. It has no understanding or interest in my schedule either. It makes no guarantees to finish by any time other than the right one.
Scanning my Eden, my eyes fall onto the burgeoning pasture. The meadow has exploded now. The grass is on a mission upwards with thousands of tiny flowers twirling in its midst; buttercups, daisies, wild violets, and birdsfoot trefoil all bob in the wind like rainbow stars while fat honey bees cavort with dead-nettle flowers*.
When you stare into the face of Gaia, you have to wonder. How do the flowers ‘know’ how to bloom? It is after all an immense engineering project for a tiny little plant; the pushing of the stalk upwards, the development of the stigma and stamen, and the sudden cranking open of their petal umbrellas. Whatever the answer, we can safely assume flowers don’t wake up at 3 in the morning in a panic about it. The intelligence is within them. It’s in life itself.
We humans are part of the same matrix of power and life and intelligence. Our growth and ingenuity move out of it. Yet I wonder, do we realise it? Because here we are at the edge of creating a new world for ourselves, and we've woken up in lather. We’ve known for a while that our house wasn’t stable, (heck, the thing was built on dodgy ground anyway), but the renovation work looked so daunting. Where to start? And how deep to go? So we’ve overthought everything and done a perfect nothing, because it all just appeared impossible. Now of course the roof tiles are falling off, and the walls are beginning to buckle, so we have to act. Yes, it’s 3:00 in the morning of the modern world, and we're suddenly awake. It would be easy to panic now. Easy to throw up our hands and give up. But building new worlds doesn’t happen like that.
It’s always when I’m teetering terrified on a scaffold without a clue what I’m doing, vision in mind, hammer in hand, that I realise I have to stop trying to think my way out of it, and allow life itself to work through me. I’ve set my best intentions of how I want my building to look and feel. I'm following through. Now there’s nothing else for it. It’s time to have a little faith and climb on that roof. Oh course, there are the usual crowd of hopeless naysayers (when are there not? And when have they ever been right?) but nowadays I'm adept at zoning them out. Because the limitations are in their minds, not in my reality. And not, most importantly, in life.
In the world of the modern human there's a brave new house to be built. But while blind panic may galvanise us to act, it's hardly a vision. We need to claim our future, rather than feebly just trying to avoid calamity. The outer work is all well and good, but without some serious inner renovation frankly we are toast. It was our old school mindset based on fear and mechanised contingency that got us exactly where we are now.
It's time to step towards a more beautiful world with a little trust that something larger than us, something that doesn’t adhere to schedules and man-made predictions, will take our hand. Without that trust we are lost. Without that trust we create nothing magnificent at all. We simply stare ahead and see doom.
Remember back on Mud Mountain when the bulldozers came? It seemed like the end of the world. Yet what do you know eh? My new world is full of honey bees and vultures, clean spring water and wolves, cobbled huts, and organic free range cows... Apparently, when you trust in the planet, sometimes the end of the world can be an upgrade.
At the moment I'm paddling like mad just to keep everything running, and need to offload a lot more 'drudge' to my paid virtual help over the next few months. It really is pretty hard to keep The Mud Home going while I build a roof over my head. So if you find meaning or inspiration in this blog please consider contributing on Patreon. For just $2 a month you have access to my private news feed where I post updates and thoughts I don't wish to share with the world at large, plus a monthly video from my land.
Many many thanks to the dear Mud Sustainers and all those already supporting on Patreon for helping to fund this website and allowing it to continue.
A Natural Process
“Yeah, you can eat this laurel,” said the owner of the nursery. He was a sturdy man with a generous smile. Stretching out a hirsute hand, he pulled one of the sapling’s leaves off and stuffed it in his mouth to prove the point. “Should survive up where you are, though you won’t see anything for three years, because...” and here he started babbling about raices while spitting out bits of leaf.
For the umpteenth time I pulled out my phone and typed the new word into the online dictionary. Raices. Roots.
“Once this tree has a decent root system, then it grows pretty fast. But three years. You need to be patient.” The tree seller dropped the potted laurel back on the ground, and the leaves shook on impact.
Standing there in the nursery, I felt the sun warm my spine. In the background, behind the polytunnels of baby trees and the car park, mountains pushed up crisp and clear. Within those colossal peaks my land was waiting.
