Day 12 - Friday
I woke up early again so I got out of my sleeping bag and went outside to sit in the garden with my deerskin on. It's nippy at 5am but refreshing - the dawn chorus is immense with all the birds trying to outdo each other with their songs! The beautiful dawn chorus is a tightly orchestrated melody with each species of bird given its own moment in the spotlight. Here in Devon it seems that the robins and dunnocks open the show, singing about an hour before sunrise, and then the blackbirds and song thrushes take over. Finally as the song builds to crescendo, the wrens, tits and warblers join in along with the tiny call of the goldcrest. It is such a beautiful thing to hear at the start your day, beauty, sound, energy all combining in this wonderful melody.
I appear to have a runny nose and sore throat – I hope that's not the signs of a cold coming on. Even though the bothy is a haven to put all my gear in and have a relatively dry space to sleep, it most certainly is cold and a little damp. I also have only the basics of medical kit with me (mainly homeopathic remedies) so any illness is definitely not welcomed. If the weather is half decent, I will camp out tonight under my little shelter which is close by to the bothy, to see if night fresh air will help.
I have begun to ponder the question of ego. How ego controls much of what we do and act, and how to get towards being 'egoless'. Much of our 'worse' side is controlled by how we want to appear to others. In place of ego, jockeying for right of position, is humility - an acceptance for who we truly are. This little struggle exists in many of us - ego versus humility. In order to turn the balance in favour of humility is not (well, at least for me) a simple act to put into place, as ego has been there as the 'inner talk' from a very early age, indeed from when we were children.
I believe we can make that shift through conscious effort through mediation and reflection. An opening of the compassionate heart through these methods will gently push ego into the background and allow humility and compassion to step forward as the default 'reaction' to how we walk our path. It is something I am working towards during this time, so that I can move forward with more humility in the future.
Note to self: my large gas canister gave up tonight, so I am now onto the smaller canisters of which I only have 3 of, so I will have to monitor closely how long the small ones last. Presently, I am only using the cooker for hot drinks, and the fire outside for main meals on the wok – if its not raining!
Day 13 - Saturday
Another grey start, but with the birds chirping away, it made for a happy start. Last night I went up into the woods to camp out. Sadly, the cloud cover meant no star gazing, but all the same it was nice to be outside with the sound of animals (badgers or foxes) rustling through the fallen leaves and twigs. I woke very early and just lay there hoping the clouds would clear to watch the sun rising. They did not so just after 5am I walked back to the bothy and a welcome hot cup of tea.
I sat outside with my deerskin and attempted to meditate. It turned out to be more reflection on the question of ego. It occurred to me that whereas we cannot completely let go of ego, there must be effective ways of 'side lining' it so the effects are lessened. Ego is the absence of true knowledge of who we really are. We allow ego to co-habit by ourselves clutching onto it at all costs - to provide us with a cobbled together and makeshift image of ourselves - one that we continually feed.
It's a bit like a patchwork quilt, a garment of many different sizes and colours, each holding a reaction to an experience. Then like a computer, we follow the advice of ego by pressing a piece of that patchwork to deliver the output - press the red patch for anger, press the striped patch for indignant behaviour, and so on. But it is not who we truly are! How can we truly get to know ourselves without abandoning ego's grasp on us?
It is a wonderful wake up call for me - someone who teaches 'know thyself' on leadership courses and yet, being honest I do not know myself! A quandary indeed and one I am enjoying getting to the bottom of.
Today I eat simple food with no meat yet, although I know I have bacon lurking in the food bag!
Day 14 - Sunday
A grey start to the day but by lunchtime the sun came beaming through. Buffy delivered the food box and what a magnificent collection it was too! There was all manner of goodies in it, so tonight I am going to have hake fillets! I think I ate too much when I had it, but it was truly delicious. Before she arrived as the sun was out I did a bit of clothes washing. Not sure how clean they get though as I only have washing up liquid to use.
