mUD MOUNTAIN BLOG
Back in 2011, I found myself camping alone on a remote
Turkish hill. There was no power or water on the land.
It was the start of an adventure that profoundly changed
my beliefs about what is enjoyable, or possible...
Fear and the Other World
Not everyone who relocates into the wilds is content. There are many who buy land, build houses and wind up just as dissatisfied as they were before, sometimes more so. I’ve heard one or two say they felt so traumatised by the experience they moved back to the city.
Nature is an awe-inspiring, plan-crunching, target-ignoring, and largely unsentimental beast. It can also be the most accepting, supportive and rejuvenating friend. And as far as I can see, the deciding factor is the human spirit.
After ‘Don’t you get lonely?’ the next most frequently voiced question to me is ‘Don’t you get scared?’ And yes, sometimes quite frankly, I do. On a moonless winter night, a night so dark that even the shadows are in hiding, my road turns from a scenic strip of nobbled, red earth into the gulf of Hades. Occasionally, I’ll walk up that road to a friend’s house. Sporadic blips of orange poke through the rucks of the hillside opposite; lights from the hamlet nearby. They give the valley the appearance of something from Lord of the Rings, and for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I find that rather comforting. But it’s when I reach the top that the background music changes. There, at the triangular junction where my dirt track and a tarmac road meet, is the cemetery. By day it’s the quaintest village cemetery you are ever likely to see; a random clutter of small graves nestled in a mountainside olive grove. The dead occupy a glorious vista with the Mediterranean in the distance. But by night? There’s no sea view, no olive trees, only the vague outline of gravestones poking up from the inky soil. I always stride past that graveyard doing my utmost not to search out shadows moving beyond the stone wall. Then, I hear the dog, or rather the local Hound from Hell. It belongs to the shepherd who lives in the web of wooden struts and plastic up the bank. The dog has smelt my fear and is now burning a trail of snarling carnage in my direction. I start running. I reach the turn-off to my friend’s house, the barking growing closer by the minute. I flick my torch back and see the dog’s eyes; two soulless glass buttons flashing in a cloak of endless black. I can’t see the teeth. But it doesn’t matter. I know what they’re like; huge flesh-ripping, saliva-coated fangs rasping to get stuck into my leg. The torch becomes a weapon. I flick the beam towards the eyes and dazzle the dog for a few seconds. I use those moments to back as quickly as I can down the track.
Scared? I'm so mortally petrified it will take a good half hour before I utter a sentence without a swear word.
And yet, nothing at all has really happened. The dog hasn't killed me. It didn’t even reach me. There were no zombies in the graveyard, and no cold hands stretching out from the graves. If I draw the dark half of my mind to one side and peer beyond it, I see the night is an open face spattered with freckles of starlight. The darkness is a mystery that the pine trees are now pumping life into. And the sky is wise and profound. I am part of that dark, profound mystery. I am breathing it.
Alone in the wilds these things will happen. Boar may come cantering out of the forest and nose round your tent for a midnight snack. You may be faced with winds rushing at 60 kilometres an hour, and all you have over your head is a sliver of flapping canvas, or perhaps the track into your land has
morphed into a mud slick and you realise you might not be able to leave for three days. In such situations, bravado and a few positive affirmations just aren’t going to cut the mustard. Nor is a gun, a torch, or a dog. You need other sturdier tools in your psychological toolbox if you want to mitigate the panic.
Personally speaking, to truly derive the immense pleasure available from the natural world, and to be able to reconnect with it without dissolving into a blubbering wreck, I have needed a practice. And for me, that practice is meditation in general, Vipassana more specifically. Though sometimes a few yoga asanas will do the trick as well. Now, I’m not a meditation or yoga evangelist (been there, done that). The meditation malarkey is simply one of many ways to deal with the fog of fear and worry that can quickly blanket the human spirit when things don’t appear to be as they should. Other people have other techniques; walking barefoot on the earth, Tai Chi, hiking.
Once the fog clears, I can reconnect, not just with the Earth, but with the thing that underpins it all. I’d call that thing the spiritual world for want of a better phrase. The trouble with words is they drag so many connotations behind them. A word is never just a word. It’s a story. What I’m trying to allude to when I use the word ‘spiritual world’, is not a belief system, nor a religion, nor angels and devils, nor pixies and woodsprites. For me, the word 'spiritual' refers to everything that is not physical. Things you can’t see, hear, feel, touch or smell. I could use the term ‘non physical’ world, but that implies a ‘non’ event, or an absence of something. The Other world that lies beyond the senses is not a nothing, it’s a whopping great something, and without it, whether you live in a tent in the hills or in a basement flat in a honking city, there’s not much difference. Sorry, scratch that. There’s light-years of difference! Nonetheless, it’s the spiritual element that defines the quality of the experience.
