Today, one of my best friends is starting a new life, and it will be a long time before eye see him again. As may have been implied in past posts, my agouti Alasan Husky, Tradition is migrating north to live with an old pack. His howls are for K9 kin, and he would not thrive where eye am going next, the deep Amazon and the emerald islands of the Caribbean. It is usual reform that he returns north for a winter of training, mushing, and trail running, with his tribe of Siberians, Malemutes and nearly thirty other Alaskan huskies, but this time he shall be staying.
Over the two years that Tradition has made his stead with me, at the great hall of Othala, he has been on more adventures than any dog eye know, and certainly more than any in the community. He has been to two rainbow gatherings, a folk festival, the fjords of Saguenay in Quebec, atlantic beaches throughout the maritimes, countless road trips to far flung places in New Brunswick, and Cape Breton, the hills and gulleys of Skedaddle ridge, the waterfalls of the St. John valley, to Fredericton and back on the norm, and just about every major river in the province. He outran me when he was four months old, and pulled on a sled with five other dogs on an eight-mile run, just days after his first birthday. He has learned to hunt squirrels, mice, and fledge out the bush grouse on our autumn walks in the forest.
He is the only husky eye have known to not bark, growl or bite and he chooses affection over violence with other dogs and his human tribe. We have kindled like branded brothers together, and initiated a whole saga of memories, lessons end mythic experiences together. This post is a testament to the dog eye have always loved, and with great sadness have come to terms with the great sacrifice of letting him be free.
When he was young eye sarcastically referred to him as the Fenris wolf. As a pup he would munch on anything he found, one day ruining my entire altar, a picture of my three times great grandmother, sacred animal pelts, leather, pendants, the very beams of my hall stripped of their cedar bark. His appetite for destruction was insatiable. It took months of these repeated experiences until eye lost trust in him and he would need to be confined to his own room while eye was out from the cabin. This was never something eye wanted to do, and never has he stayed in a crate on my agenda, but he did not like his room, his separation anxiety was intense, and eye missed him everytime eye left for work. Slowly eye weaned him out of this place, and let him stay in the hall, among all the precious wares of the homestead, knowing it may be a grave mistake. Fortunately, he surprised me and very little went out of order. Finally we had a working relationship where eye could maintain a living while being out of the homestead and he could work off his energy in the forest when eye came home. A small investment in an invisible fence changed everything. Suddenly eye come operate the radio frequency module off of the solar system, and he could wear an additional collar and explore the land at any time. He still slept inside however as by then the solar output was switched off, and there were porcupines and skunks afoot.
Life was handsome, eye could leave the land on my motorbike and make a round trip to Florenceville, Hartland or Woodstock for provisions, and have Tradition guard the land. When eye roared down the driveway, he would be there to greet me. Eventually eye increased the distance, going as far as Fredericton for a night, and leaving him plenty of meat, fat, water and his favorite brand of dog food, half of it would still be there when eye came home. Unfortunately for a couple times he would take advantage of this system, and force his way off the land, tormenting the local chickens, goats, and rabbits, but only once inflicting any real harm. Still my trust in him was cut, and it became harder to tend to his needs as a professionally bred working and racing husky.
He has become far too big for the saddlebags of my motorcycle, but it was around this time in the spring of the year when eye met a lovely lady with her own furry companion. We traveled extensively together with the two dogs, to Cape North and back, and every hiking trail, waterfall and swimming hole we could think of within a couple hours radius of our homes. His new friend Winston suddenly usurped the role of his best friend, and although they had a rather unorthodox bond, they were a good match. Eye remember losing tradition at Dunbar falls for nearly an hour, and another time on the coast of Black Beach at Musquash Bay, with miles of intermingling trails. He was found by some tourists, and they returned him to us. Another harrowing time came in a sugarbush eye used to work at, where we followed a trail for over an hour to a raging waterfall that poured through a micro-canyon. Tradition slipped on a mossy boulder and fell into the surge. Fortunately he was a great swimmer by then and paddle his way to the edge of the floe before plummeting off the precipice into white water and a sharp landing. Eye thought eye might be couchbound and healing after that day.
Tradition has always been loved by everyone he has met, and even after becoming angry or annoyed with him, eye would never forget to amend my words with ‘I Love You’, to let him know that eye still accepted him for who he was. Two years in residence, off grid in a forest cabin, with an extremely energy rich dog probably taught me more about my life, than eye managed to contribute to his. From the onset, bringing such an animal into my life was a life experiment, and a constant meditation of the positives and negatives of tending to such a needy being, including what it might be like to have children. He has been fundamental in me getting to know a life from his first days on earth, and seeing his maturity unfurl with all the challenges and tests that has come with. As eye sit with the accumulated wisdoms and stark realities of living with a dog that is as much wild animal as that visits my cabin, eye realized that he could yet have a more meaningful life beyond this place. When the snows came down and winter ushered in the new season, eye sat with this stark decision to be made, and did my best to keep my composure as the answer settled on me.
For eye am still a traveler, a nomad of winter, and need to continue to see the world and explore this planet, unbound to routine, totally free. It would completely unfair to drag an arctic dog around with me, on airplanes, trains, buses and boats, not to mention almost logistically impossible and expensive, to foreign lands that he is not adapted to. He then becomes a liability and a burden instead of the fulfilling the dog he is born to be. My land is small, and my abilities to run and exhaust Tradition off leash are limited. He refuses to walk off leash and prefers to torment the local farm animals. He crocks his head and moans every time he hears the howl of the pack of the forest denizens beyond this land. And eye simply do not have a pack of sled-dogs for him to run with daily, or groomed trails and carts for the summer season. When he does not run, he becomes restless and bored, and when he is bored, let’s just say he is not his usual self. Eye love him too much for his life to be compromised, and would rather he live in his full potential, so it was not without great sadness that eye chose for him to return to the trail and the team of dogs into which he was born.
Eye will still have access to him in the future, and the compass points north, but eye have already started to settle into the grieving process which will soon turn into renewed happiness. For eye know that he is fated to run with the pack, and no matter how fair a rustic homestead of the woods he has, he needs to work. Luckily, eye know an employer. It is here, hopefully he will live out the rest of his mushing and racing career, with a brother of mine who knows far more than eye do, and is well equipped to handle dogs of his caliber. So this is to honor tradition, and to celebrate Tradition. A King to his own kind, a lover of the trail, and my best friend.
If eye were to say so, it would be a plethora of assorted thoughts, philosophies, deep feels, and spiritual weather. The first thing that comes to mind is surrender. When snow covers the ground, the earthworks meet their natural termination. Sure, there is shoveling, and breaking the ice dams from edge of the homestead, warming the heart(h) and hall, but are not these the elemental chores of fire, water, and air? These strange airborne crystals, patterned and carved by the frost giants of distant high realms in some bizarre unrepeatable sacred geometry beyond the understanding of mere earth dwelling mortals. Their lifespan so tenuous, bound by the ambience of the entire cosmos, falling onto trails, and causing us to grow giant feet made of sinew and wooden hoops so we can traverse them in their abundance. Well, that is kind of mytho-poetical, and some would simply answer that snow is a ‘drag’, a ‘dread’, or some other encumbrance.
The white powder definitely slows down our progress. Looping back to surrender and sacrifice, all projects out of doors come to a halt, the moss no longer cut for the roof, the trails now indistinguishable from the surrounding staves of wood that hold it in. A good gardener would have all their winter storage veg out of the ground, lest they be frostbitten relics of a summers effort. Save for the garlic, and rye crop, and maybe some subarctic loving kale plants, the ‘garth’ or garden is barren and vulnerable. The mind starts to rest, as the hustle of fall jobs bottleneck into a few end of year chores. In my case; saving the barbecue and rustic wooden furniture from being buried, shedding and winterizing the motorcycle, blanketing the woodpiles with evergreen boughs, burming the sides of the house with boulders to prevent critters from entering underneath for free winter lodging, reinforcing the hall ceiling with beams and poles against excess snow-load, moving jars of preserves to below frost level in a neighbors cellar for storage, shutting down the solar system, and re-homing my tropical succulents and cacti for their continued care, meanwhile eye prepare for a southern migration.
In the darkening days, eye bolster the inner light, rekindle the soul with second fire, and welcome company from far and close. Eye start to wax nostalgic as the most extreme environmental changes flex their muscles, and alter the reality of all of us. The mind plays a movie of summer adventures had, road trips to places unknown, another birthday, another solstice, another harvest, and so many thanks givings. Eye think of Chaga harvesting, and how more beautiful the cardinals and blue jays look in their colored jackets set against pure white forests. Eye muse about if the food will last, how much wood eye will burn, and what animal visitors will grace the land of Othala this year. Eye look forward to change, to winter stews and sleeping in, to wearing the woolen shifts 24/7. Winter is the deep, dark, silent space of a dharmic life, but in this day and age it also means this snowbird is migrating south for the next adventure.
