“Lizards are just walking right up to us, locusts are hanging out with me having a shower, it’s very strange. The robin...he sings to me while I pee.” said a friend of mine who’s looking after my mud home, while I make a short trip to the UK.
Ah how I smiled when I listened to his voice message. Yes, the robin is a cheeky little devil. I know him well. All of a sudden my mind sailed out of my dad’s living room in Essex. I was back there in my Eden, with the butterflies fluttering over the kale plants, and the squirrels scampering along the pines. You see, this is why I’m rather cagey about people entering the land. Because it’s true. The wildlife within the magic ring of my property knows me. The beasts, birds and insects trust me. And I trust them. In fact, as my friend pointed out, there are now generations of insects and lizards with handed down genetic knowledge that ‘The Human’ loves them. We are a connected ecosystem. We are family.
But I wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, I too killed scorpions and feared the boar. Ten years ago, I would have laid poison and traps, thinking it was simply the way things were, and that I had to protect myself to survive. I wasn’t even particularly bothered about dogs. I’ve changed. Or rather I’ve been changed, and nature is the transformer.
Nature comes laden with gifts so extraordinary, we moderns don’t even believe them possible. When you approach it as a friend or kin, you will witness miracles, some of which leave you slack-jawed. Let’s take the army of ants nesting just outside my kitchen. Ten years ago, I’d have been sure I had to get rid of them. But now? Well, I have observed these incredible insects. At some mysterious agreed-upon day and time, they congregate on the kitchen floor. Masses of them. The earth turns into a dark moving carpet. I wait. An hour later when they have moved on, I see. The ants have cleaned the floor. Perfectly. Yet they never delve into my honey, nor my carob molasses which sit in open jars upon the shelf. How? Why? It is indeed strange.
Typically, when we hear survival ‘into the wild’ type stories, machismo is the name of the game. This is tragic. Of course, machismo has nothing to do with masculinity. It is an aberration; a fake set of values – generally violent and emotion crushing – parading as bravery and hiding cowardice. The glorified wilderness survival tales we have thrown at us in film or book form are a neatly packaged slice of this machismo. They are sold to a modern world that has become so tedious in its convenience that the only excitement left is bungee jumping, cocaine or having an affair. Thus the wild is peddled as the ultimate dangerous adventure. The last frontier.
Yet nature isn’t a frontier. It’s where we all came from. It’s home! Even the word ‘survival’ when talking about living in the wild seems inappropriate, because it is based on a fiction that nature is some sort of alien monster out to attack us, rather than the very thing that sustains us. The natural world is where we belong, the place we are designed for. Anyone who has spent a significant time alone in nature and attempted to get to know it a little, realises this. The indigenous peoples of the forests, those who have evaded the great train of ‘civilisations’ realise this. You don’t see them indiscriminately bludgeoning any animal that crosses their path. They clutch the last remaining shreds of ancient wisdom in their cultures, namely that everything has its place.
Nature is alive, and like all living beings, she’s responsive. She is also very fair; not sentimental, but fair. What you give is what you get with nature. I’ve seen it over and over again. You enter a territory and become the savage hunter, then you will at some point become the hunted. You will not be trusted. You will have set up an energy field of fear and aggression, and every living being that enters that field will reflect that back to you. Hence why I don’t own a gun, nor do I allow them on my property. I don’t want that energy circulating on my land.
The reason I can live in The Mud alone and feel safe, is because I am safe. The energy of my land is one of love and respect, not fear. There is no struggle to survive. In fact, as time goes on the land provides more and more in the most incredible ways. There is a delicious wild plant known locally as turnip grass. It’s rich in iron and vitamin C, and very versatile to cook with. Last year I spoke to the land and expressed how much I love that plant. This year it has sprouted all over the lower end of my garden. I’ve such a surplus, I now give it to Dudu. Struggle? Survival? Nature feels a lot more like Santa Claus to me.
The wildlife has taught me one final lesson; We humans have been blessed with the power to create the emotional signature of our territories. We can choose the energy we want to emit, and the attitudes we hold. Me? I want paradise on Earth. I want a world full of love, respect and kindness. I want wonder and magic. Utopian dream? Not for me. Well, definitely not within my space. Because this land, The Mud, is my world, and within those boundaries my rules apply.
We may not be able to change other people, or dictate what they do with their spaces. That's just as well. Who knows what's right in the larger picture anyway? Still, it takes conviction and effort to maintain a positive state of mind. I struggle when I hear hunters killing tiny birds, apparently just for the fun of it. And I'm no innocent. Things have been killed inadvertently here, and once from a lack of self-belief. Yes, at times I've wanted to buy a rifle and shoot back at hunters too. But I’ve not given up. Like my freshly germinated spinach seeds, I just keep pushing upwards, striving bit by bit for the light, trying to hold the kind of world I want within me. And now I see. My space has responded. It has been created. The gunmen have moved away. The land holds the vibration. Gekkos clean my saucepans. Swallow ballets are performed over my gazebo. Wild boar career through my land, yet leave my potatoes untouched. And now the lizards dance and the robin sings, not just for me, but for my friends.
Atulya K Bingham
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