I saw Buffy arriving from my 'hide' and she brought Harsha (the beautiful chocolate Labrador) too! After delivering the goods they went off for a walk – I hope they enjoyed the beach, although I think Harsha would have found difficulty with the pebbles and boulders.
I am a third of the way through my time here and can say I am well relaxed now, although I cannot help but think of home and also of Harry's (youngest son) return from his ski season. Solitude definitely makes you think about loved ones, which I miss enormously. I am blest to have my family and realise with all my being how lucky I am. I have also started to use the time to meditate. In the past I have found it difficult to ‘clear’ my mind and would often get easily distracted by external events and thoughts.
Preparation for Meditation
I therefore started to work on a small preparation ritual for meditation. Of course, this may not work for you as we are all different (thankfully) but it helps me ready myself for meditation. Although I describe this for the outdoors, it can easily be adapted for indoors as well:
1. Wait for the sun to shine or at least know the direction it is if hiding behind clouds.
2. Expose your heart to the sun (chest out towards the sun).
3. Take off your shoes and socks so that your feet feel the earth below.
4. By doing this you are grounded with Mother Earth through the soles of your feet and open to the heavens above through your heart.
5. Sit (or stand whichever you prefer) in a comfortable pose, back straight, legs apart, arms on your knees or to the side and look forward.
6. Now breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
7. Be aware of your breathe in and hold it when your lungs are comfortably full. Count to 3 then exhale slowly. Imagine with each breath you are filling every cell in your body with life giving oxygen and the light from the heavens.
8. Listen to your heart gradually slow to the tempo of your breath.
9. After 5 minutes or so of gentle breathing you have now prepared yourself for the next stage - meditation.
In the next post I will re-discover the beauty of truly connecting to the earth and all around me with a simple but often neglected method. Thank you for reading!
Day 9 - Tuesday
I woke up this morning to sunshine. Hurrah! The wind is down and the visibility out to Lundy Island is good. My morning is spent doing all the washing I had meant to do over the past 4 days or so. I also decided early that this would be the day/night for a camp out on the beach tonight. This would be a break from the bothy as well as a 'must do' for me in terms of being out in nature at the real 'front line' - spiritual connections with flow of water from the ocean and the majesty of the stars above.
I walked down to the spot I have chosen previously and set about making it 'home'. It took me around an hour and a half to fully prepare my 'space' and the efforts were rewarded with glorious evening and later, a wonderful dawn. The tide did not come up as far as I thought it would, but even so, as the dark came in so did the sounds of crashing waves - some 50 feet away. I cooked up some seaweed with my butter beans and sauce as part of a stir fry on a roaring camp fire. There is something ethereal and special about a fire burning from driftwood. The colours of the flames are punctuated with blues and purples from the salt embedded in the wood. It was magical.
I attempted to remain awake throughout the night, but after midnight or so I fell asleep looking at the stars whilst trying to ponder how we as humans fit into all of this immense space above us. What we have above us is absolutely awesome.
The most convincing argument about the enormity of space? I like this one: There are more stars in our universe than there is sand. On Earth. all of the sand, all of it.
Now imagine a beach; a beach is like a galaxy, but instead of the grains of sand being mere millimetres apart, imagine expanding the beach so that each grain of sand was about a mile from its nearest neighbour. Everything else is gone: no water or rocks or trees. Nothing. That’s how much empty space is in our galaxy.
Now, imagine a beach on the other side of the world. That beach is the nearest galaxy to us. But that’s just the nearest galaxy. The farthest reaches of the universe aren’t on Earth or even the moon. On this scale they’re still billions of miles away. And what’s in between those incredibly isolated beaches? Almost nothing.
When I woke at 4am the temperature had dropped a fair amount and the wind had veered around to the north again. Luckily for me I had my deerskin with me, so I was plenty warm in my sleeping bag. The clouds started to build and with it grey skies, so after a quick clean up, I headed back to the bothy and a hot cup of tea followed by a couple of hours of sleep.