I snapped my eyes back to the laurels. “OK, I’ll take three of them,” I said. “Plus that holly you showed me. You know, the independent female that didn’t need a male,” I winked at the tree seller. He guffawed. I grinned in return, feeling rather pleased that I could now express a soupçon of wit across the rickety scaffold of my Spanish.
A week later all the baby trees were planted, with fences to protect them from goats and eggshells to protect them from slugs. I sat between them, watching the rocks come alive in the gloaming, their ancient bodies pulsing. Slowly. Patiently.
On the rim of my land, my eye fell upon a full-grown holly bush. My gaze flitted from the baby I had planted, to the adult in the woods, and then to the enormous ash tree behind my stone hut.
If you want to see how to make incredible things happen, just watch nature, because nothing and no one is as powerful at creating worlds as She.
Thus I return to last month’s post. To one way of making things happen. Though in truth we are all unique, each with our own growth rhythm and style. When we sit with the Earth and let her speak to us, if we look for her secret messages within the ridges of rocks or the bifurcating stems of leaves, we are always reminded of our way.
The Process of Making Things Happen
Watch a tree, how it happens, and you will learn everything you need to know about manifesting new realities. All trees – imagine an enormous powerful oak, or the evergreen tower of a red pine – start as lifeless kernels until they are planted, and watered. For quite a while nothing appears to happen. Yet in truth, as soon as the kernel hits the wet dirt, something shifts. And if it continues to shift in a certain direction, the seed germinates. This is a kind of alchemy. I’m fascinated by it, because no one really understands it. It’s the spell of the dirt.
There is the potential. The seed. Lifeless. Doing nothing other than holding the idea of a tree within it. The seed hits the dirt, and something changes.
After germination, everything moves in increments. Step by tiny step. No step on the sapling’s path is superfluous. Each is necessary. It just keeps moving bit by tiny bit in the direction it wants to go. Namely toward the sun.
Whether we still feel it or not, we are born out of the dirt of this planet, just like the trees and the slugs and the grass. Despite what education systems and social conditioning ‘teach’ us, we create new versions of ourselves exactly like our planet does, using the very same dirt alchemy.
The seed is your vision. Your dream. It holds great potential, but...until it is planted in the real world, in the dirt of the planet, in the messy physical plane, it is lifeless. It will never germinate. That magical alchemy will never happen. Nothing will appear.
Planting vision seeds in the real world seems to be what most people struggle with. And I think it’s because we see a seed, and then a full grown tree, and have no idea how to bridge the gap. So we panic. Because we think we have to have the entire process covered from start to finish, because that’s what we’ve learned at college, or in business management courses, or from architect’s plans.
But you cannot have the process covered. And if you do, you’ll be throwing your plan away pretty soon (if you ever stop tinkering with it and start putting it into action). Because as soon as you take the first step and plant the seed, neither you nor the world is the same.
The secret to making things happen is to move in increments. Consistently. Patiently. With one eye on your dream, and the other on where you are now. Without worrying too much about the rest of the journey. This is as true for house building as it is for book writing or land buying. Because life is a cauldron of enchantment which when stirred causes miracles to emerge.
Six Tree Steps to Making it Happen
1. Find your seed.
Your dream is your seed. Make sure it’s the right one. Are you planting a maple tree seed? Or an orchid bulb? Or a hawthorn? Be sure. Know what you want and why, because you will get what you ask for. The most potent seeds are forged within kernels of trust, joy, and inspiration, while seeds born of anger, fear, and low self esteem tend to develop into weak, unsatisfying realities.
Hindrances: Even at this early stage, people can start losing faith. They think they can’t have what they want, so begin reducing the dream seed to fit into some box that they have been made to believe is reality. I notice I’ve done this a lot in my life. Perhaps in truth we only expand the cage bit by bit.
2. Dig the ground.
The way I till the ground is to start brainstorming all the things I’d feasibly have to do to obtain my dream. I write them down on paper: List, mind map, or picture format, it doesn’t matter. The crux is to move that non-physical dream some way into the physical world.
Once I’ve brainstormed every task or action I can think of, I put the steps in some kind of order. Yes, I might be an earth-whispering hippy, but even I have a to-do list. Unfortunately this isn’t the '70s, and to be free in this age of corporate insanity, you need to be organised. Now, I'm not saying I take my plans too seriously, because life enjoys a good chuckle at any planners' expense. Nevertheless, this process transforms my otherwise nebulous unattainable vision, into concrete doable steps.
