“It’s a good idea to want what no one else wants.” So said Father Tom Cullinan OSB, rare and noble soul, speaking quietly as always, diffident, just saying, not showing off about the beautiful and humble life he crafted in the patient work of years. I took heed.
People say, often, how they long for a simple, off-grid life, a cabin in the woods. How they would do it, yes they would – but their spouse or their job or their children or the government won’t let them. We play that game here sometimes, too, about the challenges of life. Someone says off-handedly, “I blame the parents.” Someone else (after a pause) chips in: “I blame the schools.” Another one says “I blame the church”; “I blame the council”; “I blame the terrorists”; “I blame the teenagers”; “I blame the media”. And the last person says: “I blame the government”; and then that’s the end. A bit like a hybrid of Mornington Crescent (if you know that game) and Eric Berne.
What I’ve found is that under the radar is the key to most enterprises. If They won’t publish it, publish it yourself. If They run rotten schools, teach 'em at home. If They won’t let you keep a backyard pig, go vegan. And that’s another thing Father Tom said, about his life of astonishing simplicity, love-song to the Earth and its Creator – “It’s better not to talk about it.” So when they say: “I’d go off-grid but They won’t let me,” nod and smile; and stop talking right there.
It is possible to live an off-grid life in the town, in the middle of a normal family, without alerting anybody. It’s to do with walking between the raindrops, if you see what I mean. They go to bed late, you go to bed early. They get up late, you get up early. You can have plumbing, gas, electricity, mains sewage disposal – all the things that stop the council hopping about; but you don’t have to use any of them if you don’t want to. It’s up to you. People rarely stop you being odd if you don’t challenge the System, and so long as you stay small. There’s a song about that.
I don’t normally wake my household before first light, but this morning I just had to tell somebody – “Hebe? Are you awake? Hebe, it’s snowing!”
We went out into the frosty air, clear and pure, looked at the ferns and myriad plants delineated in white, received the hardly-felt playful kiss of snowflakes falling, falling. Walked down the wet stones of the curving path, black against the white-clad grass, to fetch firewood for the big house from Komorebi.
Then it was just me alone, the flame of the candle standing on the mantel-shelf reflecting in the gilt-framed mirror, the fire burning in the hearth. A cup of tea. A bowl of porridge. Contentment. Peace.
A small pool of trickled beeswax hardened on the stone mantel-shelf, and I picked it off and tossed it into the flames. In the silence, it was possible to hear the fire dragon fall upon it and demolish it busily, hear the snapping sound of a thousand tiny teeth.
The red of firelight and the bright gold light of the beeswax candle flame wove into a beautiful counterpoint with the dove lilac silver of the morning light strengthening behind the twigmost tops of dark trees. Silence of snow, silence of sleeping, the early silence of the purest birth of day. Want what no one else wants, if you can.