Being under the stars by the sea was extremely relaxing and peaceful. I saw no-one and only heard the waves and sea birds. Bliss! It just goes to show how we humans value being outside a building and in the 'wilds'. That's when you get a real connection with nature, no matter how long you stay out there.
Day 10 - Wednesday
It was cold and grey after my quick ‘power nap’ but by lunchtime, the skies began to clear and the sun made the occasional appearance. I decided to get out and go walking up the back of the bothy. I had always planned to do as much walking as possible whilst on my 40 days - it allows me to think a lot as well as being out in the countryside.
I came across an enormous badger set under a very old and ancient oak tree. Clearly both animal and tree were in harmony on that hillside. The trees then gave way to scrubby land with gorse bushes dotted about with wonderful splashed of bright yellow. The views out to sea were incredible and I got out the wind to sit down and just watch for a while. The mist was beginning to roll in and Lundy on the horizon began to slip away from sight, as if a painter had splashed a grey wash over it. It was not long until drizzle started so I walked back to the bothy to find 'no tail' the pheasant sitting on the bench outside the bothy! The evening set in and so supper was a short biscuit and cheese affair and I was asleep by 8pm. Seems I am sleeping much earlier than I normally do when inside a house.
Day 11 - Thursday
On awaking to the dawn chorus from the birds I went down for an early walk to the beach. It was low tide so I potted around the rock pools hoping to see sight of some crab, but nothing to report. Came back and made breakfast and then did some washing to hang out on my makeshift clothes line. The weather doesn't seem to know what to do with brilliant outbursts of sun mixed in with heavy cloud. By mid morning I decided to get on and make mushroom soup with the mushrooms kindly delivered by Buffy. I added breadcrumbs, wild garlic picked from the back of the bothy, fern leaves, red pepper and onions. Despite taking an age to prepare and the fire refusing to light for a while, the whole treat was worthwhile.
Again, it reminded me that when we think that something is very simple to do, in order to do it well, it may take time but that it also needs to be made with love. Later, I walked down to the beach to read. When the sun did come out it was surprisingly warm.
I have adopted a little ritual which I do first thing in the morning on waking, and last night at night before I blow the candle out. It involves 6 parts:
1. Compassion and kindness - I ask that I may show compassion and kindness in the day ahead.
2. Gratitude - I state how grateful I am for the life I have and the people around me and all that I see and hear.
3. Forgiveness - I ask that I may be forgiven for any silly, stupid or non compassionate things that I have done, either in that day, or the time to come.
4. Vision of the future - more a declaration invoking the law of attraction for me to find peace throughout the day and to be a better person towards those around me.
5. Today's intention - a statement about what I would like to achieve in the forthcoming day and in my personal development be it through action, reflection, mediation, dreams all declared with a positive intent.
6. Blessing - finally, I offer a blessing to all those I know, family, friends (real and spiritual), the creatures of the planet and the planet that I walk on.
In the next post I will cover how I discovered the joy of meditation, which I had previously found difficult to achieve without getting distracted!
Day 8 - Monday (May Day)
I awoke at 5am to the sound of rain beating on the roof outside and the piercing cold inside the bothy. Today is the beginning of May, so I should start to experience a gradual warming both during the day and at night, although, this is the UK so anything is possible!
I am expecting the National Trust steward to come today as part of their duties on handover of the bothy between stays. Happily for me, I have booked 3 consecutive two week periods of rental so that I get the full 6 weeks in. The reason I had to do that is because the National Trust do not allow more that 2 weeks stay under any one booking, hence the 3 bookings.
It continued to rain hard throughout the morning, so I just read my book, 'At the Crossroads' which is one that I saw at the Bristol Chocolate Festival of all things! Printed by Scarlet Imprint, it is about traditional and cultural old magic with many contributors adding their thoughts and research. It is a little weird I have to say, but interesting all the same.