In India, eye sought to really feel what other travelers meant when they said India was the place of Love. Here eye did find love, new ways to love myself, novel ways to love change, infinite ways to love the people, and abundant ways to love the land. India was a land of extremes, still is, and eye will be back to continue where eye left off, next time with my beloved diva with me by my side. In Tanzania, eye went to have a human experience, to understand what it really meant to live, hand to mouth and in the most authenticated and consciously embodied way. By living real with hunter-gatherer tribes, offering karmic service to heal the land with permaculture projects, teaching children in a pre-school, and traversing epic swathes of safari land in nothing more than a tuk-tuk beside ancient beasts of Eden, eye felt that a real human immersion took place.
My next trip shall take my Empress and eye into her homeland of Tobago, the jungle rural folk of fish and fairness. We shall be arriving post monsoon season to set about constructing a homestead nestled in the rainforest, and if the ocean spirits are kind, maybe getting out on some salty swales to explore in the lower West Indies. But nothing is guaranteed, not even the building materials. Post Caribbean, eye intend to reach the mainland of Latin America, somehow, someway. Stepping foot first in Venezuela, or Colombia or some other port of land unknown to me, and little by little making my pilgrimage to the Amazonian jungles of Peru. Here eye intend to meet the plants in a whole new way, and that is all eye am willing to say for now.
Meanwhile in the Othala bunkhouse, life is great and challenging together. Less light in the evening and a waning solar gain means my evenings are humbly passed by candlelight, oil lamp or the flicker of a fireplace… kind of medieval, but not a bad prospect. In two months, the husker will be heading north again, hired by a good brother of the Wolfpack, who runs a sled kennel near Bathurst. Tradition will join the ranks for the second winter in a row, and this time shall be running full time, with a pack of nearly thirty arctic breed dogs. He will be right out home on the trail, with his Nordic k9 kindred. If he shows prowess on the tetagouche trails, he may be doing some further traveling to the Gaspe region of Quebec, for a forty mile competitive mush, and if that fares well, a 180-mile epic in the eastern bush. The whole thing races with excitement in my mind, and eye can easily imagine my agouti pup conquering the trails with a band of other furry savages.
On home turf, the Knowlesvillian commune morphs and comes to terms with new changes as well, as four members abandon their plots for alternative dwellings. Another family hunkers down in the roundhouse for their first communal winter, and the hardcore homesteaders stay and tend their fires, waiting until Thursday potlucks for their weekly download of social stratification. Not much happens here in the great hibernia, but still more than the average neighborhood on a good summer day, and that is saying a lot. Eye value and give gratitude for living in a community with strongly knotted relationships, engaging eventides, and the sacred night of lucky pots. At the nature school, my kids learned about Viking music, how to make a drinking horn, knit with bone needles in the Iron age way, play Viking hockey, what our ancestors though about the world. and some of the inventions they left behind. It has been an enriching curriculum and a gift of the ages to be the one at the front of the room. Eye am thankful for the ability to gather, to have physical, financial, and lifestyle support worth as great or greater than any insurance company or counselor can provide, and to keep my work within the village. In the third revolution of my maturation into this New Brunswick cabin dwelling experience, eye have always kept my occupations local, and mostly on the black side of the ledgers. Eye have become cultured like the sour dough and wild krauts that sit out for a long time.
Through opening myself to saying yes more often, and challenging my threshold for doing, eye have enjoyed a rich experience of physical work that has kept me healthy through the seasons, and inspired in the mornings to continue doing the greater works. Everything from sugarbushing on snowshoes for hundreds of hours in a Baltic winter, to carving mortises and tenons in great beams for a timber frame cabin, to blazing trails on the mighty Skedaddle ridge, to maximum fertility gardening in worship of the earthen feminine. Eye have done the diamond and the dirty work, teaching youth about the Norse worlds so far away, or cleaning out mold ridden barns overrun with pigeon guano and material clutter. Eye have enjoyed learning how to flesh a cow hide in winter snows, cultivate enormous mushrooms in wood-chips, raise a spiked cedar fence, stacked 27 cords of wood in a season, made ancient crafts with the future generation of artists, planted hundreds of trees and thousands of vegetables, made spartan shelters in the woods using only natural materials, and built some pretty cool spice shelves for my Iranian friends.
This was all monetized work, eye do understand this can arise from a place of privilege, and eye also believe that such privileges can be earned. However eye have done a heaping ton of hard living to meet the place where my evolving present meets my unfurling future, and make these magical gains in life to be more supported by its course. So whenever eye have a negative thought about the process, or a limiting belief that hinders my appreciation and acknowledgment of how good it is, eye can always return to the old saga of where eye came from, and how eye got here. For eye have suffered through the night on cold rainy city streets, and slept in the shelter bed of many a wandering man, and eye have raked through the bin to liberate some nair to expired bread for my humble grub, and eye am not ashamed of this. Eye have traveled the world with only so many possessions as one could carry on their back, and given my last coins to a beggar in Glasgow because his plight seemed greater than mine. Eye have done without, again and again and again, to feel what it was like to finally have, and how sweet the contrast of life can be. Eye lost myself in the chase, of fun, of sex, of illusory ideals and fantasized prospects, like a Neo-Siddhartha who sleeps in a tent. At this nexus point eye feel a little more rooted, and a little less free, but still altogether wild with a good heart and a strong spirate. Eye have transformed most vices into virtues, and traumas into healing journeys. From the core kernels of unfolding experience as a human BEING here and now, comes the medicine of the perennial truths.
Eye am leafing through a special book written by Eliot Cowan, on spiritual nature of plants as eye prime the mind for working more intimately with the flora of an old jungle. The island rain-forests of Tobago and Trinidad, and the vast archaic lungs of the earth in the Amazon from Colombia to Peru. Eye have no idea what to expect, though binge watching some documentaries has helped in putting my mind into another sphere. This will not be a typical trip as you know me, more of an expedition. Eye anticipate being on the epic Latin American rivers for some time, possibly on a boat, swaying in a hammock heading to some distant region of the Amazon. The journey pack is shaping up again and it’s always exciting to fill it again. The bare essentials and a few special things for a four month foray. Confronting needs. Cutting the surplus. Changing the scene. Toning the body to move from hibernal cold to tropical summer, then wet season and balmy equatorial hangouts.
A thread of early winter hikes and sojourning manifested after a brother made a special trip from north of Montreal to stay at my hall for six days. At Moose Mountain, we hiked through a sugarbush, and ate porcupine and turkey stew at the summit with an old English ale. Our fire would not light because the birch was soaking wet. Then we lost the husky and found him again later. With the Caribbean princess, we returned to Black Beach, without the dogs for a tread on the lighthouse trail, impressed with mosses and lichen of the richest green spectrum. A patch of Labrador tea near the lighthouse was a special treat to forage and we were greeted with a red gold sunset after the hiking loop at the black sand beach. Criss-crossing the trails Odell park the next morning through an old growth Hemlock forest with the hound at our behest, we were as youth among the elders, and the whole forest felt very Euro-nature-. At Hayes Falls on our route back to Knowlesville, eye spotted two Jenny’s (female turkeys) high in the canopy making their signature wood on wood rubbing sound from somewhere in their throat. They flew rather gracefully for such heavy birds aloft even the highest trees, and was one of the more memorable turkey encounters eye have had in these parts. Half of the falls was frozen, and on the snow mounded cliffside we scaled the walls to survey the torrent from above. Small pools on the crest looked liked ideal places to bathe in summer. Every night we ate like Kings, with plenty of wild meat, buff vegetables, giant squash, healing herbs, nutritious protein porridges, pots of skyr, forest ales, wild-crafted gin and Walkyrie mead. Always the best is saved for friends and it had been two years before such a knotting of threads has allowed us to meet again. Thank the Norns!
One culminating potluck at Othala for the :JER: brought out the gang, with some surprise guests, and the work began the moment they left the hall, to finalize any last minute chores, complete projects and courses, and winterize the homestead and workshop before these wings flock south again. Eye recently finished taking a course on Curanderismo, the art of healing with herbs. And a TEFL certification for teaching English as a foreign language, a milestone for me that has been three years in consideration and one month of careful study. Eye believe it will open a lot of doors while traveling with my partner in the wild and exotic world of the future, and help on a practical level for making a living from the home. Eye do not enjoy commuting to ‘work’, so this is at least one way to bring the work to my temple, and a way to connect with people from countries eye have only yet dreamed of.
Gradually my mind empties as the saga of a season comes to an end, and a new one emerges from the mulch. Eye look forward to eating fruit eye have never heard of, swimming in risky waters, seeing some of the island paradise from where my beloved hails, transforming dreams into real life experiences, sneaking up on animals of an exotic sort, meeting allies, tribals, citizens, nomads, hippies, artists, farmers, friends, musicians, kids, elders, making something epic of this fierce and fragile life, and sharing as much as eye can with those who are ready to receive it. I love my community, but to be honest, I am ready for some time away from it.
The stories we choose to tell, are those that we allow to shape our lives. The beliefs that we invest in, are those which feed that narrative, and inform how we show up with others. The infiltration of story within the being and doing of humanness is the spiritual soup of everything we were, are and can become. Some know themselves to be divine, others embrace their animism, some men and women say they are just “a man”, or “a woman”, and they may seek reasons to self fulfilling theories of mental superiority or perhaps intellectual impoverishment, good luck, bad luck, woken, conscious and aware as having transcended all ethical flaws and shadows. These are all narratives that inform and interweave us in the great web of Wyrd. My strands are my own, and I have spent thirty-two years running them through my fingers, feeling their coarseness, untying knots, mending the fray ends, merging yarns, coloring them, spinning them through the complex thresh of a life lived within the limitations imposed by the great mystery. The warp and woof of my saga story is penetrated by the sword of every new idea, thought and action I have ever had or made. All words forging new words, all deeds forever burgeoning new deeds.