Hindrances: Here, because we suddenly see a bit of effort is required, the insurmountable obstacles start popping up in people’s minds. So if I find myself thinking I can’t dig the ground and plant a seed because (insert your excuse), I make another list with all my excuses on it. Then I resolutely set it aside (or burn it) and start acting and thinking as though the solutions have magically appeared.
People are often bemused when they ask me, "but what are you going to do about (insert random worry about some detail at the nether end of my to-do list)" and I reply, "No idea. Something will turn up." To their abject annoyance, it always does. Doubt and worry are the mental equivalent of Monsanto Roundup. They are carcinogenic. Don’t apply them to your seed.
Believe it or not, trees also form action plans. They calculate where they think the maximum sunlight will be X years from now, and push out branches accordingly. I'm pretty sure they don't worry too much about number 10 on their to-do list either. For more on tree intelligence and problem-solving capacity, read this article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2015/aug/04/plants-intelligent-sentient-book-brilliant-green-internet
Don’t become obsessed by money.
Notice “raise money” is not number one on the list. That’s because it definitely isn’t the first thing you should be worrying about. Huh? Really?
Money is a tool, not a vision. And take it from me, as soon as you start believing in your vision enough to do something about it, weird and wonderful things happen. Life starts believing in you. Other people start believing in you. Support appears. As long as you’re open to different ways of raising money, and not clinging to some sort of ‘poor me’ scarcity mindset that refuses to let it in, funds will arrive.
3. Plant the seed!
And this is where the majority of folk falter. They just won’t budge out of the stalls. If this is you, ask yourself: Are you really only going to buy seeds for the rest of your life? Really? Is your life just going to be a shelf full of jars that you look at? On your deathbed are you going to be proud that you just dreamed?
You plant your seed by taking the first thing on your new to-do list, and doing it.
You may find yourself looking at that initial step and realising it needs its own to-do list. Very normal. I do that all the time. Just break down step one into mini steps. Increment by increment. That’s how trees to do it. Follow the trees.
This is the first place overwhelm hits. “Oh so many steps! How can will I ever take them all?” Remember: You don’t have to take all the steps. You just have to take one, and once you’ve taken that initial leap, the world is no longer the same. This is such an overlooked and profound truth. The world is no longer the same when you take one action in it because you have now changed it.
When I moved onto Mud Mountain in Turkey, I didn’t know how to bang a nail in. I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined I’d be building my own house within six months or writing a blog about it. How could such a thing be possible? And yet, what do you know? You see, our knowledge of our world and ourselves is horribly limited. Once you’ve stepped onto a different life track, incredible things happen.
4. Water the seed. Consistently.
Some seeds grow into trees. Some give up. If you ask me, it is completely okay to give up if you realise you don’t want to be that tree anymore. Far more worthy to have stretched out of seed mode and then conclude you need to change course, than to remain a dry kernel forever doing a big fat nada.
I’ve given up on plenty of planted seeds. Van life, for example. Pah! It’s definitely not for me. I’m very glad I tried it though, and it brought me to my land, so it was a valuable seed to plant.
Watering the seed means to keep moving through your continually evolving to-do list. Patiently. Consistently. Throw on too much water (or effort), and you drown the poor seedling. Neglect it, and it withers up. It's a balance. The trick is to make sure you’re enjoying each step of the process for what it is, while simultaneously keeping the end vision in mind and pushing gently towards it. One foot in the now, one in the future.
5. Let the plant grow.
Healthy, blooming, mature trees grow organically. Life and the Earth weave their magic into them and they alter their growth pattern in accordance. They adapt to wind, sunlight, food, predators, and the needs of the forest community too. Life is not static. That static ‘thing’ is an idiocy of the human mind.
A Seed Well Planted
Over two years ago I planted a seed. I threw myself from the Mediterranean coast of Turkey on to the Atlantic coast of Europe. There was the usual throng of naysayers braying at my back. “It’s very expensive you know, how will you survive?” “You can’t find land there for that price!” “You don’t have a network! It will be hard without friends.”
Today, I sit in my new Eden. Looking up, I see the horizon has become the canvas of an impressionist, mountain backs dappled violet, green and grey by the brush of the clouds. I am amazed. The seed I planted has now become a sapling. Next year it will grow higher still until one day it’s as grand as this ash tree I’m sitting under.
