I have always lived in a beautiful place.
Sometimes when I post pictures of our outings, people sigh, ask me where I live (Top Secret! Sorry!), tell me my life must be "magical", "dreamy", and "enchanted". They're not wrong. My life is all those things, and I do live in somewhere wildly beautiful.
And I bet you do too.
See, while I won't deny that I do live in a special part of the world, that also happens to be pretty scenic, and that in part, our lives here are build around our love of the land and the landscape, I haven't always lived on a small Island full of mysterious woods, nettle meadows, and ragged shorelines.
I've made my home on the rougher edges of a huge, ancient city, between the train tracks and the corner store. For most of my childhood, I lived in a stocky government apartment building, with a parking lot for a yard, and a view of the twin smokestacks of the town's heating-plant. In my mid-twenties, I moved into a new housing development surrounded by vacant lots, a brand new mall, and old industrial buildings. It was not quite a neighborhood yet, but not nature anymore either. It was stuck in the ambiguous place between.
Those were all beautiful places. Beyond the smokestacks lay the first forest I roamed on my own, eating Oxalis, and handfuls of berries. The vacant lots were home to the only birds of pray I ever saw when I lived in Finland, catching field mice. In summer the Fireweed and Mugwort bloomed where a sign proclaimed they were going to build student housing. The rough, condominium free shore, housed the tiniest sandy beach, just big enough for two towels to lay on while admiring another view of an industrial neighborhood across the bay.
When I lived in London, I discovered that for every hideous eighties block, every high street full of generic shops, every dirty, seedy, and slightly dangerous park, there was an unexpected pleasure of an oak-tree so big and grand it surely dated back to the druids. Our neighborhood had it's own pack of resident foxes, who would follow us home at night at a distance, like faithful watchdogs, protecting us, so it felt, from the men who screamed obscene things at us through car windows. We were vulnerable, but with magic on our side. Once, we climbed up the rickety fire escape ladder to the tilted, slippery roof of my friend's building at sunset, and the city opened up in front of us all pink and purple, hazy, with its windows lit, like we truly were flying over it, just like in all the Disney movies of our childhoods.
When I share images, or thoughts from our excursions, it is not just because I live in a place of natural beauty. Don't get me wrong, I feel lucky beyond my wildest dreams that I can push a kayak into the ocean minutes from my house and glide off, and that I can walk for miles among old trees, lichens, newts, and eagles. I share these experiences because I want to encourage people to explore their surroundings, to familiarize themselves with their bio-region, to meet their non-human neighbors. I want people to experience the wilderness of the cities they live in, the sub-developments, neighborhoods, and parks around them, or maybe their mountains, trails, and seashores.
I want to remind everyone, myself included, that the real, is out there; not in here, in our houses, or inside these gleaming white boxes full of white light and images.
Lately, there's been a lot of conversation in my community about commodification of nature, about sharing and social media, and while that's a topic for a whole other post, I was reminded again, how I often find that social media seems to be an escape, a dream world, for a lot of people, including some of my readers, and followers. This crops up when ever a discussion about the "real" vs. "curated", "focus on the positive" occurs online. Each to their own, always, but to me the point of social media, is not to escape my own reality, but to get a glimpse into the realities of others, hopefully interesting, diverse, beautiful without being polished, but by the virtue of being unique, different from my own. I look to them for a change of perspective, for new ideas, for more diverse voices than perhaps my own surroundings offer.
I will also say again, as I've said before, that the life we've chosen comes with a price, always. Living out here, our options are more limited in many ways, less conventional, less comfortable, than they could be. It's not a complaint, it's an honest observation. Everything comes at some price, and we all should make sure we're willing to pay it.
The turn of the year is always a time to reassess and weight those options. It's been a heavy first month, but now, with Imbolc upon us, the time for clearing house, taking action seems to have arrived. In the last few weeks, we've ventured away from hearth and home, to the place where we both seem to do our best thinking: outside.
The first of my skimpy resolutions for this year, is to spend even more time out there, among the logs, rocks, and frogs, who have started early this year, just like everything. It feels a little like spring already, the trees budding, daffodils poking out their heads, newts crossing the roads at an agonizingly slow pace.
I'm out-of-doors a lot; in the garden, in the yard, barefoot even in midwinter, on those walks, riding my bike to town, but this January, in all its chaos, I've felt cabin feverish anyway. All I want is to be outside. It's been like an itch I can't scratch, except by sitting on a stump, or picking rocks by the water.
That's my promise to myself. To heed that call of the wild... or at least my own mild backyard.
As for the rest, well...
I promise to be a better fiend, to myself as well as others. What I mean is, I'll try to spend my energy and time on people who nourish me emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, wicked-sense-of-humor-ally, and who feel the same way about me. I'll try to be more present and true to those friends, instead of exhausting myself with trying to maintain a multitude of lukewarm relationships. I'll finally admit that there's not enough of me, that I can't be friends with everyone, that there are some "friends" who only ever ask for favors and never return them, who demand more space, than they give. I'll try to be kind, but firm. I'll be open to new people and connections.
This was my hope last year as well, and let's just admit it: I didn't have a great year, people-wise. I don't want to talk about it, just do better. What I learned was, life is short, better spend it with your true loves.
In the same vein, I promise to respect my introvert, highly sensitive side, to protect myself with a solid, gentle "NO.(Thank you.)" when necessary. That word worked well for me last year, and I need to keep practicing it, because it's hard for me, forever caught in the tug and pull of experiences, and interest in helping others and being with people, but also needing a lot of solitude and quiet.
To that I would add: I will say "YES.". But only to the things I really care about and want, or need.
I will say yes to:
-More walks with my partner in crime and bird-spotting.
-To making more things. To woodcarving, to sewing, to pottery, embroidery, to knitting, to plodding around making the things I need in my life, instead of buying them. Even if they don't turn out perfect every time.
-To making things with friends, to collaborating, to being a partner, to co-conspiring, to sharing ideas...
-To plants and magic. Last year, these two things spoke to me loud and clear in the voices of women who know me well, and told me that I had something to share, to trust my knowledge and intuition. Acknowledging that as truth, has brought so many exciting things to my life.
-To art. I think I feel another movie coming on...
-To being an active participant in...a movement/ my community/ politics/ whatever I'm passionate about.
-Paying more attention to my health, instead of being frustrated about it. That's a big YES.
So...do everything the same way I did last year, but spend more time outside?
In a word: YES. I think I'm at a place in my life where I don't need to make crazy radical promises of change every twelve moon cycles. That said, like everyone, I could use more focus and resolution to follow through on what I want to pursue.
Focusing on health, plant and human allies, the love I already have, magic in the ordinary, the wild in my own backyard, seems pretty right to me.
Here's to the beautiful places, and to being resolute in pursuing them!