One of the paradigms I operate is about work, and my relationship with labor, how I earn my keep, and how I handle the money that washes in an out like the ebb and flow of a deep tidal fjord. In the greater scheme, I believe work is sacred and that all efforts of the body should be made in a concentrated, efficient, and natural way. I believe that work should be the extension of one man or woman’s energy to create something beautiful, enact positive change in an environment, to provide care for another being, to participate in a natural ecology, to keep the body healthy, and to do what is necessary for a thriving survival. Also I believe work is mundane, and that it sometimes exists within the paradox while still performing its function on a purely mechanical or industrial level. As human beings have trended to becoming specialists vs. generalists, the modern human must do work that is outside of the aforementioned means, and instead to earn symbolic achievements in order to accomplish or acquire certain objects, services, and luxuries from the culture in which they belong.
Optimally, I witness and participate in the ways in which my money will serve me more and be earned with less effort, while maintaining my sovereign integrity and coherence with a healthy wealth paradigm. Not selling out, hustling harder, lowering my standards of living, or slaving away. It’s never “just about the money”. That means participating in money earning schemes that bring bliss and joy, instill substantial meaning, balance the physical, mental and spiritual outputs, outlives the frame of time in which that work was performed, has symbolic or even ritualistic significance, and can fundamentally support other philosophical life choices I have prescribed with, for reasons that cohere to me and give life a guiding mythology.
If I had a crystal ball to look into, that would offer up a vision of a slightly more matured and wizened version of myself, I may see something like this; homesteading on high caliber levels with self sustaining cyclical systems that generate food, income, craft, and trade goods, teaching English in the online and offline worlds, guiding yoga and healing based practices involving plants and the body-mind-soul complex, nature based hospitality, and giving live demos and workshops on traditional skills, with labor services outside the homestead occupying just a small fraction of my energy allotted for others, until I am no longer dependent on working off site from my one acre of terra-firma. Rather than working for others, working with others on a complimentary basis or as favor to those less fortunate, or as good karmic service from a place of pure abundance and desire to give, rather than the narrow need of cash anxiety.
At the nest of Othala, I only expend within my means, so progress is slower than per se if I borrowed loans to start business ventures or bring assets to the homestead, but this keeps me from becoming trapped in the strangle holds of debts, credits, and I owing everyone. I am still yet in the rooting years of homesteading, maybe yet the budding stages, and the trunk of my greater work has barely been started. Next year will be qualitatively different than this one, and the one proceeding from that. I envision setting aside more funds for land improvement, which translates to the accommodations, tree planting, facilities etc. with an upgraded connection to the outside world, meaning having good internet in the forest, and being able to communicate easily with friends and allies I have made across this planet with more ease. Musk, if you read this, please help this bushman stay in contact with the known world, and have your magical silicon elves send one starlink dish to my humble homestead in Appalachia.
Generally I see myself freeing up more money for travel and continued monetary support during that travel (vis-a-vis language teaching prospects), out of country during winter an within the province and country in the warmer months when important gatherings are taking place. These being sourced more lucrative efforts of my own that are in line with a thriving lifestyle to appreciate those same efforts. I think deep down because I have been engaged in manual services for others for so long in a kind of wwoofer fashion, I have become a little jaded to continue this style of work while I now tend my own homestead, fill my pantry, take care of an animal, steward a land, and maintain a vehicle. All of these are tremendous gifts in my life that are not taken for granted. So contrary to the impulse of continuing to hustle and accumulate more, I find there is a richer contentment in sitting with it all on a daily basis and giving thanks, and letting that be my meditation.
I feel like I have made it, that I am successful, and there is really only varying degrees of difference along the spectrum of how that looks in five or ten years, and intuitively it is just more connected. I have grounded this affirmation with the spartan practice of acquiring no new thing. It has been nearly two moons now, of having no new thing introduced into my space. Rather, I have actually felt liberated by giving material things away to minimize further the artifacts of the human will, making more room for presence. Most people tend to appreciate and extend great care for their cars, their pets, their laptops, and their musical instruments, but what about the common things that do not cost much in dollars but make the day much nicer? When the bulk of acquisitions are collected and forgotten, or taken for granted of, it is a curious feeling then to have great appreciation for the most basic of implements, like a pair of working suspenders, or warm woolen long johns without holes in them. This most anti-modern, and ante-consumerist way of being with the world, for instead of acuisition, the maintaining, fixing, generating, creating, and preserving of what one has I find is a more profound practice of living in the material world. It is only once my materials have broken six, seven, eight times, or are otherwise taken by nature, lost, disfunctional, no longer serving the means they were intended to, or otherwise obsolete that I will invest in something ‘new’, though even rarely new, just newly introduced into my stead though adopted from another user of that thing. Sometimes I will trade those things for more useful items, and participate in a gift economy. Almost everything I own has a meaning and I believe that is the way it should be. If everything has a story, then even the innanimate relics of the world can speak.
Recently I am find myself sitting with a more acute relationship and encountering of death. In that, I am noticing it more, bearing witness to it often, and literally holding it in my hands. A sorry pigeon in a daze on the gravel shoulder of a country road, barely able to move her wings or open both her eyes, to flee from the oncoming traffic. One wing crooked from an impact, no doubt, minutes before, she had consigned herself to become beholden to me and my partner, whether by fate or lack of choice I do not know. Swathed in a cleaning shammy and a wool hat, then transported back home to a nest of old torn clothing, she stayed with us for almost twenty-four hours, drinking water only when helped into the bowl, though assuming no posture of thriving life. Recurring efforts to cradle the wing, groom her and provide drink was not enough to hold her on this place. She spasmed as if in an epileptic fit while I held her after sipping water, then nodded off. We gave her a name, known to us alone, and I buried her in a nest of colored fall leaves in the arrangement of a dark rainbow, with a jerusalem artichoke flower bud tucked under one wing. Beauty found in the unpredictable moments of mourning. Another helpless creature, this time a mouse that was pounced upon by my husky during an afternoon nap after work, was wrested from the paws of the dog and walked out to a back ravine. Here I found a tunnel of some small burrowing animal inside a mossy stump, which to a mouse would have been a woodland castle. Several small grayscale feathers hooked by their pedicel into the moss. With the tangled strings of lichen, and the minutest of details in focus, I observed a microcosm of organic existence. As the mouse shuddered and vibrated through a sensory experience completely unknown to me, I relinquished any division of self and other. All definition around the mouse was a blur, and for a moment I lived in his world. He was the only thing that “mattered”, because everything else did not exist in the material or mental concern in that moment. I wanted to know how he felt, even if it was unpleasant. The rains fell on my back and I knelt on the soggy ground, uncomfortable, and not adequately dressed. This was the least I could bare while bearing such a precious moment of meaning, so I stayed in the rain on the wet earth. This animal was my teacher and I was going to show up.
A couple weeks earliest than these occurrences, I denounced the pigeons and the mice, in generic sweeping statements as if their individuality mattered not. I despised them for their lack of cleanliness, their intrusion in my cabin, the bird guano that made me sick after cleaning a barn full of it, the lower appreciation for the nature of these smaller ‘less significant’ beings. But I learned this was not true at all, and perhaps finding and caring for the pigeon and the mouse was karmic. I had shunned them, and blamed them for my health issues, for my obtuse state of mind when I found mice in my pantry, for their noise and disruption. I did not empathize with the truth of their existence. Their own striving to survive, thrive, and engage with the world. Now I held them in my hands, with matted fur, and ruffled wing, one eyed, and trembling, broken and scared. I held their entire life in an extension of mine, cradled in a moment, precious, fragile and ephemeral, like my own. I felt grateful to hold such a life, to be held myself, in attention, in care, and in love. They traveled onwards as I said goodbye, and it was like speaking to a friend. There was sadness, grief, a lapse of time and space even, but it was also the most real and un-corrupted thing, it just WAS.
As the permafrost settles in the ground, I am in sympathy with the bears and squirrels. Racing to secure resources, preserve and hide away food, and work to my primal limits before the weather casts an icy rune over all the land. At one point I was balancing seven different hustles related to forestry, gardening, homesteading, bush-craft, and teaching. Like wolves we feast in times of plenty, then retreat in times of scarcity with our bellies full, able to thrive when others are merely surviving. I’ve put half of my root vegetables away in winter storage, and a crate of preserves I wild-crafted and processed over the autumn; apple mash, wild forest mushroom tomato sauces, salt-brined chanterelles and the two year aged pickles from last year. These are the sacred works in service of earth, gathering :jera:s harvest when it sprawls out of the dark mounds, and transformed by dwarven craft using metal implements, into long lasting food for the hoard. I was recently cleaning out a basement and came across some 17 year old wine, that was uncorked for village potluck. The grapish nectar was sumptuous like cherry syrup, tropical flowers, and gave good hue to the drinker.