Curling into my favourite nook in the trunk, I raise my eyes into the arms of the ash. The last leaf has recently fallen. Her branches are bare now, all energy pulling back underground. To the roots. Raices. Where she dreams of new pathways, considers fresh outgrowths, and consolidates her power for the year ahead.
Want to create a new reality?
I’m not sure if this is due to my land’s influence on me or not – it’s a powerful space; abundant, endowed, enabling – but I’ve felt a calling to push out an extra side shoot on creating new realities.
I don’t know exactly what this will entail in terms of content, but over the winter, for anyone who signs up in the box below, I’ll be sending free material and ideas on making change happen, increasing your power to create, and following through on your dreams. So if you’re interested, put your name and email address in the box.
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Shifting out of Dreamland
You want to escape the system and find your dream space. You’ve read about it. Googled it to death. You’ve drooled so long and hard over those mud homes and natural wildernesses that you’ve run out of saliva. But for some reason the dreaming never seems to shift into reality. You’re still stuck in your hateful job. You still haven’t found your space. Do you really believe you can? Somehow you can’t pull yourself out of that stale old life, and slide into something dazzlingly and awe-inspiringly new. Why not?
“Why don’t people leap?” Is a question I often ask myself. I would. I’m a leaper. And leapers are always in good spirits when they find they’ve landed in the right place. Because you never quite know for sure, do you? It’s a risk.
Now I wouldn’t deny, even by my standards this particular leap turned into a somewhat protracted, nail-biting flight. At times I felt I was grabbing at vines and branches to soften the descent. Air currents buffeted me in places, other times I was battling head winds. Even when could clearly see my landing space, it seemed to take an eternity to reach the ground, my heels skidding through the mud never quite coming to a halt.
This month however, it happened. I landed. And such a gratitude has been welling up in me, because my rugged beauty is wonderful. As I potter in and out of my cabanas, I marvel at how perfect these ancient structures are. How useful. How full of character and potential. Each stone is a mottled and magical being waiting to tell me his story.
When I gaze out from the stout coolness of these huts, I see the mountains folding back on themselves in rocky pleats. Each valley hides another world, and another reality. The wind blows. All about me tree fingers are releasing what they have gripped tightly onto all summer, leaves fluttering to the ground like rusty confetti. Some see autumn as an ending, but for me it is often a beginning. An opening into a cave where I find new ideas and inspiration sprouting from the humus of the old.
No longer am I lost and rootless, camping beneath the dictates of the World At Large. I am yet again queen of my domain. I can do whatever. I. like.
Yes I’m a leaper. Because once you’ve sipped from the chalice of freedom, it’s impossible to put up with the dregs convention throws at you. You will leap and leap, on and on, because you know there is nothing to lose and everything to win. Still as I breathe the clean air and feel the land join my heart, I know there are many others still drooling with hunger, still yearning. And yet for some reason unable to make it happen.
Thus this post becomes an odd mixture of whimsy and ideas. There’s an art to making stuff happen you see. And in the light of a few discussions this week, I will try to share some of what I know.
How to Make Stuff Happen
Since the day I started blogging up on Mud Mountain, there has been a continual trickle of emails and correspondences along the lines of: “I’d love to do that. But...” and then out spin the reasons, like a threadbare roll of carpet underlay. This isn’t a judgement. What I hope to point out in this post is that the reason you aren’t going for your dream is not what you think it is. If you want to cling to a reason, it's your call and absolutely your right, but it's incredibly disempowering.
I know some folk just enjoy the dream, and that’s totally acceptable to me. I have dreams I have no intention of fulfilling. Imagining is fun. Whatsmore, I certainly don’t believe everyone should do what I’m doing. Who knows what’s the most fulfilling course of action for you? And there are many different ways to buck The System and be yourself: You could throw on a backpack and travel the world, buy a campervan, leave your job and volunteer in an elephant sanctuary. The most valuable thing anyone can be doing is living from their heart and soul, and if you’ve been so brutalised by The System that you no longer know what they are or yearn for, then the most valuable thing is to take time out to relocate them.
But if you do deeply and truly want a way out, and feel thwarted, then read on. Because the way out is you.
