We started the month by helping out some friends replace the little roof over their bathroom. It was five days of full time work for all of us. Dave was moving tools, getting materials, and doing the building with Nik and Ellie. I was looking after Leona and Charlie, cooking, tidying, doing laundry. I actually enjoyed it for the most part and was a good test – I’ve kind of being dreading Dave getting a job, but I think I’d be alright. And it made me realise that we can make time to do other projects in the meantime.
Bouyed by that experience, we have organised a work exchange with some friends who have a three year-old. The idea is that one or two people take the kids, freeing up the others to work. The first one we did at their place, cleaning up the newly refurbished bedroom ready to fit out and use. It worked really well – the kids are so much easier when there are two of them entertaining each other, and it’s nice getting some work done with an impartial helper. At our place, we planted out the last of the little plants from the nursery into the field.
The weather has become decidedly more wintery this month. A few frosty nights, some high winds and a bit of snow and rain are setting the tone for the coming months.
We have spent some time doing indoor tasks. Dave did a few job applications. And I did a few job applications! It’s been almost six years since I had a paid job and I thought I’d never want to go back to the type of work I used to do, but one of us has to work and I would actually be quite excited if it were me.
Things have been a bit slow lately but we have been planning the next stage of the house works. We want to put the stove in position. In order to do that, we need to build the section of bathroom wall that the stove will back up against. So that means marking out the bathroom, choosing materials and getting them to the house.
We have decided where the stove is going and that we want the wall behind it to be made of bricks with studs at either end to continue the rest of the bathroom wall as a stud wall. We have measured up and been to the wood yard to collect the wood for the studs. We have also registered our interest in some locally made windows with the carpenter, who will be in touch soon.
This month has been quite up and down. Leona is a joy – she is so interactive now and understands so much more. She is obsessed with books at the moment and has started to make a few animal noises. And at 12 months she took herself to the potty for a wee on her own for the first time! This involved her walking over to the potty, standing in it, squatting on top of her feet for a pee, then stopping mid stream because her feet got wet! None the less we were very excited about this development. Now she has turned 13 months and is finally – finally – getting her first tooth!
The short days and bad weather in winter make it difficult to get much done. Since neither of us can really go anywhere with Leona because of covid restrictions, we both get sucked into the vortex of everyday chores and achieve little else. Our days get filled with cutting firewood, keeping the house warm, drying laundry above the stove, walking the dog, cooking, playing with Leona and keeping the house from getting over-run with mess. It is quite a tiring state of affairs and leads to unnecessary conflict and unhappiness. But at least being indoors with Leona is easier now that she can run about the house and play, and we do live in a lovely place to get out and about in when we get around to it.
I had been basically ignoring the fact that Christmas was coming around. Without being with the rest of the family, it just didn’t feel like holiday season at all. Thankfully some of the lovely people in my life were in more of a holiday mood. We had a small solstice gathering with two other families out in their field with a fire and marshmallows. On Christmas Eve we visited our Danish neighbours to join in their festivities for a few hours. Christmas Day was made special by our families even though we couldn’t be with them – my Mum sent us stockings and a gift box for Leona, my sister sent the same jigsaw puzzle to all the family households to carry on the Christmas puzzle tradition. Some friends sent cards and gifts. And a local friend sold us half of one of his lambs for our Christmas dinner. We had video chats with the families and a lovely Christmas Day in the end.
Boxing Day was gloriously sunny with snowcapped peaks. And I felt sad that the year is coming to an end with no end to covid in sight. I’ve never had to miss my family much before, we’ve always been able to get to each other without too much trouble. It’s hard enough missing them for myself without thinking about how much they and Leona are missing out on each other. As much as I want to say goodbye to 2020, I’m having a hard time seeing how things are going to get better any time soon. For the first time there are a worrying number of cases in the valley and we know some people who have had to go for tests. It’s all getting a bit close to home and it feels like things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.
On New Year’s Eve when we went out for our night-time walk together, it was snowing beautiful fat snowflakes and the air was still and crisp. We had a glorious walk and a good sleep and woke to a winter wonderland that brightened our spirits.
Learn & Grow
The topics of community and connectedness have been on my mind for a while. I am reading a book called If Women Rose Rooted, which is about women in celtic mythology and finding yourself in this uprooted modern world. Signe and I have been talking about these things a lot and we felt inspired to start a women’s circle. All the while of course corona virus continues to disconnect and disconcern and I think most of us feel a strong yearning to connect with each other and to feel safe.
I think about how infrequently most of us get to experience a deep sense of belonging. I’m talking about the feeling that you fit right in – that you’re not too big or too small, not too loud or too quiet, but that all of your unique qualities are just right in that moment; that you are enough just as you are. Maybe you’ve felt this surrounded by people you love, or engaged in an activity that brings you joy, or spending time in nature. It is a rare and wonderful thing in this busy and judgmental world to feel that you truly belong.
My most profound and prolonged experience of belonging was on a wilderness survival course in the wooded wetlands of Manitoba. It was a ten-day course with the instructor Survival Dave. First we spent a week doing survival skills, and then we drove to a remote lake and canoed to a small island for a few days to test those skills out. There was nobody else around; just me, Survival Dave and his dog. The water lapped at the shore, the trees waved in the breeze and the mosquitoes danced at the edge of the woods.
I set up a shelter, made a fire, caught a fish and swam naked in the water. I felt completely held by that place, allowed to feel whole by our total immersion in nature. And through that feeling of being rooted, Survival Dave and I connected in a beautiful way. We shared our feelings freely, we listened completely, and we were peacefully present. There was no room for shame or embarrassment because there were no rooms for our sense of perspective to be lost in. There was no need to fill silences with hollow words because the world was not silent. There was no need for vacuous flirting or awkward remarks because there were no pressures or stereotypes to conform to. We were fully ourselves, fully present and wholly at peace.
Although by the third day I was hungry, tired, dirty, mosquito-bitten and uncomfortable, it was with a heavy heart that I departed that island. I would have endured much more hardship in return for that feeling of connectedness and belonging.
Not a day goes by that I don’t lament the trappings of modern life that keep us from connecting with our natural environment and our true selves. I feel a deep sense of loss that we live out our lives locked in buildings, eating food out of plastic packets and breathing stale air. It makes me feel trapped, saddened and lost. I crave nature. I need connection. I miss community.
I don’t really think it’s a suitable option in the modern world to go and camp in a makeshift shelter and survive off squirrels and chestnuts. I love that Thor Heyerdahl did it and wrote a book about it so that we can experience it vicariously through him, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. It’s the feeling of belonging that I crave – and thankfully belonging is something that we can more easily cultivate whilst living an otherwise normal life.
This month I took part in my first Moon Circle – a gathering of women around a fire, sharing stories, feelings and dreams in confidence. It was beautiful. We were outside in the pale winter sun at the edge of the woods, the cool breeze rustling the branches, the view of the distant mountains stretched out to the South, the fire warming our toes, the Earth holding space for us all. We listened fully, we talked from the heart, we sang together and we felt like we belonged. For me, this is the start of a healing journey to become more connected, centred and rooted in this place we have chosen as our home.