Living in a temperamental homestead with second hand and storied implements means that a good chunk of my time is given over to repairs, maintenance, upkeep and chores. This may sound like drudgery but I will let you in on a potent secret. To live in service to the meaningful engagements of one’s life, and to be free within that life, that is sacred. It is a heaping plate of work, but enabling myself to tend to that work is empowering, embodying, and liberating. From the powers that would rather me place full dependence on their carbon systems, on their pollution plans, on their toxic frequencies and attention hoarding schemes. To be merely a specialist in the heathlands is a doom to man, but to thrive as a generalist is the way of the bushman.
Meanwhile at the school, the kids and I are rehearsing the Song for Odin, making Viking lanterns, baking rye bread in the clay oven, carving horn, and playing games in the cedar forest. I like my kids, they truly are the leaders of the next generation. Tomorrow is Samhain, or the Walpurgisnacht, when the Riders cross the night sky, and one’s mettle is tested for spiritual strength, and potency. When we get to stare in the face of the hidden beings and commune with the ancestors. It’s definitely not about candy, and cheap plastic lawn decorations, but somehow this is what we borrow. I’ll be investing in some Animistic customs and opening the channels to converse with the spirits. See you out there!
I like to ponder about what life would be like on the sea. Living as a full time ocean-farer, barely touching land except to trade, explore, stock provisions, and refit one’s boat after the damaging elements of wild nature take their toll on the wood, sails, and clinkers of the ship. In essence I like to keep this atavistic fantasy in practice through a more modern domestic expression that serves me now. I wouldn’t say the idea of life perpetually rock by the waves is in the back of my mind, nor in the front, but somewhere tucked away in the knotwork of careful ideas I have about alternate lifestyles, past, present or future? It exists in a kind of ginnungagap, a realm of fated potential, next to other crazed ideas of going barefoot into the jungles of Amazon and disappearing, surviving the rest of my life as a hunter gatherer somewhere in the plains Africa, or farming a mountain homestead with my beloved, traveling every winter to warmer climates like Malawi, Tobago or the Canary islands, while enriching our Kingdom/Queendom with the relics from our trades and travels. These are alternate realities steeped in varying degrees of practicality ranging from the possible to the far-fetched, and while not efficient to mull over at length, sometimes the small sips of mead can be sweet in moderation.
I prefer to live in such a way that all my possession could potentially be stevedored onto a ship, tied down with a bale of hemp rope, and confined onboard for the long voyage, just in case. Standing strong on the long-ship with my woman by my side, a hull full of preserves from land dwelling life, a fur bed, a tool chest, small stove, my motorcycle (the modern day Ehwaz) for when I did find land again, to roam and raid on two wheels. Keeping one’s material possession minimal is a pretty wise protocol I keep, not only for if such a prospect were to ever bear some weight and need to be done, but for the simple spartan truth that the fewer things we are attached to means a lighter life. I’ve walked far in the world to arrive where I currently am blissful to call my abode, and in my eyes it a homestead fit for a Viking. So this journal will be a dedication to my dwelling.
We’ve all come so far from the cave, to carry our creature comforts into new shelters, and set up altars of remembrance of what once was. Not all of these things we carry and hold onto however are useful, meaningful, or beautiful and most of it is just stuff. Objects and artefacts of the hoarding dragon within man, who collects, stores, hides and guards the mound he has accumulated. As the symbol of the Lyndwurm in one of the Norse folk tales tells of, a small worm that sits on gold, eventually grows into a beast with an insatiable appetite for more and is never satisfied or able let his guard down to truly enjoy what it already has.
So much potential is lost in the potent worlds of time expenditure, resource acquisition, experience making, connections, and opportunities, while so precious little energy is given over to deeply living, practicing frugality, slow culture, craftmanship, simple pleasures, and being over doing. An opulent man progresses quickly forward through life by bending and bowing any situation to his financial prowess, and his anxiety for a better future. While a man with wayward luck, and a will woven magic is able to see that in everything there is an art and density of meaning imbued in it’s creation. He is able to transform the minute by making of it an eternity, to infuse beauty into every face of his conscious creation. To uphold connections that outlive the span of his own lifetime, and to learn the true value of all things. I often humorously refer to myself as a solar-powered, dirt-worshipping, heathen peasant, and there is some symbolic juxtaposition to why I use this statement. In the reminder of the importance of the sun, and the power that can be harnessed from solar energy, not only in a technological way but in an ancient way primarily. Also in the recognition of ground, dirt, soil, the middle earth on which we depend on for everything as a human.
I indentify proudly as heathen because I choose to live in a part of the countryside characterized for heathlands, wildlands, forestlands, beyond the concretelands, marketlands, and civilized lands. It is outer heath which provides home to those preserving the old ways, and who think differently about what it means to be successful. Those living in liminal spaces and places beyond the inner wall of the city, the palace of the domesticated, and the sprawling populations of homegenous nothingness. The heathen bears the character of the countryside, meanwhile the peasant is mostly happy with his lot, and has learned how to work in tough situations, and manage his life with less input, material, mental or otherwise. He uses what he has in a myriad of inventive ways, and wastes almost nothing because he bears so little.
Long have I dwelled in days of yore in houses of stick and stone. Then sheltered as a youth by the toxic industrial materials of drywall, plaster, fiberglass, plastic, and plywood, even finding myself homeless on more than one occasion. Never truly finding comfort in any modern style habitation I traveled abroad and lived on farm steads, and with micro and macro communities for eight years, living in traditional shelters from all world cultures; lavvu, yurts, roundhouses, teepees, wigwams, cabins, tents, treehouses, boats, forest huts, barns, caves, temples and ashrams. Of them all, it is the longhall that has made me feel most like a King in my own home, and is the crux and beam style bedecked in wooden trunks, and staveposts that are the stuff that gets my heart. So many of the sagas were housed in these timbered halls of old, where the Allthing met and kinsman gathered to decide on law, feast joyfully, decide on travels, dance, sing and play wildly, and pass many a night by the long hearth in the middle of the hall.
It has all the elements I need to live a happy life while indoors. The hearth is not only the holder of the sacred fire, but also the heart of the home. The nine central pillars of the evergreen trees hold up a long and low roof where heat does not escape so easily from its chamber. Exposed to the elements are the beginnings of a living moss roof, a seasonal project informed by the seasons of growth and sustainable harvest times, that has its own schedule. Cloaked in raven black, arctic white, and runic red are the dressings of the longhall cabin. Indoors, collected are plants of far off exotic lands, deep jungles, dry deserts, and vast savannahs, growing well in the environment of the hall. Relics from the Scandinavian homelands, handcraft from Vinland and antiquaries of travels befitting each wall, post, shelf and window. An eclectic fusion of neo and primitive, vintage and modern. Woven basketry holds fruit, and bread, others for the forage and harvest of the forest and garden. Ringed barrels store up the winter root vegetables. Drinking horns welcome the visitor with good spirits. Wooden plates and bowls are filled with brothy stews and nourishing harvests. The seating of the hall thinks of those who will sit within, made by the tooling of two hands, wresting the branches of wild plants and saplings with lashing, and nail and clothed in pelts and wool. An oil lantern as lightkeeper of my earliest days in the hall without solar power is risen on a spike, as a reminder of long autumn days lit by the flame. A passive cold storage holds away dry herbs, mushrooms, flours, and calorie dense staple foods, because winter always comes. Tunics and trousers, woolen shifts and work pants, overcoats and leather vests find their place to hang, or be tucked into crates, each garment special and purposeful in their use. When tired, a large bed built of straw, wood, wool, and fur restores the might of the body and keeps me warm, with my last sight before sleep and the first I see when waking being the woman I love. What more could a man in his prime crave for? Another bed is drawn out for the husky to dream of winters sledding, feasting on meat, and northern forest life.
Now the frost cycles of hibernal seasons have ensued and I have moved my standing runestone indoors to protect it from the elements. Here it may live permanently or be stood again by the Vinland flag cairn next year. A new earth platform is being prepared for the Mongolian dwellings second life. This time using only natural materials gleaned from rock pits, sand quarries, farm fields, maritime forests and even from the stones themselves in the form of natural pigments. The grand designs shall remain somewhat secretive to preserve their integrity and magic, but the process so far is again a slow rendering of what it means to live artfully. Nothing is done in haste, everything within means and with a conscious terms of condition. With sustainability and design as a keystone objective in the process, informed by simple and traditional techniques of building, using natural and clean earth based materials.
I’m stacking up the last of the firewood for the next half year ahead, though I shall be sailing by air to new territory by yule month. There, with the Caribbean princess in her own homelands, we will model a tropical dwelling fit for habitation and if the Gods will have it, travel in the West Indies, exploring what those unique islands have to offer. The main focus will be on designing and befitting a house that is appropriate for a South American latitude, and will be optimal for living, year in year out, during the perpetual wet and dry seasons.
There are yet many moots and gatherings to be held in my own hall before that time though, and much to look forward to in the coming moons. Today marks the equinox and the dwindling power of Sunna to the might and main of Mani, the Moon usurps the sky and we hail the turning of the forces on Middle Earth. As human labors start to smoulder, and the halls of the mind take reign over daily life in its stead.