I have been focusing over the past couple of days on being more mindful as an area that I wished to gain more insight into during my time away. By doing this, I then hoped to carry this back into my life generally on return to ‘normalcy’.
Mindfulness allows us to become aware of our thoughts and emotions so we can observe them from a curious and totally open-minded state. This can be really helpful when we are experiencing negative thoughts and emotions that feed off each other only to make things worse.
As a rule, I found it a lot easier to practice mindfulness when I was in a calm, emotionally stable state, but I have subsequently discovered that it is even more powerful when practiced during the most difficult of times. When we do that, we can put a powerful stop to the vicious cycle of negative thoughts and emotions.
I started to jot down and reflect on a number of negative experiences (I can and do have) that could be helped or even resolved by practicing mindfulness during or after they occur. You may have others too, but these are my thoughts:
When trying to compare yourself to others
You can judge others so that you can decide how you measure up against them. Depending on your judgment of others and how you see yourself, you may create a very negative comparison that does not necessarily reflect any truth and you start to create stereotypes. The bottom line is, stop comparing and start enjoying presence.
When you believe that you should have more
For the ego, what you have now is never going to be enough. It always wants you to think you should achieve more. It will trick you into believing that as soon as you get this or that, you will finally be happy. We know, of course this is certainly not true and mindfulness shows us exactly that.
When you look at someone else and start to judge
You can sometimes judge others based on very incomplete information. After all, you do not know what another person is feeling, how they are thinking, or what they have been through over the course of their lives. Indeed at that present moment when you see/meet them, you have no idea what has just happened to them. Remember the saying; ‘never judge a book by its cover’?
When you spend time and effort searching for perfection
Similar to how your ego always wants you to strive for more, it also wants you to perfect every last detail. This is the road to frustration and unhappiness as we then accuse ourselves of not doing a good job. The road to perfection is never ending, and I believe it is something that can never be achieved. That is not to say that we cannot be exceptionally good at something as many people prove that everyday.
When you worry about what others might think of you
You may change your behaviour and actions just to satisfy something you think other people want from you. You can put the ‘mask’ on – being something or someone that you are totally not! But do you know for sure that they want you to be something other than yourself? The answer to this is simply no, you cannot be sure.
When the emotions of guilt and shame rise up inside you
Your deepest beliefs that were planted in your subconscious during childhood may cause you to feel unworthy if provoked by external events or other people. Question them. Are they true? I bet they are not – it is just you and your perception. Try to break out of that by adopting a ‘separate’ perceptual position by looking at yourself. This is something I will cover in the next post - a powerful NLP technique that works for me, and hopefully you too!
When you feel unable to forgive
Being hurt by somebody (or by yourself) is painful, but learning to question whether that hurt can be resolved by answering it with punishment or revenge is critical. Mindfulness will reveal to you that it cannot. One of the greatest virtues that I believe people can ‘own’ is the power to forgive. There is massive strength and mindfulness in allowing forgiveness to flood into our lives.
When you want be certain of something that is happening or even that which has not happened yet
The ego will do everything it can to make you overanalyse everything so that you can be certain of something. What if, though, you simply let go of your need to be certain and just work on learning from genuine self curiosity and the universal premise of flow?
When fear motivates you to seek protection
Your ego has a major job: to help you survive. As humans, we thrive on social status, so we become afraid of anything that threatens our self-image. Try to become mindful of how you feel compelled to protect your self-image when something you perceive as a threat comes into your life.
I started to reflect on all of these negative thoughts whilst walking and in meditation and how I could use mindfulness as a tool. It has allowed me to develop this skill, or at least be far more aware when difficult times arise.
The more you practice, the more natural it will feel to become mindful even when negative thoughts and emotions are trying to pull you in.
I said in my last post that I would write about the dream that I had after around a week or so. In fact, it was the first of a number of dreams over the period of 6 weeks, some ‘benign’, some terrifying! I did a little research into what dreams mean and why we have them. It seemed important to set some kind of context, as other dreams will follow in future posts!
