To be “right", 'that' I have experienced now. Finally fitting into a structured society, for several years I have taken on a role with which I could build a reputation and make a career out of. I made the effort to learn to behave as quickly, practically and cleanly as possible, in short: efficiently. When you achieve that, you don't have to ask yourself what you're worth anymore, it stands clearly with numbers on the salary. There’s no time for uncertainties of any kind anymore anyways. It wasn't boring at all, never. The days filled with problems you can be so proud to have solved. It's great to feel so fully accepted for once, almost necessary, even if replaceable. It took my whole life to achieve this, my studies, my internship, learn how to present myself as a confident person, and to do so, overcome my insecurities. This sense of honour has contented my existence for a while and it seemed to me that I had become at last, what can be expect of me.
But somehow I missed something.. maybe my very own problems? “Is that really all of it? To travel wherever you want when you get holidays because you have the money for it? Having a beautiful apartment filled with interesting and funny memories, designed in such way that your own trophies hang to remember how much you have discovered and done? To cook nicely, and be fit, to demonstrate discipline and be able to wear beautiful clothes? Am I really all done with fighting at 37?”
Maybe I just need a little time off to put the responsibility towards society aside for a moment and to recharge my batteries for everything that will be on the table after the break, I think. I decide to rent a house for this autumn holiday, the search on the internet sounds "most secluded places", and I find it, in Scotland. Before going I assure myself with the owners that there is no telephone network, that I will not meet people, that so far the eyes see only what happens in the sky and grows out of the dirt is visible, they sincerely confirm. In this place this whole story begins, as I have decided, in between chopping wood and maintaining fire, to quit the perfect job in the perfect city.
Five months later, I'm back near the zero meridian. Dublin airport, bus station area 14. When it hits two o'clock, a three-hour drive south starts.
The greetings were not too difficult, perhaps the reason is that it is not easy to conceive time, and generally I hadn't really realised what just started, a journey around the world, as to embrace it. The short moments in which I’d become aware, moved me a little: now everything is to be experienced, theory and wishes are past, it is true now, concrete.
In Rossbrin, Nick, the farm owner, is waiting for me. I found his place on the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) website, and chose it because it deals with permaculture. I had just read about it, the principles sounded like a to me fitting bible. 1: Observe and interact; 2: Collect and store energy; 3: Earn a harvest; 4: Apply self-regulation and learn from feedback; 5: Use renewable resources and achievements; 6: Do not produce waste; 7: Design first patterns and then details; 8: Integrate rather than exclude; 9: Use small and slow solutions; 10: Use and appreciate diversity; 11: Use marginal areas and appreciate the marginal; 12: Use and react creatively to change.
It is spring, no better time to fulfil such goals and to start a new chapter of life. Friends and family have asked if I wouldn't rather take a little preparation time before leaving - on Friday I cleared the desk in the office, on Sunday I was already sitting on the airplane - I was prepared to become prepared, nature would certainly teach me the most fundamental things. A small backpack, the size you don't need to check in anywhere, and no hurry at all: my snail life has begun.
Macaron, Niblig and the third goat without a name, must be milked every morning, Gino's (the donkey) infected eye must be treated with lavender oil. The chestnut tree feet need to be freed from dry grass so that they can breathe and the mice don’t feel invited to chill underneath. But the biggest event we are waiting for is the soon to be born ducklings. We must build a fence to protect them from the foxes. The cherry tree needs to make some space for it, I receive gloves and a fretsaw.
Diary extract, Rossbrin Permaculture Farm, County Cork:
It's funny how you think you can clarify everything in advance, with questions like: "what's the best way to cut this hoe?"... you start and realise that maybe there is no rule because the variants are infinite, it's nature, not a computer! And I love the "learning by doing", I love being able to see the 'before' and 'after', I love being forced to accept that not everything goes the way I want it to, because not everything is rectangular and stackable or remotely controllable… it feels good to realise or remember, that there is much more than human will on this earth.
The fence is ready, now the duck pond needs being cleaned. Three days in rubber boots and a plastic bucket that properly benefits of my arms muscles. I'm standing in dirty green dense water and sometimes it splashes onto my face, to me, that seems the consistency of freedom. We also develop a system to preserve the lavish juice, which we’ll give to the seed as a nourishing drink. That way ‘we collect and store energy, use renewable resources and services and produce no waste’.