I have aligned myself with a nature school in a wyrdfully fated position of teaching. The gilded transmission of knowledge, informed to me by heritage, ancestral knowledge, academic study, the animist lifestyle, elder traditions and magic now find an outlet for those of the next generation as we meet on Wodens’days, and Thors’days for saga sharing, runic yoga, Norse European craft production, and historical download of the Vinland and Viking narratives in pre Christian Scandinavia. Last week we began the process of producing drinking horns, and this week are exploring the first aett of Runes. We have started a saga circle in crow camp for the wild child curriculum, reading the tale of Gudrid the Far-Traveler. This autumn we shall practice the craft of nalbinding, rune carving, skalding, and far more! Only Midgard is the limit!
Ragnar Redbeard said “Might is Right”, and it is for every warrior of kindred to mine down his being in the most scrupulous and ruthless of ways. Civil only in the methods of being a ‘good man’. In training, he is a maverick, a sorcerer, and a more than meets-the-eye magician. His field runners extend before him to raise his staveposts of legacy, while behind him are the ghosts of myth at his tutelage and in command. Above him is his raven banner, well salted from many a voyage gone a’viking. Relinquishing the experiences of numbing cold sobriety, his will is magnetic for the filings of power. Chasing a refinement of taste and mannerisms starkly his own, who worldly task is to sharpen, yet disguise his cutting edges so no one may suspect him of his keen craft. Existing from an abstract core, a unifying principle with the yoga of secret holds dominion on the way. A steadfast and folkish sensitivity for purpose and intent with the art of stalking the numinous. Poetry builds a stout bridge to deliver the soul back to the cave of lucid creation. Music stokes the hearer with inhabited feeling, and shows off the topography of unique places of thought. He is imbued with charm and charisma whose heart is like that of a pensive Lion ready and engorged with spirit. A harem of elemental energies clothe his every action. Pending indulgence, he is a master of speech craft, bending through into free-flow and the fierce grace of a tracker, a spirit herder, whose life is real, unedited and raw!
Strong are the nesting tendencies for home after vacations and migrations abroad, and as such are the feelings after visiting small island territories, even those close to home. For to travel by sea is to leave behind the familiar microcosm of one planetary reality, and exchange it for another. Even, as was proven in my last foray to one of the maritime isles off the Fundy coast called Grand Manan. A foggy, fishy, formidable place of forlorn folk, and fantastic fables… Here’s one to snag your hook that was almost too big to reel in, even for a well salted Viking seafarer as myself.
The plan was to saddle up on a hybrid trail and street bike, bedded down with cargo for two keen riders, enough food and tack for three nights and four days, cooking equipment, camping essentials (hammock included), a jump kit and tool pouch in case of engine problems, two way radios, some good eventide literature, personal hygeine bundle, some woolens, and our cameras for some island touring extraordinaire. This would be the first time Mufassa floated the ocean waves, and while Grand Manan is not as epic in size as some of the Atlantic Scandinavian isles that are close to my heart, I was needless to say erupting with excitation for new lands.
This story is about Luck. Luck is a phenomenon and a concept that I have been musing about for over a decade with intensity. I even nearly changed my name to an old Icelandic word for ‘luck’ once upon a time, in an effort to marry my fate with a more ‘lucky’ life. But what it actually means is not one dimensional or inherently positive as it is proferred to be. In the mind of my Norse-Germanic ancestors Luck was more like a physics, or law of the universe, while it had the power to be linked to a single human life, a clan, tribe or even an entire lineage. Luck was not always personalized but dynamically affected even non animate things, such as tools, stones, places, weather patterns, magic procedures, or romances. Luck was and is one of the least understood forces of nature in our modern world, and while it has been a subject of deep study and conscious intention to live in tune with my own luck for my whole adult life, I am often thrown overboard into the vast chaotic waters in order to truly appreciate the wildness of its ways. All this allegorically riddled by ocean metaphors of course. By swimming in the free and often violent waves, untethered to the constants of a routine existence and losing the oars of my own ship, we are brought to the place where luck really dwells. I am humbled then to climb back onto the boat, return to land and tell this tale.
Roped in with the Caribbean princess for the journey, we launched out of Fredericton in a haze of mist which turned to pelting rain en route to Blacks Harbor. A perspicacious Bear in a corn field uprighted himself to stare down the strange beast breaking his peaceful afternoon. We cut inland towards Oromocto Lake road in an effort to save time, and catch the three-thirty ferry off the mainland. A missed turn in Blissville had us prowling down rabbit roads trying to save grace and retrace our original map, but only funneled us further into the bush, eventually landing us on a slick red clay and gravel trail called Rusty road which even the KLR did not appreciate. The legendary cargo we packed had accentuated the subtle imbalances of driving in second gear, then first, until alas we were crawling along with feet out to catch any sudden slides. We opted to backtrack to the main St. John highway which was at least paved and fast, and dismissed the idea of reaching the mid-day ferry, instead stopping halfway for hot chai and a brief escape from the downpour, with our riding suits soaked and our hands pale and numb.
After regrouping spirits and recalibrating our route, we fired up for the second leg of what was supposed to be a ninety minute one way trip, now into our third hour in the saddle. The sheepy woolens came out of the pack already, and we stayed relatively warm, pressed together on the bike until reaching the port and where we were the last ones to embark the ship. I am flooded with sincere gratitude for my darling riding pillion. As the words empty from my mind and into the narrative of now a mere reflection of what was. Her courage and willingness to engage my desire for these wild trips, to accept the rather unorthodox being that I am, and her patience for unexpected and often uncomfortable circumstances is rarely found in a woman, and could take a man sail from many shores to find one so good.
One of the boatman engaged our fancy for motorcycle travel, showing us pictures on his phone from a recent venture with his wife to the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. He struck a chord of familiar territory, with a fresh dose of nostalgic memories from these Gaelic wonderlands. Yet it somehow felt like an age ago when those memories were laid down, and that brought me a perspective depth of thought in recollecting the saga of our summer. From the bay window of the upper ship we devoured steaming haddock and poutine, while witnessing a pod of porpoises cast their compass northwards in the evening gloom. We massaged each others feet underneath the dinner table and saved hope for being able to hike a few trails this weekend. The cold ride had through the fog and wind had already loaded our joints with stress. At least it did for my cranky bones, and that made me feel like an arthritic old man, but at least I didn’t have a wooden peg leg.
Rumbling off the ferry we cut the island in half on a winding run to Dark Harbor, where Grand Manan’s bulk of Dulse is harvested. We had been informed of a free campsite with views of the wharf, and intended to investigate its verity on two wheels. Anicka commented that the boats along shore reminded her of those from Trinidad and Tobago. Rigged with the same outboard motor and painted in various pastels, salt worn and wave wracked as they were. After a police cruiser left the scene, we coasted along on the sands of low tide around a spit of land to where some herring weirs were set up. Tumbled shacks of grey board spilled back into ocean flotsam, weathered homefronts with their fifth coat of paint added an antiquity to the place, and the corpses of inumerable sea crabs, quahogs, clams and oysters were spilled on the mud flats dropped by fattened gulls. We reached a cabin with its obilgatory buoys on the banisters, paddles on the porch and a plaquard that read Outlaw I, presumably the name of the dwelling. We snooped around for signs of life, thinking maybe we could roost the night in the bunkie, but found not a soul, only the antique faces of so much salt worn wood, and crooning gulls. Opting instead to head back up the hill in the foggy gloom, a half moon sand lot next to dock road offered a carpet of bleach tanned grass for our one man (& one woman) tent. The ground was bumpy, but dry and free of rocks so it was reckoned good enough, but we were without water. After pitching the tent and unpacking the saddlebags, we went on an after hours bumble, backtracking the road to find a stream or small falls that might offer flowing h20 for our parched thirst.
In the dark it was almost impossible to discern what we clean, and what may be tainted from upstream pollution. Some of the water had a film over it, and as we now crested into a new moon phase, no lunar light shon ‘pon the oceans, rivers nor brooks of the land, and we decided not to risk it. So we returned to our nylon seaside shanty and called on the night spirits to grant us good nigh and sweet slumber.
Am arose with cool clouds above preceeding a forecast of balmy island warmth. The prospects were good for a tour of the island, and some foot hopping on the red trail. Mufassa seemed to have had snuffed out its headlamp overnight, but fortunately we did not intend to drive in the nocturnal hours again. Rounding a turn with a fully loaded bike with our coordinates set for Ingall’s head, a massive dumper careened around the corner in our path and only in the last moment swerved out into its own lane. Suddenly I was back in India with giant lorries driving head on towards you, and felt rather anxious of what lay around each ensuing bend in the road. We slithered on at a lower clip and rounded another curve when the bike tire drifted across the center and fishtailed through the turn. It was like in the cartoons when the hapless character hits a pile of banana peels in the road, and swerves out of control. I yanked the bike off into the gravel bar at the side, and we dismounted to check the bike. My heartbeat had revved up, but we were now parked and going nowhere fast. A flat had grounded us under heavy cargo, and we still needed to make up twelve kilometers, and it was Saturday on an island, after tourist season. We would be lucky to find someone to fix the bike, or an open garage for parts. Not off to a grand start on Grand Manan.