Freud once said that whether we intend it or not, we're all poets. That's because on most nights, we dream. And dreams are lot like poetry, in that in both, we express our internal life in similar ways. We conjure images; we combine incongruent elements to evoke emotion in a more efficient way than wordier descriptions can; and we use unconscious and tangential associations rather than logic to tell a story.
Freud essentially called dreams those poems we tell ourselves at night in order to experience our unconscious wishes as real. Dreams allow us to be what we cannot be, and to say what we do not say, in our more repressed daily lives. For instance, if I dream about burning my workplace down, it's probably because I want to dominate the workplace but am too nervous to admit that aggressive drive when I'm awake and trying to be nice to the people who might give me a raise.
Freud certainly had a catchy theory about dreams, but it was also limited. For him, every single dream was the picture of an unconscious wish. But people who have had boring dreams or nightmares might feel something missing from that formulation. In turn, recent theorists have tried to give a more accurate account of why we dream. In the following post, I'll list some of the current theories on why, at night, our brains tell strange stories that feel a lot like literature. I'd like to know if any of these theories resonate with you, or if you have your own belief about why we dream.
Many great literary minds were obsessed with their dreams. Samuel Coleridge wanted to write a book about dreams—that "night's dismay" which he said "stunned the coming day." Edgar Allan Poe knew dreams fed his literature, and he pushed himself to dream "dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before”. So let us explore this first dream:
5 Theories on Why We Dream:
1. We Dream to Practice Responses to Threatening Situations
Ever notice that most dreams have a blood-surging urgency to them? In dreams, we often find ourselves naked in public, or being chased, or fighting an enemy, or sinking in quicksand. In REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the brain fires in similar ways as it does when it's specifically threatened for survival. In addition to that, the part of the brain that practices motor activity (running, punching) fires increasingly during REM sleep, even though the limbs are still. Many evolutionary theorists argue that in dreams, we are actually rehearsing fight-and-flight responses, even though the legs and arms are not actually moving. They say that dreams are an evolutionary adaptation: We dream in order to rehearse behaviours of self-defence in the safety of night time isolation. In turn, get better at fight-or-flight in the real world.
2. Dreams Create Wisdom
If we remembered every image of our waking lives, it would clog our brains. So, dreams sort through memories, to determine which ones to retain and which to lose. Matt Wilson, at MIT's Center for Learning and Memory, largely defends this view. He put rats in mazes during the day, and recorded what neurons fired in what patterns as the rats negotiated the maze. When he watched the rats enter REM sleep, he saw that the same neuron patterns fired that had fired at choice turning points in the maze. In other words, he saw that the rats were dreaming of important junctures in their day. He argues that sleep is the process through which we separate the memories worth encoding in long-term memory from those worth losing. Sleep turns a flood of daily information into what we call wisdom: the stuff that makes us smart for when we come across future decisions.
3. Dreaming is Like Defragmenting Your Hard Drive
Francis Crick (who co-discovered the structure of DNA) and Graeme Mitchison put forth a famously controversial theory about dreams in 1983 when they wrote that "we dream in order to forget." They meant that the brain is like a machine that gets in the groove of connecting its data in certain ways (obsessing or defending or retaining), and that those thinking pathways might not be the most useful for us. But, when we sleep, the brain fires much more randomly. And it is this random scouring for new connections that allows us to loosen certain pathways and create new, potentially useful, ones. Dreaming is a shuffling of old connections that allows us to keep the important connections and erase the inefficient links. A good analogy here is the defragmentation of a computer's hard drive: Dreams are a reordering of connections to streamline the system.
4. Dreams Are Like Psychotherapy
But what about the emotion in dreams? Aren't dreams principally the place to confront difficult and surprising emotions and sit with those emotions in a new way? Ernest Hartmann, a doctor at Tufts, focuses on the emotional learning that happens in dreams. He has developed the theory that dreaming puts our difficult emotions into pictures. In dreams, we deal with emotional content in a safe place, making connections that we would not make if left to our more critical or defensive brains. In this sense, dreaming is like therapy on the couch: We think through emotional stuff in a less rational and defensive frame of mind. Through that process, we come to accept truths we might otherwise repress. Dreams are our nightly psychotherapy.