The colleagues at work said "it will certainly be fun until it rains and you have to stand in the cold", but when it rains we make goat cheese inside the house.
The weather determines the agenda, which has been replaced by the moon phases. The tasks are translated into matter and sweat. My smell awakens a forgotten identity. Nick and I only talk at supper, bread and cheese mostly, we comment on the work of the birds who gather materials to prepare their nests, flying back and forth with that weight in their mouth. For a change, I once cooked us "Melanzane alla Parmigiana", an Italian dish.. there his palates also got desire to discover the world and his face learned new, previously unknown expressions.
I notice how the participation/involvement faucet was closed for a long time and the "MeRobot" was moved by a control tower… when a goat frees herself from the leash and the entire system spins. Need to run out of the big machine to be faster and above all more agile, at once hair in the wind, the voice shouting against the daughter of the cheeky goat to say her mother is a “stronza”.. to suddenly notice the beauty of the moment and laugh.
In my room there is a small window, a hole in the sloping roof, it lets me fall asleep to the rhythm of the intermittence of the light house. At the end of this journey, which will always take me east, I will cross the Atlantic on a cargo ship, one of the very few things I know about the future that awaits me. To start this journey here in this place, on the coast of one of the most western points of Europe seems so appropriate to me. These lights lead me to the dreams that I will realise.
Today we kayaked to one of the islands, inhabited only by birds and seals. While walking, we met big eggs on nests, right under the sun of an open sky, as if there was no dangers in this world.
I am making the longest way home. Maybe I should consider this, home is me.
The first duckling was born, we called him Alfred. His mother cannot take care of him yet, because she has to hatch eleven more eggs. He will live with me in the meantime. He wants almost only to be under the shirt or in my jacket pocket, needs lots of sleep, but also likes to discover and tell out loud everything he learns. He follows me everywhere and helps in the garden, I pick weeds, he picks worms.
I have cried, nature is really something else, you can't "own" anything, you can't tie yourself to or grab onto anything, there are no contracts nor “rights”… you can only witness, take part in the great purpose of the small things, and hope that everything will go well... I do not think that animals and plants hope: good teaching to be concrete!
Alfred went back to his family last night, he now has many siblings and plays the know-it-all ... rightly so! From afar I look at him the way I guess parents with children do on the first day of school. I feel an end, but everything else moves on. We have to take care of the creek, by the underpass the current got blocked during the winter, that must be able to flow again, too.
At the end of the day on the shore think that I’d be sitting in the office at this time of the day, where I used to watch the sky framed by a window. Now I am inside this picture, I can breathe it. My decisions to leave work and then travel have provoked many unexpected reactions, or at least I hadn't expected them. Sometimes one forgets, that acting humanly as a human being often serves as a mirror - when somebody perceives something, someone else close does too. It would be nice to learn that the fact that one's actions have consequences is something good.
Gino now walks towards me when he sees me coming, his eye is much better. Butterflies surprise me with their clumsy flying, sometimes I have to move to the side because I am on their way. I have decided not to kiss the handsome frog.
I now behave as if being home and am more aware of my decisions: it is time to travel on.
(…) This month, however, has certainly changed my view on things, the direction of goals, the form of expectations. I don't think that I "want to be somebody" as a person, or at least I understand the absurdity of this pressure. The picture is much wider, there are no given routes or goals as one often thinks. Everything moves, everything happens even if we don't look at it, and certainly also without our help. The tide rises, the holes fill, the spaces on which one can walk diminish, only this bit I see of the infinity of the ocean, it is infinitesimal, but it is enough. So as a fox seen from afar or the grass now reaching over my knees. One forgets the impulse to grasp, to possess, on the contrary, the desire to be involved increases, to be part of. So I listen, to the sound of the wind that doesn't fit into my ears, to the sun who recounts about the curvature of my cheeks, to the absence of those I love. I think I'm ready to let go proving something and can make room for what I am lucky enough to meet.
From the airplane:
With the voice of a mother, Ireland has reassured me that this will go on, even if I should forget. Luckily my hands still smell like dirt and I have meanwhile stopped trying to be good. «With time, that's how things happen» she said, and I start to feel happening too.