Monday, 30 December 2013

Wood and Faces

Triumphant morning out in the wild wind and rain foraging for firewood – filthy and wet, had a lovely time!

And – oh, most excellent news – our friend and incomparable builder Terry Martin is willing to squeeze in a woodstove installation in early January!  O praises and glory hallelujah!

Terry can build anything.  He was raised in the African bush by an intrepid mother who killed snakes and surrounded the house with a ring of fire to stop it being eaten by marauding ants.

On another topic: faces.  I have felt disturbed lately by how ugly people are getting.  Place after place I’ve looked around and seen faces looking like melting rubber, like awful latex Spitting Image joke masks with nylon hair.  I mean, I know we all have to grow old, but . . .  And I wondered why it was.

Then yesterday I went to Quaker meeting for the first time in ages, and the faces looked all right.  Humour.  Kindness.  Seriousness.  Wisdom.  Thoughtfulness.  Normal undyed hair same as animals or humans have always had.  No make-up.

So I thought, it must be consumerism – materialism – that is making the faces go ugly.  Emptiness.  Tiredness.  And a mask on top.

Even some children’s faces look wrong – taut and tense with tight mouths.   But I looked into my grandaughter’s face yesterday and it is jolly, and full of eagerness.  Her eyes shine like lamps.

There is hope.

I have no idea what my face is like (I mean, I’ve seen the pictures but you can’t really tell, can you?) but I hope it is growing old like a Quaker face, not like a Spitting Image.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Finding and connecting

I have a flash drive – a memory stick.

On it is a huge archive.  All my published work in electronic files (important for new editions), every funeral I have taken since 2005 (runs into hundreds), all the minutes of our Parochial Church Council for the last few years, financial accounts and tax records, and loads of preaching, liturgical and retreat resources.  This archive is important to me and I draw on it constantly.

Today I needed my flash drive to archive a recent funeral. Uh-oh.  I lost it.

I looked in all the places I thought it might be, with no success.  I didn’t feel too worried – I knew I hadn’t taken it out anywhere, so unless it had inadvertently been put through the washing machine in a pocket it was bound to turn up eventually.  Even so it bothered me, because I wouldn’t like to be permanently parted from that thing.

When something bothers me, it does so in a quiet, niggling way.  Eventually the niggling escalates; turns up the volume until it gets my attention.  This happened.  I got to the “I’m going to find that blessed thing” frame of mind.

Then something happened that really made me think.

I consciously did something I then realized I have been unconsciously doing all my life.

I should explain that normally I rely on meticulously observed routine to maintain order in my life.  I always put things away where they belong, in the same place.  I file records.  I schedule events in my diary.  So usually I can put my hand on whatever I need right when I need it.  I maximize order and minimize chaos.  HOWEVER – in the last few weeks my life has been substantially untidied by a simple coincidence of events: I moved all my things into Komorebi at the same time as my husband took his annual Christmas fortnight’s leave.  Chaos.  During this time, when I had not yet established a Komorebi routine, but had moved my things into Komorebi while staying in the Badger's space to be companionable, my possessions in regular use kept being set down in temporary locations.  That’s how I lost the flash drive.  So it could have been:

  • In a pocket
  • In a bag
  • In the back sitting room
  • In the front sitting room
  • In the Badger’s lair
  • In the kitchen of the big house
  • In Komorebi

As I said, I looked everywhere; no joy.

But at the moment the niggling escalated to serious annoyance, this thing became conscious: I can feel everything I own.

I sat on the sofa and seriously concentrated my mind into the question, “Is the flash drive in this house?”

I felt the entire house with my internal antennae and I knew it was not there.  Not only could I not feel it there, but I could feel it not there.

Then I felt with my internal antennae along the question: “Where is it then?”

And I knew it was in Komorebi.  Knew it.  Knew if I searched diligently enough I would find it there. 

So I did, and I did.

And I realized with some force why it is that I cannot have many possessions: because they constantly keep in touch with me – every single one.  They are in energetic connection with me.  My energy travels along threads to them, and their energy has a claim on me.  Their “voices” claim my attention.

In a similar way, if I go into a large gathering, it quickly crashes my consciousness; I can’t stay long – because the vibrational chatter becomes overwhelming.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Keeping warm

While I am waiting for the possibility of someone capable of installing my woodstove – and with time to do it – in between winter storms, I am thinking about heating Komorebi.  Hmm.   

I’ve been reading about camping heaters and camping cookers.

From what I’ve read of capacity and precautions, it seems to me that (as usual) simple is best.

Here’s the combo I think will work without getting cluttered with lots of gubbins I then have to store and maintain.

  • A flowerpot heater – this is effective of taking off the chill if 4+ nightlights are used – or a tin of bio-ethanol fuel gel would do the job nicely.
  • Bio-ethanol fuel gel for boiling kettles and cooking. 
  • Hot drinks and hot water bottles for staying personally warm.

Also, I think a plate chandelier would do for both space heat and light.  I wish I’d taken a photo, I made this by mistake.  For Christmas someone gave us a set of short  stubby candles – there were about ten in the box.   I set them all in a ring in a deep dinner plate, thinking they’d look pretty all burning in a ring.  They did, but in no time at all their combined heat caused them to turn into one ginormous multi-wick shallow plate chandelier.  It kept going all day and all evening and used up all the wax most efficiently.  It was pretty and gave out excellent ambient warmth and light.