5. The Absence of Theory
Of course, others argue that dreams have no meaning at all—that they are the random firings of a brain that don't happen to be conscious at that time. The mind is still "functioning" insofar as it's producing images, but there's no conscious sense behind the film. Perhaps it's only consciousness itself that wants to see some deep meaning in our brains at all times.
During the night I had the first of what I describe as a ‘vivid’ dream. These are ones where I see myself clearly and what is happening around me. They will often include strong imagery and sound. This dream actually woke me up shouting! Here it is:
I was among many men aboard a ship that was full of straw bales topside and below decks. We were dressed in baggy trousers and jerkin tops – a bit like pirates. The ship was a massive wooden sailing boat with 3 large tall masts. There were also 2 women on board (they happened to be my wife Buffy and a close friend of ours called Alexis). It seemed that the captain had orders for us to sail it into a port (not sure where) and set light to the ship. We were also expected to stay on board and burn alive with it, which surprisingly enough, we all seemed relaxed to do. We were the ‘do and die’ boat. The captain looked like a very old seadog dressed in a naval type uniform and sporting a wonderful large brimmed hat. On the other hand we were all very young. Our guide to the direction of travel was a massive red star on the horizon by which we kept the bow of the ship sailing towards. A very large lion with a massive mane stood at the prow of the ship. I cannot remember if it was chained or loose. We also had a flock of hooded crows in the rigging, which were lined up straight and forward looking like a line of soldiers on parade. As we got closer to the port, the 2 women suddenly got into a lifeboat and rowed away. This caused consternation amongst the rest of us and there was a lot of grumbling. It was too late to do anything about their departure as the captain suddenly tossed a firebrand down onto the deck. The fire started almost immediately and that's when I realised that we were already in the port. There were houses all alongside the port wall and on seeing the fireboat approaching, many people started to jump out of their houses and into the water. It was at this point that I saw the man beside me on fire and screaming. I looked down and saw the flames licking around my ankles and legs but for some reason I felt no pain. I did however when the flames crept higher and were burning the flesh on my chest. I felt the pain and smelt a sickening sweet smell that was my own flesh. I started to scream with the others, and then I woke up!
My initial thoughts of what this might mean were (in no particular order):
Memories of the Wizard of Oz film– The Lion without a heart, the Straw man with no brain, the hooded crows similar to the winged black flying monkeys.
All the elementals were present – water, fire, air, and earth represented by the king of beasts. This could mean total balance in the dream.
The Hooded crows – bearing omens, superstition representatives keeping watch, second sight, guardians to take the men to the ‘other side’ when we burnt to death.
The Lion – power animal, king of beasts, royal, courage and our leader?
The 2 women – departing representing a feminine intellect that says the future alive is better that a certain demise!
Who knows, maybe you have an idea and could comment with your interpretation below?
Day 7 - Sunday
Argggh - rain again! I woke up to hear what sounded like hooves outside the door. Are there loose horses about I thought to myself? Looking carefully through the small curtains I observed deer moving down the path and into my garden - three of them! What a beautiful way to start the day and very welcome, if not a little strange, visitors. I say strange because we normally have encounters with deer at distance and away from buildings or fleetingly at night with car lights as they cross the road. These shy creatures had obviously thought that the bothy posed no threat.