We hobbled along like a lame horse, rather than a proud Lion to the oceanside nexus of Ingall’s Head, where we found a grocery store and a petrol station but no signs of where we could pump the tire. We were in fact travelers from away in our own province, and I have found that the surefire method of “asking the locals” what to do is usually a good protocol so we played the tourist card and were indubitably assisted by a gentleman on his way to somewhere who pointed us onwards to the next auto shop. There we found Wayne, and Trey who were just about to load a seacan onto a trailer. He insisted that he “usually does not work Saturdays” but did not want to leave us stranded and agreed to give the bike a once over. They figured it was the stem valve, though the tyre had ‘tubeless’ stamped on the rubber. We supposed it may have been one of those tubed tubeless tyres, eh… He pumped us up to 60psi, and said we would last a few hours until they returned. They were headed to Dark Harbor too, and I thought to warn them of nails, and possibly bananas in the road.
We stopped for tea at a wharf, and when we resumed our ride we were already flat. Yet again we trundled the bike down the eastern coast of the island to Anchorage Bay and it felt as though we were riding over train ties. A happy reprieve from the ride was the tranquilized setting of Anchorage beach, with its two migratory bird ponds that filtered into the great sea through brackish sounds. Rustic campsites with pergolas and raised fire grills betwixt the wetland ponds and ocean bar promised a sanguine and incognito place to pitch a tent and swing a hammock, and we did just that.
Some chubby rabbits hopped around the family picnic park, evidently content with their piece of the good life. They bummed food from the throng of visitors who easily gave up snacks of strawberry and lettuce, and welcomed new arrivals by running to your feet, as if to bow before their Guru. I fed a bearded brown bunny blackberries from my bare hands, and enjoyed the youthful experience that provided.
Rubber tramping back into Ingall’s head town provided something else entirely, a mission with many errs. 20km/h proved to be my max speed on the now completely deflated tube. I reached the brother of the mechanic’s house, a chap named Lawrence, and he attempted to get me back on the road with his compressed air pump, but to no avail. The stem valve had burst right through the wall of the tube, and would not hold a breath of air. Instead he backed up his M.G. Fisheries truck into the ditch to load the bike, but there was still a good foot of clearance to reach the pickup deck. With the help of his son in the back of the truck, we were able to deadlift the 650 pound beast with loaded saddlebags, and full tank of fuel onto the vehicle. I feel confident we each lifted a share of 800 pounds against earth’s gravity, and with that we were off to the garage.
It would be until Monday when the two wheeler could be fixed, and not until the evening ferry off the island, this was beginning to feel like a movie. In the meanwhile we had our nest at Anchorage bay, a fireplace and pergola, and a hammock in the trees for wave watching, shade snoozing, or just generally living the good life, so we decided to stoke up on the sweet stuff of life. By evenfall we had walked a leg of the red trail, sat in a bird hide to watch Kingfishers seduce each other, foraged blackberries, beach combed for seafood morsels, swam naked at low tide on a secluded arm of sand, cooked a curry, and did things that only hippies in love do on summer vacations.
Without our own chariot, we relied on our magical thumbs for transport, and met some lively and interesting folks on our forays to Swallow tail lighthouse. There was Walter who owned the pizzeria and post office, both of them in a heritage brick building near the wharf who tipped us on a trail in North head that lead to an abandoned campsite where one can sleep to the swooning songs of whales in the night. There was an elder of Manan who owned the dollar store, that told us some interesting history of the island, peppered with inspiring stories and the local download, but ultimately iterated with the ‘slow death’ of the township in his eyes. We learned about the bunnies of Anchorage Park, how they got there in the first place and how to best bypass the park authorities when wild camping. Anicka met a Jamaican over the phone when we were looking for places to eat, and casting our net over the eastern shore for anywhere decent that was still open for business.
At the tail of a good trail south of Anchorage we found a boulder beach in a secret cove, and sat within the swaying kelp forest as Mermaid and Merman. Then while foraging for clams, we bumped into a friend who had just collect a basket of wampums and quahogs, and was headed back to catch the ferry, so he offered us his bounty, for which we were indebted and grateful. A legendary chain of Canadian Geese flew in V-pattern above us, spanning out over what seemed like a kilometer of airspace. The land breathed in a peace of its own, as its exhale softened our collective consciousness. The ebbs, flows, currents, winds, and migrations all seemed to show off an exuberant dynamism about them, so alive, so real, such a reminder of presence and place. In those moments of lucidity, we truly lived here, and now.
But the then and later was soon to come, and we would be leaving with our flying Lion one way or another. Forty minutes before the sunset ferry return to Blacks Harbor we received the call that the motorbike was ready. Our location was in North Head, but our gear was hidden in the grass at our Anchorage haven. So another of Lawrence’s sons was summoned to come and find us, and usher us back to our camp to collect our bundle and amscray as fast as possible back to the garage to reload the saddles with the gear. Unfortunately a few major components of the bike refit were left by the waywardside and we were without head light, or back brakes. This harrowing realization came when a routine deceleration for a signaling car turned into a make or break situation. Oncoming traffic in the left hand lane made the one in front of us come to a complete standstill, while the motorbike cruised at 70km/hour with only a front brake to bring us slowly to a halt over 100 meters. I was nearly forced to slither between the oncoming and advancing traffic in a daredevil move as the front brakes alone offered little power to grind slowly and softly to a reasonable distance from the car we followed behind. We did coast to a stop with barely enough room from the car in front of us, and a massive amount of relief for not hitting it. The remaining cruise around the bay went smoothly enough, and as we neutraled the bike down onto the loading ramp of the ferry. as the chains were just being drawn across the hull of the boat, and the motors started to blend the sea around it. We were the last on the ferry, by some feat of miracle. Our flying machine has redeemed itself we thought…
We napped and meditated on the ferry and came out the other side into the gloom of fog and mist. Our pack was becoming loose on the chassis which did not balance well and threatened to fall of the bike, the head light refused to shine, and we lacked stopped power so would have to take the country roads and keep it at sixty to avoid collision with and trundling beast spooked by our roaring chariot. Our route went through Utopia, which we did not even notice in the dark of night, only a centennial road of pure blackness, no center line, no hyrdo electic lines, no rails, no reflectors, or even signs, it felt as if driving through a space loop, with almost no feature to the edge of the road except the bristly spruce silhouettes.
After over an hour of driving in the twilight zone, the most piercing, banshee wailing, screaming bird sounds started to sound, and it was coming from beneath my seat. The alarm system was somehow triggered by the balance of the bike. I tried killing the ignition, putting it on the kickstand, restarting it, switching gears, but nothing worked to silence the cacophany, so I threw off my helmet in a rather annoyed response, and at the same moment a large tree crashed in the forest behind us. We went to work unknotting all the straps and buckles of our saddlebags, rolling out the wrench bundle and spotlighting the dusken motorcycle maintenance with the phone light. Then came the side panels and the leather seat to take off, hoping that we would not lose the bolts in the ditch or scattered on the road as we set them down. One car stopped heading in the opposite direction and offered to call someone back to help, but we figured we could fedangle something to work for us, and did not want to attract more attention than we needed to. In the absence of moonlight to shine down, we still managed with the artificial light to find the fusebox, which held a spare 10A light fuse that gave us back our high beam, and I manually disarmed the deafening alarm by pulling and replugging it at the terminal. The alarm going off turned out to actually be a blessing, because we now rode on with illumination, a more balanced saddle kit, more space on the pillion seat, and without the nightmarish alarm siren invading the night.
At Fredericton junction we hit gravel dunes piled in the center of the road and had to crawl at 40km/hr past this stretch of dreaded construction. Rarely was I happier to reach the urban environs on a two wheeler than when we finally reached New Maryland. Before long we at last idled in the driveway where it all started and it felt surreal to be back. Stepping into a house, greeting the cat, cooking some comfort food, taking a hot shower, and sleeping in a large cozy bed, the contrast of realities was stark and very agreeable. We had meditated on Anchorage beach that same morning and had projected of vision of this very thing happened, returning to the nest, after a rather perilous journey of adventure, daring, risk, and reward in the unknown territory far from home, like all good trips abroad.
I want to invoke a pause of narrative and draw attention to something relevant to homesteading which is near and dear to my heart. It is the art of living well, and what that has meant for me in my later ages. Taking into consideration my conditioned bias of bedding down in a good nest for the last two years, living well has meant living slower, with more intention and attention. It’s not a new trend downloaded from social media or a movement of slow-lifestylers, but actually an ancient way of living in tune with a more natural rhythm that informs and affects everything we do and how we do it, so long as we are keeping the being part of human equally in balance.
Musing with a friend the other day, featured in the last journal, we contrasted the changing scenery of his traveling modalities with my own semi-sedentary saga. Within this we unpacked how novelty as an agent for shaping and changing the soul with its constant array of modifications has power and potency to make you or break you. One can become the fruits of his actions, or can be swallowed up by the intensity of it all and lose oneself in the dizzying reality of all the things left undone. There are always beautiful panoramic photos of other countries in every international airport, a long beaded string of festivals, concerts, workshops, events, and parties to attend that never end if you keep on moving. While traveling, the eternal stream of novelty can be overwhelming, and actually nourish the ‘FOMO’, feeling of missing out.
