The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8 NIV)
I love that verse from the Bible.
I have a desire to vanish, to be invisible, to disappear, to be free.
I am a bit solid for that.
But the desire is still real.
I have spent the last two years paring my possessions down and down and down until they are very few. Well – by contemporary English standards. I have still not arrived at Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing standard, if each item is being counted – my hairbrush, each shoe, my nail-scissors, my change-purse and so forth.
This is where I have got to.
In the study, downstairs, there is a calligraphy belonging to me hanging on the wall.
Next room along, the kitchen, there are 2 small shelves with bits and pieces of mine – jars of tea, some sporks, some favourite plates, etc – I’ll show you :0) In the utility room is a small cupboard with my food in – because of having lodgers live with us, the cupboards are allocated, and I have found this helpful, as otherwise I, who do the grocery shopping, tend to get all the things I like and when Badger takes a turn on cooking he goes to the cupboard and the things he likes are not there. We notice in advance if our things are separated out a little. I also have a cast-iron cookpot, a frying pan and a three-tier steamer. And I have two hessian bags for shopping.
The garden room (it’s called The Room of The Worst Horse – I must tell you about that some time) has three chairs belonging to me – a small green wing chair, and even smaller Orkney chair, and a smaller still fishing chair. On the walls in that room are three pictures of mine.
Upstairs, in our bedroom there are four pictures of mine on the walls, a terracotta Indian statue that belongs to me, and under the bed I have a box of clothes, a box of trolls, a box of tools, a box with my camera in and a small box of personal treasures. We have a bookcase in our bedroom. The bookcase belongs to me, but only one shelf has books of mine – the rest are Badger’s. I have a bushel basket made in Norfolk; at the moment it acts as a wastebin. And I have a shopping basket where my knitting wools are.
I have a few garments hanging alongside Badger’s in the wardrobe.
Two of the rugs in our house belong to me.
Nothing else does.
Of those things, I would happily give away any or all of them to anyone who really loved and wanted them, even my pictures which are original works specially given to me by the artists.
In my hut two-thirds of the way up the mountain (in my imagination, you understand, that is in fact where I live) this is all I would take:
· My kitchen bits as mentioned above, and a wooden spoon; with my baskets for veggies etc
· A wooden bed with a really comfy mattress and snugly duvet, plus one change of sheets
· My few precious books that remain: 3 copies of the Bible (2 Jerusalem Bibles rebound for me by dear friends when they began to fall apart, and the NRSV I was given in my ordination as a Methodist minister – I no longer am but I regard it with reverence); 2 translations of the Tao, and a small number of other books and treasured documents – 1 shelf
· My computer
· My mobile phone
· My box of clothes
· 2 pairs of winter shoes, 3 pairs of summer sandals, I pair of trainers, I pair of rubber clogs for muddy places
· My box of tools
· My small box of treasures
· Cosmetics – these are not many: a moisturiser; a lipstick that also does as a blusher; a small tube of concealer; a bottle of shampoo; a deodorant; lavender and tea tree essential oils.
· I’d take a hairbrush and comb
· I’d have a lamp
I wonder if I could manage without my camera? No. I think I would like that with me. It's part of how I communicate. I would hesitate over whether to take with me a small CD player and a CD collection – at present I have both those things in the world, but they are in someone else’s home. Again not with me, I do own a storm kettle – but that’s ‘just in case’.
All of it would fit in one small room, where I hope I could have a Baby Belling cooker and a sink for washing and washing up.
My aim has been to own as little as possible, to be tied by as little as possible, to live on as little money as possible, and to have the smallest possible footprint on the earth.
How to pass through life soft and light, leaving no footprints and hardly a shadow.
I am not very easy to recognise – people almost never know me on second meeting, and usually pass me on the street without seeing me at all.
I have usually dealt with interactions by dressing up as someone. So I dress like a gypsy or a Buddhist monk, or a 1940’s housewife or a Mennonite – and this gives me a persona through which to meet people.
In the stripping down of my belongings, gradually my dressing-up clothes have gone, in favour of a small wardrobe of practical, simple garments – skirts, trousers, tops and jackets – that do no more than clothe me. I like them, but they leave me exposed as me; they offer me no sheltering persona.
So I have become less inclined to meet people, because I do not want them to see me, and without a persona they can see me.
I live very simply and in extreme solitude.
I do not dislike people. I do not know if I am shy. But I prefer to live a retired and unseen life of profound simplicity.
Last Friday, people were invited to our home to see The End of Suburbia – a really thoughtful and interesting film.
I arranged the room, making sure comfortable seats were ready for all comers; put the film out ready along with a list of those attending; prepared the kitchen with tea, coffee, milk, sugar, spoons ready in a cup, a kettle of water, a plate of cookies, and chairs for people like me who start to feel faint if they have to go on standing up.
I lit the woodstove to make the house welcoming, cleaned the floors, helped Badger take the TV through.
went and joined them all
but I thought of their eyes that would look at me
and no persona in which to hide.
So I slipped upstairs, turned out the lights, and curled up on the floor behind the chair and the open cupboard door in our lodger’s room.
I heard Badger go up to our room and speak quietly; but I was not there. I was nowhere. No-one. Quite invisible.
With all but the smallest handful of people, the Kindred of the Quiet Way who are making this journey with me, that’s how I like to be.
I will watch the film by myself, some time.