Today is my Red Cross parcel day as Buffy is coming with a replenishment of fruit, vegetables and food stocks. My initial stocks are beginning to run down, so additional foodstuffs will be very welcome indeed! Despite the rain I spent part of the morning building my shelter away from the bothy, partly for night time sleeping and partly to be away from Buffy when she comes. I went off for a walk but the steady rain beat me back to my 'hide'. It rained pretty much until lunchtime when it started to ease off. Sitting in my ‘hideaway’ was a little chilly but also exciting as I waited for Buffy to arrive. She won't be able to see me, but I will her! Suddenly she arrived. I heard her before I saw her, singing down the track carrying bags of goodies. After a couple of minutes in the bothy she was off again. I caught a fleeting glimpse of her - beautiful as ever. Wow, it hit me deep in my heart how much I missed her and then she was gone.
Before I could get down to the bothy, I had another amazing encounter with some deer. As I started down through the woods I saw two small deer approaching me. They were oblivious to me. Then the lead one saw me and stopped immediately. It looked at me with deep brown eyes and ears all up pointing towards me. It was a subliminal moment. I remained perfectly still. They then just ignored me and continued on their way. They came to within 30 feet of me and another joined at the rear, slightly older with small antlers appearing. It was a reminder that if we are calm and quiet with animals they will be as well towards us.
Back at the bothy my supplies dropped off by Buffy were amazing - avocado, spinach, potatoes, carrots, bananas, tangerines and bacon with eggs - yes bacon! So, thoughtful of her to also include a beautiful loaf of brown crusted bread. I will indeed feast on this.
The rain stated in earnest again around 6pm and that's when I discovered the various places that drips managed to get through the roof of the bothy. I adjusted my kit accordingly to ensure it didn't get wet. Early to bed tonight after camembert cheese and bread (thanks darling!).
Day 4 - Thursday
It continued to be very cold in the night and I kept waking up thinking about the lady I had met on the beach. Her message about the planet changing frequency is something that I have heard from many people. We are moving away from a somewhat dictorial past and more into a period of democratic communication among people and as nations generally. This is for some, a massive step from their daily/life paradigm and will undoubtedly take some time and effort to reach the 'next stage' of human evolution.
Thank goodness for my deerskin, it really makes a difference to my warmth at night and acts as a sort of duvet over the top of my sleeping bag. Today continues to be cold, with occasional rain and grey clouds. Despite the weather I spent much of the day walking the coastline looking into rock pools and finding driftwood. It was like being a kid again! I did not see any crabs or shrimps, but I have identified plenty of edible seaweeds as well as winkles to look at adding to my meals.
I seem to be transitioning into a calmer state and being able to reflect on ‘me’ more. Part of the reason for this happening was the physical removal of my watch and placing it firmly under my spare clothes. Not knowing about time allows me to not concern myself about what I should do next when following the orderly procession of the day. I actually want to concern myself more with the ‘now’, and whereas plans and planning is good, I decided that I needed not to bother with those during this period of solitude. This calmness has a core around which revolves a sense of wanting to be kinder to those around me. I know, of late I have been cranky and unfair to Buffy in particular, and I loathe myself for that.
I have also started to think more about death - not in a morbid way, but more in a way to how to truly live life now. Simply put, we are not aware when the end will come, and most of us are comfortable hiding from that fact, remaining in an ignorant state, which refuses to accept our mortality, hoping that it might never happen. It's not in our control at all, but we humans like to have control in our lives, so avoidance of something we cannot control is how we go about our day to day lives. Therefore, I have decided that it is imperative that I start to really live my life onwards in a more kind, compassionate and understanding way - I do not want those final minutes ruminating on regrets and grief.
My thoughts are also at Coombe Dingle (the home we are renovating) and hoping that everyone is doing ok. I do harbour feelings of guilt about being away at this time, when so much is going on. I was in the same position this time a year ago when I went to onto Dartmoor - feelings that I was being selfish and uncaring. I have to let go of these feelings, but still the guilty thoughts linger on. I have just really started to write about my solitude, although the efficiency of my portable solar charger is not that brilliant when we do not have sunshine. Today is my fourth day without meat – and I have to say I am not missing meat…yet!