Especially for those tuned into social media networks, those of which are crutched upon as vices, and addicted to like drugs. They cater the user to contrast their normal ordinary lives with the high points of others, often leading one to believe their own existence is less interesting. This is compounded by the subscription and following of countless other carefully crafted, yet anonymous profiles that seem to present a lifestyle of constant satisfaction, perfect happiness, ease, and utter uniqueness that you don’t have. A kaleidoscope of vicarious experiences seen from behind the screen soon urges one to rush out and have similar outstanding experiences, breeding a certain kid of competition that typically quickens the need for new-ness with the increase of boredom and decrease of satisfaction for the immediate experience. The hunger is never sated, and one is left with a taste of the world that is alike to fast food, rather than a gourmet, home cooked, slowly prepared organic feast for the senses, that lingers with satisfaction long after it’s gone. Every aspect of culture has been moving at a faster pace; technology, social life, dating, eating, travel, consuming, spending. People are ready to go to Mars before forming connections with the planet we live on! Some folks change their lovers or partners every month, or every week! A social media influencer can have more fans and followers than the Emperor of Rome, and not know 99.9% of them! The never ending conveyor of products, tech, and merchandise reaches those who never know its source, and have no moral and meaningful relationship to those things.
I would like to advocate that this may not be as such a good idea as it seems. That sometimes life is far more sweet to travel as does the turtle or the snail, bearing its home on it’s back. To quit scrolling, and swiping through potential mates on your phone, and building an organic love life with some One to weather the time you have together and the real challenges and potent wealth that comes from from learning to speak the love language with another being. I encourage taking a whole day to ‘do nothing’, then a whole week, then a month. This is possible even for you, and is accessible to all. Feel more, see more, listen and hear more. How does this dramatically alter your experience of living?
Cabin life soothes the soul. Doing without many of the contrived needs of modern society, I have learned in my short time here to slow down. When my body gives off the pheromones of an honest days work in the midsummer sun and needs to be cleansed, it takes time to heat the water over a flame for an outdoor shower. My creative projects acquire a life of their own as they come to fruition, slowly with time. As does my nest, and its accoutrements. It took me 9 weeks to save enough for a motorbike, a winters work in the wood-shop to bring home a new cook-stove, dinners on that stove can take hours from start to finish and I assure you they taste better than any food you can buy. Conversations in the long-hall can span for days and nights, and days again, as one thought unravels very long yarns in the mind. I walk locally whenever possible, and feel more grounded from it. By living slow I am able to hear the call to action of reciprocity with the land, with seed, with brothers and sisters human and non human. My memory of life steeps with a richness from the stuff it is made from.
I remember sitting by the hearth for hours until my eyes closed, I remember the long hikes on short trails, pausing now and again to be introduced to the plants and herbal allies along the way. I remember reading aloud, and being read to. I remember entire mornings of bliss on the porch with a cup of coffee, and three birds. I remember waking, lost in a trance as I dove into the iris of my lovers eye. I remember writing you a letter over the course of many nights, traveling many hours to send it, and waiting graciously for yours to return, how sweet it was to touch the words as if they were you. I remember the cool naked swim on a bright warm day. I remember walking through the forest together without a need to speak, everything was already said. I remember the rituals for sun, moon, flora and fauna. Our time together woke me to the importance of honouring the land and to honour my ancestors who sowed the seeds. I honour the seeds who sowed my ancestors.
In the space of a minute, the enormity of life is weathering us back into source… spiraling back to the fetus of a beast, to bitter root and frail leaf, back to heavy bones in a sunken ship or food for eagles on the ether, our soul streaming skywards, or consumed with earth melding into mother once again. All experience here is temporal, ephemeral, finite, precious, gifted, sacred. There is no taboo, only changes of view, in the blue sky mind. What we have to hold is nil, save for temporary memories conjured up by mindful skill. Something about not remembering the way, it’s all here and now, these are the good old days…
The totems of Deer, Bear, and Raven have been strong presences in this man’s life since my last smoke signals out from the hall of Othala cabin to those faire folks reading me out there. The hunted horned one who sacrificed his life to feed another, has now his fetch transformed from skin and hide, to cured and tanned pelt. Smoked with the spirits of rock maple, birch, elder and amanita fungus over an A-frame bridge, surrounded by the red Runic wheel, freshly stained in ferric oxides of iron on stone. A ritual rug, or flying carpet is borne from the magicians will, a placeholder in the hall, facing west to the altar, and the setting sol. Fringed with winter white, and singed edges from the licking flames of a craftman’s fire, soft are the bristles now on the shirt of the deer.
Deepening into myth of real life, the deer thus mentioned traveled first by my motor-lion Mufassa from the greenhouse of my beloved where his skin was cured in safety, to the alder woods of my land. By way of back route and farm country, through the Appalachian foothills and Wolastuq river plains, I traveled with the precious cargo, rolled up and carried on the bike like an African parcel. The Whitetail Deer drifted across my path, and like the essence of the forest, vanished into the brush again. Closer to home on the treeline of a farm stead, a fully white Raven was being chased by three of his shadowy counterparts. This marking only the second occasion of this man witnessing an albino animal in the wild. The White Hart the first, in the Scottish highlands, a light stag in forever forests. I’m still sitting with the experience of the white Raven, and it’s symbolism. Why was it being chased off? And why did it remain limbed in the spruce as I walked beneath it after dismounting my bike to get a closer look?
In other worlds, I’m noticing mushrooms; garden giants, lobsters, and chanterelles, psilocybins, and Fly Agarics, Red Russulas, slime molds , wood ears and black witches butter, pine cone fungus and Scottish hats, little brown ones, and blue gilled ones. Take some for eating, some for learning, others leave to mind their business. Knowledge of being the life-web, like mycelium connections giving and receiving to all that lives and breathes, after communion with the golden teacher. Trips made inside and trips into culinary worlds of mycophagy. Consummation of Hypomyces lactifluorum, Stropharia rugosoannulata and Cantharellus cibarius in nutrient dense stews and stir frys, solar dried, and sauteed. A week of culinary mycological delight is spurned by subsistence forage.
The weekend offerings were stoked with other gathering missions in the lands of Nouveau Brunswick. A visit to an experimental farm to pilfer acorns from the squirrels, and scavenge butternuts neath the canopy of a Juglans cinerea tree. Not yet a harvest of sustenance for the wild food pantry, but these will be used for ulterior purposes as part of a 2 billion tree replanting project in our old old River valley.
A bumble in the countryside to a lesser known bank of the Shiktehawk opened a portal for some beautiful bridge deck fishing, and one of the last warm swims of the summer, before the cool nights drop the chill into the rivers. I was the hapless victim of a less than gentle nip from the jaws of a snapping turtle while walking with five toe shoes on the bouldered waterbed. Tradition, born runner as he is, bolted boundlessly and demonstrated his prowess swimming shore to shore with the unlimited energy I have witnessed in no dog.
Another animal has taken up free lodging under my homestead, this time some kind of Marmot, also known as; woodchuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistlepig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, red monk, land beaver, and, among French Canadians in eastern Canada, siffleux. Apparently they build love nests in their burrows, and can lower their heart rate to four beats a minute in hibernation. Their masterful breath-work could teach the Tibetan monks a thing or two. I now muse in imagination on the intricate archaeological network of different burrows beneath my cabin. Everything from prickly porcupines, skunks and squirrels, rabbits and raccoons, mice and now marmots have excavated little plots of earth for their hollow havens, and set mazes of labyrinthine subterranean tunnels to provide homes for them and their descendants. Their time in the sun has been brief and they are excellent Houdini’s for disappearing. Their emotional reticence must be in part from the wild wolf dog that constantly prowls the land, I mean my lovable Alaskan husky, who is kind of socially awkward anyways.
This weekend, the Caribbean princess and I are riding to Grand Manan, loaded up on the motorcycle with gear and food for three nights and four days of exploration, fishing, hiking, biking, and the obligatory Viking raid on new lands. Mufassa the bike, will come on the ship with us. This will be our virgin island expedition on two wheels, and if this seaborne trip is anything of a primer for greater escapades in Tobago and south America, I will be lucky for it.
These are my sightings on land for now, I’ll have more from the sea when I come back! Remember, everything is Everything!
Two years in the making, a Viking runestone is carved and raised at the land of Othala, by this fellow of the Rune Gild, under the guide of my great mentor and Scottish storyteller, master P.D. Brown.