The Insurmountable Obstacle
Whenever someone longs for something but doesn't go for it, there’s usually an ‘insurmountable obstacle’ lurking somewhere in their mind. This phantom issue then serves as a buffer from a deeper truth. The person may be afraid to take a chance, or perhaps don't believe they deserve any better, or just can’t muster the willpower to really commit to their dream. To leap.
By far the most common “insurmountable obstacle” I hear about is money. Most folk who come to me saying they don’t have enough funds, have more than I do. I’m not proud of that. I’m not against money either, it’s a very useful and empowering tool. I’m definitely not starting some sort of moneyless woman competition. I’m just pointing it out. Your money limitation cannot be the real reason you’re not living off-grid in nature, because this lifestyle is the most inexpensive there is. Most out-of-system lifestyles are cheap to run. It's 'normal' life that's expensive. So you can do this. That's good news.
Let’s get into some real figures here, only to widen ideas about what is really possible: Currently I’m living a beautiful life in Europe on about 600 Euros a month, and a third of that goes on running The Mud Home website. So in fact I could be getting by on 400 Euros (well below the minimum wage). Europe. This is Europe. Not Asia. Not Turkey (because that was the excuse when I lived there, “oh you’re so lucky, you’re in Turkey, you can’t do that in Europe.”) Don’t cling to the figures though and start using them as another thing to contort your mind around. In Turkey I was getting by (admittedly not very comfortably, yet ecstatically happy) on 150 Euros. Perhaps tomorrow I'll start spending more. Perhaps I'll spend less. I'm not attempting to live the cheapest life on the planet or be better than anyone. I'm just trying to show alternative realities exist, and that the point isn't a number on a spreadsheet. The point is the vision in your soul, and breathing life into it.
The truth about money is, no one ever thinks they have enough. So you’ll never reach the stage when you think you do. Why? Because what you actually want is security, and the brutal fact is there isn’t any. Even if you have a million pounds, or Euros or dollars. That’s why these top CEOs are still raping the planet to eke out a bit more profit. Because in their minds, they still don’t have enough.
This all becomes so clear once you step outside the prison walls of The System, but from within it can be hard to imagine life without: a pension scheme (that you continue to pay into, but may or may not receive), health cover (for the myriad ailments you acquire because life in The System is so unhealthy), a regular salary (to spend on a whole bunch of things you don’t need because you are burned out and miserable).
Of course it’s not just money. There are a plethora of other ‘insurmountable obstacles’ in people’s minds. I'm not making light of people's issues here. We all have our struggles and have to overcome them. Sometimes those difficulties change our paths entirely. But the myth that you can't create a new, inspired life for yourself is both untrue, and cruelly self-limiting.
I’ve met folk who’ve left the system and begun new lives with every single limitation imaginable: Children, age, serious health issues, single, not single, woman, man, in every country in the world people hack their way out of the grind and shimmy off grid to create Edens for themselves. Did they manage it by sitting on Facebook all day? Or by saving money ad infinitum? Or by huffing and puffing and assuming everyone else has it easy? Was it a piece of mud cake for any of them? Nope. These people did it by climbing out of the soft padded cells of their minds, and into the wilderness of real life. At some point they took a risk.
The Bottom Line
For me there’s only one question you absolutely have to sort out in your mind here. Do you want a new life? Really? If the answer is no then I very much respect you for your honesty. Good for you! Now you are clear, you can focus on what you do want, and go for that. Perhaps you already have it! But if the answer is yes, then it’s time to act. Don't dawdle any longer, because nothing in the world is secure. You have little to lose.
Next month I’ll share my own method for how I go about that. How to get from A to B. How to make big things happen in real life, step by step. Because I think perhaps a lot of the time people just don’t know where to start. It's not an exhortation, just some ideas for what they are worth.
In the meantime I’ll be pottering up on my land, a plot which cost me half the price of Mud Mountain in Turkey yet incredibly is five times larger, with running water, a spring to drink from, and three beautiful stone cabanas on it. And all this in expensive old Europe where apparently no one can do anything because of red tape and high prices. I never believed such a thing was possible, because Europe had long been an insurmountable obstacle to me. Until the day it wasn't. You see it isn’t about the numbers. This world is made of magic stardust, and anything can happen.
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Atulya K Bingham
Author, Lone Off-Gridder, and Natural Builder.
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