Day 5 - Friday
It was cold again first thing in the morning, but even so, I had a complete strip wash outside in the garden. Very bracingly indeed! Someone has kindly left a large watering can with a fine nozzle on the end, so this is perfect if not a little basic. It reminded me of a time when I was in the army and stationed in Belize, Central America. We had very few luxuries in the jungle, but one thing we could rely on was Mother Nature! Every evening at last light the heavens would open for a good downpour, and very often fifty or sixty of us would be in the clearing stark naked with soap in hand waiting for the best shower known to man!
I went for an early walk down to the sea and started to search for any night sleeping areas that I might be able to use in the coming days and weeks. There were a few nice looking places, but on closer inspection I could see they were too dangerous because of potential rock falls from above. The evidence was abundantly clear with mudslides and broken boulders littering the bottom of the cliffs following the winters battering. It was a very unstable coastline. I do think, however after an hour or so of searching that I have found a good spot, so I will wait for calmer and sunnier weather before spending a night or two out.
Afterwards, I went about collecting dry driftwood wood for my fire and found a wonderful small stone which had a fossilised 'plant' imprinted on two sides. This will become my little totem and ‘guardian’ in the bothy. A totem (Ojibwe doodem in native North American) is a spirit being, sacred object or a symbol that serves as an emblem to a group of people, such as a family, clan or tribe, but can also be associated with an individual. For me, I always travel now with a set of crystals that emit their own special frequency and energy to accompany me, and find a centre space inside wherever I am to lay them out. I was attracted to this ancient stone, so it will become my centre piece inside the bothy.
There is a cottage right on the coastal path leading down to the sea, and some new people have arrived, and with them two quite aggressive dogs, who seemed determined not to let me pass back up the track to my bothy. I could hear the owners shouting at them from their cottage, but the dogs were not interested in heeding their master’s voice. So I just opened my arms to them and quietly told them that I was not a threat and to let me pass. As if by magic, and after a couple of growls they turned away and ran off across the fields! Phew, I hope I don't have to go through that every time I want to walk to the beach.
Back at the bothy, I walked around the back and up into the woods to locate a shelter area for more outside living - I love being under the stars! There was one spot in-between two magnificent oaks which had a natural hole in the canopy to view the sky above, which will be perfect – providing there was no cloud cover!
Day 6 - Saturday
I woke up to the sound of 'no tail' calling at 5am. He's a regular alarm clock! There is no wind to speak of but still cold. Today was my ‘administration’ day with cleaning of the hut and washing some of my clothes. The wind started to pick up mid morning, so on my clothes line that I put up with some hazel twig clothes pegs that I made, the wet stuff should dry easily.
I then took off for a walk along the beach (dogs on the way again, but very subdued now thankfully) and after an hour walking north, I climbed up a small valley and onto a footpath. I have no idea of where I am going, but it seems like an ancient track all the same. The track was deep sided and lined with hawthorn bushes that were showering the path and me in their white flower ‘confetti’ petals. Sure enough it ended at a very grand old house with a chapel on the side - most likely a very old manor complex built on scared ground from eons ago. On the side of the tiny chapel were gargoyles in the shape of dragons. The small chapel grounds had one enormous yew tree and several smaller ones. The older one could well be a thousand years or more old, as we have some in this country dating back 3000+ years! No wonder the yew is associated with immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and our ancestors.
I followed the footpath around the chapel, but it soon turned into a small road, so I turned back and walked towards the sea.
The views are spectacular out to the Bristol Channel and of course, onwards to the Atlantic. Even though it's Saturday, I have seen nor heard anyone and all is beautiful and peaceful. I stopped by a massive gorse bush whose fragrance was almost overpowering - a great place to rest and just 'be'.
Tonight's meal was chickpea, lentils, broccoli, sweet corn with some figs and dates for ‘afters’ - 6 days now without meat and not missing it! Tonight was the first night that I dreamt vividly and woke myself up shouting, that in itself was quite frightening! Next week I will tell you what that dream was all about as well as strange visitor who came calling!