As with all living flames, one has to remember they are a breathing being and ensure adequate ventilation.  Komorebi has one opening window.

At the moment the Badger is off work and I’ve had a lot of commitments keeping me out and about or with family or earning money, but once life settles down to normal in the new year, I can experiment.

But I don’t think I will need any other gizmos.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Foraging and scavenging

 First, just for your joy and delectation, this video of pure delight sent to me by Jon and Rosie (my daughter and partner) from their Christmas holiday in Switzerland.  It's nice with the sound on.

Sigh.  That’s how everyday life should be.

Then, the business of New Year Resolutions.  Some people don’t find these helpful; I do.  They assist me in focusing.

So for 2014, I have two things planned, one for the regular everyday, one just for Lent.

In Lent 2014, I plan to take the opportunity of the custom of giving something up, to abstain from opinions.  I am so used to opinions that I think for more than six weeks I would find it unrealistic and exhausting to give them up.  And it might turn out to have a downside I haven’t thought of.  But I am going to try it for six weeks to see what difference it makes.

Then for the everyday, during 2014 I am going to be more serious about foraging and scavenging.  My skills in this area are dull and shoddy, and need improving.

I sometimes wonder what we will all do when the economy collapses and the oil runs out.  Of course such a turn of events will be preceded by unfortunate bright ideas by the government like tar sands, fracking and huge building programs to boost flagging economies, and accompanied by unprincipled and unrestrained destruction of the wilderness that offers our only hope of wellbeing and survival as a species – clear-felling the forests, polluting earth air and sky and raiding the oceans for everything that lives we haven’t killed.   But before and until we destroy ourselves and every source of hope and healing entirely, I imagine there will be a time when it will benefit us to be resourceful and able to live lightly.

When I read of otherwise enlightened souls planning for economic collapse by hoarding food, I always feel disappointed, because it betokens a failure of intelligence.

To have a store cupboard for tiding one over short stretches of need (unemployment in one’s own life or a neighbour’s, or a bad patch of difficult weather, for example) makes good sense.

But if the economy collapsed and the grocery stores were empty, who really imagines they could sit at home with their hoard saying “Well, I’m okay.  Shame about you”?

If you had food while your neighbour had nothing, surely you would share it?  And if you didn’t, they’d probably come in and take it anyway.  Looting and scarcity do go together.

Besides, in desperate times, packing down small and travelling light would grow more and more essential as life de-stabilised and sharing became essential.  To a greater or lesser extent, we have already reached that place.  For many families, the cost of accommodation has already outstripped the income they are able to generate, and extended family homes are much more common now than forty years ago.

So having 200 kilos of flour and the same of rice and lentils, with similar quantities of long-life milk, juice, spices, fat etc etc would be a dubious advantage.

But the ability to scavenge and forage would not only stand one in good stead in any scary future scenario, it would also be a usefully frugal modus operandi right here and now.

Therefore through 2014 I will be concentrating on scavenging and foraging, to see what I can learn and how I can improve those useful skills.

One of the easiest starting points will be wooding.  What kind of sense does it make to pay for gas and electricity, buy in wood or coal, while littering the ground in parks and pavements are the fallen twigs, fir-cones and broken-up dead small branches that would make excellent kindling and even generate all the heat needed to boil a kettle?    Right at this minute the winter rain is falling heavily, and I don’t relish the thought of taking my wooding bag out on the hunt.  But I have foraged a wonderful basketful of pinecones from just one stand of trees, and it’s hanging up from a rafter under the eaves of Komorebi, lying in wait for the installation of my quietly patient little wood stove.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Progress . . .

Okay, I do realise Komorebi is only a garden shed, and photos of other people’s garden sheds aren’t all that riveting.  Even so . . .

Things look a bit stark right now.  As time goes on and the trees we have planted get bigger, she will be tucked inside a green and growing place.

In the morning the sunlight comes round that corner of the garden.  The back of Komorebi stays in shadow – cool in summer.  Right at the back the bokashi bins for Stage 1 composting will be stored; tucked out of sight in the all-year cool.  From my nest inside, the view in the morning is this. 

Komorebi is nearly at the bottom of our garden, leaving just room for a little quiet space to think and be.  It has a leaf composting pile in it at the moment, but that will be moved.

All around her are trees – an ancient wild apple, two birches, two hollies and a hawthorn, as well as the great ash trees in the land over the wall.

The veranda is important for keeping wood for the little stove dry and accessible, and for sitting outside on rainy days.

Next to be done is insulating and cladding the inside, and painting the outside with weather-proofing stuff.  I wanted creosote but they no longer sell it to ordinary people, so we have got Sadolin in that kind of dark brown of woods in winter.

I am away this weekend, and acutely conscious of how close we are flying with all that remains to be done in getting Komorebi ready. The winter weather is on its way.  I want to begin this in the cold, not the summer days, because the sense of the year turning is so momentous as one comes from the darkness into the light, hearing the songbirds in spring and watching the unfurling of the leaves.  And the privation of cold and dark are so deep and strong.  Living inside a regular house it feels like just something to get through; but to meet it, enter it properly, is a spiritual thing.  When I lived in a caravan in Devon, even though it got so bitterly cold I liked to sleep right by the open window on a frosty night, so I could see the clear shining of the stars and fall asleep knowing nothing stood between them and me, no wall, no pane of glass; we were together.