The most obvious element of the spiritual world is thought; ideas, concepts and images in the human mind. Thoughts hold no physical space. They can’t be touched, smelt or seen by others. Yet they are the most powerful element of the human being and shape the very fabric of our lives. For most of us, thought is based on two drives; fear and desire. Freud called it the pleasure principle, the endless psychological struggle to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Vipassana meditation talks about craving and aversion. Watch your thoughts for any given moment and it’s easy to see; either the mind is galloping down a track of worry and strategizing how to avoid trouble, or it’s chasing after a dream and fantasizing. And if there isn’t a memory of a real experience for the mind to grasp onto, it will use those plied to it by the media and advertisers instead.
So when you arrive in your wilderness paradise, nature will be there waiting for you with her well of magic and nourishing secrets. But will you see her? When a gale force wind begins to crush your dome tent, will you feel awe, or simply terror? Will you trust your instincts, and the movement of
the land around you? Or will you be overtaken by the images generated by any number of horror films? For me, it is often a very fine line. And the only way I can cross that line is to sit each morning, breathe, watch my mind spouting its gibberish, see through it and sense the vast benevolent power of the spiritual realm within. Without that, I know I wouldn’t be here. I would have packed my bags two-and-a-half years ago and run away as fast as I could.
24/2/2014 07:13:18 pm
Nice post, nice blog-thanks for sharing all(some of) your hard won knowledge
27/2/2014 01:34:46 am
27/2/2014 01:56:07 am
Lovely and wise post. It made me think of Henry Treece's marvellous poem The Magic Wood: http://maboo.livejournal.com/12855.html
27/2/2014 02:04:56 am
Oh thanks for sharing that. Wonderful and magical. It's exactly how I feel sometimes when darkness coats the land.
27/2/2014 05:49:05 am
Waw great post, i Can totally relate to this!
27/2/2014 11:56:21 am
Wow, living out at sea... lovely image. Wonder if the horses and dogs feel like we do?
27/2/2014 08:26:52 am
Love this Kerry, it has reminded me of a few hundred things I had learned and forgotten! xxx
27/2/2014 08:48:40 am
Babe, every one of your blogs is inspiring! I just loved this, thank you. It made me laugh and made me smile and motivated me!
27/2/2014 11:14:33 am
yes a scenario I have imagined, we will see :-)
27/2/2014 11:54:27 am
Merci to all of you for your comments and contributions.
27/2/2014 05:19:14 pm
You're a wonderful writer.....and truly an adventurous spirit. I hope you have plans for writing a book. Thank you for all your good work. You are an inspiration to all of us.
28/2/2014 02:00:02 am
Thanks so much Paula, It's being printed as we speak. :)
28/3/2014 02:52:36 am
I have experienced this particular fear inside my house on the way to the toilet, far far away from any graveyard. I imagine it's pretty common.
1/7/2017 12:04:12 pm
Thank you for standing up and doing what you did. I am inspired to tackle my future house on a farm in a very troublesome South Africa. Fear was my biggest concern - gruesome murders are taking place daily in our beloved country. I am 56 years young and will start building my "mud" house during Dec 2017. Will be building my house a bit different than yours - will make use of ecobeams to insert approx every two metres to get a bit more stability into the structure. Thanks
3/7/2017 07:39:53 pm
Good luck there Lanie! Yes fear is a wee devil. Sneaks up on you when you're least expecting it sometimes. But if you infuse your land with love and kindness, and try to leave fear at the gate, the land itself will protect you.
26/7/2017 04:07:08 pm
Thank you for the inspiration you shine for others. I've dreamed of doing what you've done since I was a child. I'm now in my 50s and thanks to you reviving my dream. I appreciate your honesty in this post. And I'd like to add that in my own experience the terror that rattles me periodically when I follow my heart into unknown isn't something to just be survived. It also provides confidence. Because each time I encounter and withstand it, I grow in my ability to either put it to constructive use or discount it (or both). If I can thank Fear for alerting me to potential danger, identify what actions I can take to protect myself to the best of my ability, and put its disproportionate alarm into perspective, I've set a precedent for its next onslaught. I'm finding that Fear is like that dog you describe, a hellish hound that impels me to run. But if I turn and face it, it licks my face. Let's hope I can remember both that once I begin my own earthbag- building journey! I know that your example will help me greatly.
12/2/2018 05:53:50 pm
Just came across your website by chance. Downloaded the PDF and read it! The fear thing really struck home with me. I just bought a place in Bulgaria and experienced absolute fear when I realized I was alone and had no phone signal, no locks on the doors and the windows didnt shut and was right on the edge of a huge forest (the same forest that was so beautiful in the daytime). I took me days to be able to sleep and if i ventured out out night (rarely) then I walked so fast. I do have a dog with me though and he is also a bit freaked out by the night time noises! Indentifing what I am scared of exactly is difficult as it seems a bit silly but i also realize it has got a lot to do with growing up as a women and generally getting the message you should be scared if you are alone. Thanks for being an inspiration!
4/6/2018 12:58:26 pm
So glad if this resonated! Yes, it's a mass inculcation that terror is everywhere and we are always under threat. It's complete BS. Yes you have to be awake. Yes you need to set good firm boundaries. But in truth life is a lot kinder than our minds.
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Atulya K Bingham
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