In the first winter, the stone was meditated upon, studied for its strong points and for ease of carving with cold forged tools. In the second winter, a draft was made for the runic inscription in a journal and stenciled into the face with a graphite pencil. In the dawn of spring, chisel was hammered on slate over four weekends to rist the runes right. Then ferric iron oxide pigment was brought in from France, and stained over the course of four weekends. The prospective masterwork is the grand culmination nearly a decade of nomadic traveling and the finding of land and estate in the maritime of Vinland. The stone announces my settlement at Othala, seeking a wife and a tribe, after my last foray in Africa and long years gone a’Viking. Here I compose a poem about the rune stone process:
From slab of slate, forgotten in Urð
Wrested out by hands, its Wyrd is Rebirth
Two Winters air, seasoned Meditations
Of Runes to Rist, with intention and patience
Traced and carved, by Iron and Wood
For right Saga be told, destined by Skuld, told as it should
When last Stave was Stained, the Red Runes brought mirth
Raised in the hall of Othala, to hail this Man’s worth
The longhall has received a wayfarer from the southern lands of Kentucky recently. A man of stoic countenance, and sound resolve. After living in an ashram, and a national forest land for two years in the United States, he has flocked north, where he stayed at a farm in Maine, and crossed in Kanada for a visit to Othala. For two days, we stocked up on meaningful experiences, sharing out a workload infused with as much ceremony as labor. In the first day, we fleshed the fat from a male black bear that was gifted to me last autumn before my trip into Tanzania and South Africa. He hibernated in his soul skin inside my freezer for 10 months before finally thawing out. We used an ulu and a hunting knife to slim down the fat of the bear, which after being rendered, yielded nearly a liter of bear grease and a pound or two of black bear crackling for my dog. Tradition did not mind the extra hair and gristle in his primal energy snacks. This was my friends first time working with fresh hides, and the first with Black Bear energy. He expressed later that the experience was on the frontier of his comfort level, just enough to transcend the fear of turning away from the task, but well beyond any mundane task that could be extended from his service. For this reflection I felt extremely grateful, and I consider it important to provide the space and inspiration for those seeking the expansion of their own personal, and spiritual boundaries. To hold the role of the conscious instigator, the bridge builder our the guide through the non-ordinary experience of trying something new. We toiled with the bear, until the combined effects of the flies, the scent of the fat heating up in the scalding sun, and the soreness of the wrists arrested our progress and we could do no more. I had a cold shower on the moss, a nap in the cabin, and we regrouped around the fire for mead and meat. Later I built a frame and tanned White-tail deer in a solo effort, after traveling with the hide to Fredericton where I could access a greenhouse. Here it remains safe and dry away from bugs while it cures.
Day two brought some persistent drizzle, and grim skies so the bear needed be rolled up into a feed sack until the weather turned. Bear was ready for his tan, but the hide could not get wet. Instead we pitched and heaved shovelfuls of gravel into a circular pad for the future base of the Mongol-hut. This went handsomely well between the two of us, the slag of the sky keeping some of the pestiferous insects from our aura. A fellow of mine called up to ask me if I could provide a funeral for one of his sheep that died over the weekend. He was in Newfoundland and unable to do the service for this fallen ram. His specific request was for a Viking cremation ceremony rather than burial, which fell on open ears and a receptive spirit. Luckily my guest was still with me, so I brought him along for the experience. At the site, we brought the horned one out into a clearing where several felled trees waited as pyres for our Ram. I hoisted him onto my shoulders and set him in a tangle of tree roots, and piled straw around him. His body half in rigormortis was set in a stampeding position, as his spirit seemed to quicken from his physical vessel. With five gallons of fuel and three bales we set alight the gargantuan pile of deadwood with the sheep inside as the blaze grew into a raging burning beast. Saved were two blackened horns which were kept as memorandum of the event.
Ever since my homecoming from the Cape North lighthouse fiasco, at the Rainbow gathering, life has become steeped with smaller micro adventures throughout the province. A music festival in Oromocto I’ve been wrenching and toying with the motorcycle, optimizing it for long distance road warrior trips, it has since earned the alias of Mufassa, for once you ride it, you will know it is a roaring Lion. This man has been so lucky to be yoked with a dearly loved human with a heart as wide as the world, for all of these escapades into the greater territory of Home.
As I focus my gaze through natty dreadlocks, and tune my beast machine to new life, I regain the chassis with feral pride and haughty anticipation for it’s first run in the wild. Joined by a gorgeous Caribbean princess on the saddle, we roam through the back-lands of Carlton county for an bumble, and find Noah’s Ark by high afternoon for some munch, and a tea. The giant ship, set aground by some master carpenters is an impressive sight and albeit an ironic one amidst rolling potato fields, and sub-alpine forests. Serving as housing and a place to sup, the ark is worth setting aboard for those driving through Oakland, New Brunswick.
In the bed of the Shiktehawk river, a bowl of stones held the space for a cool mid day immersion in a natural pool, while I incline to compare the temperatures of these wild waters to the Coldstream, the Becaguimec and the Miramichi. Naturally, man’s best friend joins the fray for a frolick in these gushing baths and stirs up the silt of a good day gone better. I love to witness the wildness of my husky in his primal element as he chases avifauna and fuzzy rodentia into trees, and laps at the shore for a drink while his icy blue gazes scans the environment for prey, and intrusion. On one occasion he came too far down a mossy megalith in the middle of a torrent, and rather unceremoniously found himself plunging into the waterfall bounding for the nearest boulder at shore to pull his bedraggled body out of the tumult, lest he plummet over edge, and nearly did. He can be all the K9 of a dog, worthy of Gods, and then sometimes a klutz, bashing into the side of my cabin in pursuit of another four legged, or stumbling from cliffs, one paw forward too much. Tradition has made a friend with a miniature pincher that frequents the homestead, and puts up a good chase and a fine wrestle. Their choice past times are mincing marrow bones in their teeth on beds of straw laid out in the forest, boxing for prime attention rites, and stealing each others food.
Stashed inside the Fundy coast is a very special beach of charcoal black sand, near the salt marsh of Musquash Bay. Rising from a tangle of bladderwrack, kombu and dulse is a patchwork of pristine forest, lush with a hundred hues of greens full spectrum, expressed in moss and lichens. Feather, coral, reindeer, sphagnum, star, all mossy Jurassic predecessors to herbal life on earth. We stop incessantly on the trail to gaze at the fractal universe below our feet, in the rainbow burst of the sphagnum, the geometric symmetric perfection of the ferns, the ideal forest comforter of the feather moss carpets sprawling beyond eyes to see.
One would be spoiled for camping options, and walking barefooted over the spongy ancient landscape was a delicacy of rare experiences in this day and age. The beach itself reminded me of Iceland, and methinks it would feel even more dramatic in the frozen age of winter with snow toked conifers, and the giants of ocean sea ice on the blackened sands like sub-polar corpses.
One of the trails led to a lighthouse, crooning a lonely foghorn from an unmanned tower. Gone are the days of the light keeper, something I have always fantasized of doing. Though the lighthouse still seems to dig itself into the collective subconscious of the common folk, in almost a mytho-poetical way. They evoke old stories about mermaids, sea-beasts, lone hermits, and long nights lost in the mist with nothing to do but listen to the whales and seals somewhere out there… We did hike this path and were fortune enough to witness the dipping of a seal, while the sun sank into an occulted gray wash of ocean with brightly burnt waves. More than megalithic mountains, or impenetrable jungles, or vast deserts, it is the sea and its empty undulation of horizontal nothingness that intimidates me the most. Perhaps because unlike the former where people actually live within them, no one actually lives inside the sea. It inspires a primal dread, an intense awe and an epic beauty all together.
At the domicile, a concerted effort has been made towards initialing some new projects. A second go of the yurt platform has taken design, which shall remain secretive by the ways of its planning for now, but will assuredly be a more ‘colorful’ and robust stage for my Mongolian nomad’s homestead. After two years of spiritual work, and physical manifestation, I have also finally completed my first rune-stone, which now stands raised on the land of Othala, beside a cairn of rocks holding a Vinland flag. The birch pole which houses the flag is spiraled by a lush hops vine, both symbols of the botany which were found in Vineland during the first overland foray by the Vikings. Behind the flag is a pyramid tent, where travelers can come and stay to experience a traditionally informed and inspired lifestyle while contributing a reciprocal exchange of man or woman power toward the unceasing projects and cabin maintenance such a life requires.
A first forage of chanterelles were successfully dried in the sun for winter soup preservation. My hand picked tea wall purveys itself to the herb inclined connoisseur for its diverse tea drinking potentials, with jars of special blends that I consume regularly like my five mushroom and jungle beans coffee brew. Meanwhile the berries and sweet things of the land basically beg to be snatched from every bush, frozen, jammed, juiced, cooked, turned into fruit leather, and accentuate the fact that summer is indeed peaking. I’m drying some of the solarized fruit in the passive dryer as I write, and have a batch of frozen yogurt icing with blackcurrant, raspberry, mulberry and vanilla. If I am eating well in life, it’s always a sign of doing good.
Progress is underway with a couple hide tanning projects and designing the new yurt stage while I try to eke out time for spontaneous trips off the homestead for extra-curricular flights of fancy. I’m consciously observing how dreadfully slow internet has been hindering the research, connections and learning praxis of my own evolution here at the homestead, and suddenly Starlink does not seem like such a bad idea. With folks to stay in the Mongolian home in the not too distant future, I am finally coming around to the idea that taking advantage of the omnipresent signals that permeate the metaverse might be wise in leveling up this homestead experience. I feel lost if I can not study, research my craft, discover new music, connect in meaningful ways with my kinship, and authorize these publishings for those who continue to read them. Besides, I always though Musk was a genius in his own right and his inventions are pretty game changing. A solar powered Tesla cyber bike would be welcomed in my life, Elon if you are reading…
The waning of summer holds yet some forays, and first time experiences left to unfurl. Expect some new and unprecedented immersions into the orbits of Othala, some upgraded wisdom from the high seat of the longhall, and leveled up mythos from the realm of Appalachia.