Very soon, we have to leave the wood we live in, and have been very lucky to find an acre of woodland nearby to buy. The land there is sloping, and the tiny level clearing already there was really not big enough for even the most low impact shelter.
Together, Hugh and I decided that some trees would have to be felled, and a days work with a digger organised, to make room for our living space.
Last Thursday was digger day. At the weekend I went over with Hugh to see what had been done and I realised how different our weeks had been.
The irony of our very different Thursdays had not escaped me. How serene and probably very self satisfied I had felt as I gathered food and medicine for the family, how calm and centred Leo and I had been, as we made little homes for the fairies and sang to the plant spirits.
Meanwhile Hugh had worked so hard felling trees. Each night he came home white with fatigue, and on the day the digger driver came in Hugh managed to get himself 8 stitches in his knee as he was pulling the saw out of a Hornbeam tree. The digger driver had worked so hard, packing as much as he could into one day's labour. And I could only cry and shout how horrible it was. To be responsible for such visible destruction felt like such a terrible burden. To blast into a wood and change so much, to make such a big mark on nature, I think we both felt sick to the stomach.
Everything felt clunky and scratchy and uncomfortable.
It was time for coffee. I drink about one cup every month and it was definitely that time of the month...in more ways than one!
At our lovely local farm shop Hugh and I sat in the sunshine and drank coffee and talked about what had happened.
And what we realised is this:
In our lives we are not used to seeing the direct result of our actions. So many of our regular day to day activities have far reaching implications and consequences all over the globe...but we do not see those consequences.
- We drive cars, which run on oil but we don't see the physical devastation that the extraction process causes.
- We buy clothes but we do not see the young migrant worker in a Chinese sweatshop who makes them,, from cotton harvested by children in Uzbekistan.
- We drink coffee, but we do not see the plantation in Guatemala where babies of the indigenous workers are often inadvertantly sprayed with pesticide, as they lie asleep in the shade of the coffee plants.
- We use paper, and buy books but we do not see the swathes of clearcut forest that has been pulped to produce them.
- We use electricity but we do not see the tonnes of fossil fuels which are burnt to generate it, or the mines it comes from, or the effects of the burning....
We don't have to ignore it. We can become aware that our actions do have consequences and we can take steps to reduce our destructive and enormous footprint on the earth. We can be aware that elements of our lives have become so disconnected from the earth that we have forgotten that we are part of it.
We are part of the earth, as much but not more than any cat, mouse, grasshopper, dandelion or hornbeam tree. All important, all equal.
So back to our poor clearing we went and thought about what we would build on the land, a low impact bender like shelter to begin with, whilst drawing up plans for a straw bale earth shelter in the medium term.
We talked about the fruit bushes we would grow, the herbs, vegetables and chickens and goats we could raise.
We talked about how we would use the felled timber, for floor boards, for bowl making, for firewood, to cook on and keep us warm.
We imagined the land in a year, loved, softened, flourishing. We felt connected to the land and could see the results of our actions as part of a holistic long term vision to nurture it and belong to it.
We felt content to be responsible caretakers for the land.