Saga of Othala VI: Meanwhile… The Village Grows

One of the least exciting prospects of a normal workaday job, is how ordinary and flattening is the potential to make one feel. Some days it seems like my “down time” is a mad rush to get ready for the next day, forming no intermission between work and play, and with added sleep deprivation during this cycle, it can alter the mind in grim ways and start to feel taxing on the soul more than bolstering. Pondering questions rooted in the flight instinct, wanting intensely to wash the slate clean and try something elses. I admit to experiences of these wild-eyed evenings trying to return to the core, and keep my spine straight, literally and metaphorically. Though as I live in a homestead filled with material reminders of the why’s, and what for’s, in relation to to my reasonable affects in the world of service, there is recall of the prime importances, and modest luxuries, that frame my existence in the afterhours.

The solar system continues to illumine my edison lighting track, and juice my batteries, laptop and cellphone with enough power to listen to Baltic folk music as storm giants rage outside cutting the power of the on grid world. The system was primed for a long life, and imparts the hygge factor (see: Danish standard of living) when creature comforts are on short supply. Gushing fountains of water still obey the leather pumping action of a hand well, and fill carboys for me to drink and wash kitchen implements with, and is then filtered through a hand made clay vessel for some of the cleanest water attainable. Preserved in motion deep underground until needed, with no pipes to freeze in below the earth, and no plumbing more technical than a rod sealed with a leather plug and a cylinder of iron to form the vacuum to raise it against an entire atmosphere of gravity. It works every time and always impresses me how the simplest technology is often the best and most reliable we have ever engineered.

I can afford the buy the good coffee, and a malt of whiskey once in awhile, rather than living completely spartan and devoid of our necessary trappings that feed a different nourishing aspect of us. There are new books in my library, obscure foreign instruments to play, and no bills to pay next to the obligatory motorbike and car insurance. Although in one dream life, I marry a Mennonite girl and ride horse and cart everywhere, essentially cleaving away these final tethers to the thieves at large. The money tradeoff for my branded service brings home the meat and potatoes, and there are women and children in my life to eat it with. Helga, my woodstove keeps me shedding layers at night rather than putting them on, and so long as I clean out her dirty smokestack, sweep her hearth, and pilfer the ashes, she cooperates with even heat distribution and the prospects for free hot yoga! A full plate of food every night, and weekend breakfasts of pancakes and muesli porridges accentuate my gratitude with feelings of abundance. While not needing to go out and kill something three times a day when I get hungry, feels less stressful on the body and the karmic scale. A few simple crafting tools remind me that my hard work pays off in creative flow. I like and care about everything I own, while much of it has a unique story, and that feels paramount to my happiness.

Of course there is more than materializes in the eye, and my soul is also fed by simple private pleasures that were not acquired, bought, or put on the shelf to look nice. The serene quiet of living in the trees nearly buried in snow, makes for some potent sleep experiences and lucid dreaming. Animal visitors like the porcupines who have resided ‘neath my plank floor since August, or the flying squirrels, and the solitary coyotes in the lunar night. Thursdays have become potlucks, which seems fitting for a day dedicated to Thor, a god of feasts, harvest and the common people. I offer Wednesdays to Woden with a good saga, and Tuesday to Tyr for study, and self betterment, Mondays are passive, like Mani the Moon god, while Fridays are in the arms of a lover, only Freyja knows who she is. Laurdag is Saturday, the traditional washing day of the Germanic heathens. Grooming, cleansing my old Lion scent, and posting up some laundry over my hearth are the needs of the day, while the solar Sundays are active and when things get done; shoveling pathways and cascades of snow off my roof and yurt, clearing the photovoltaic panels, burying compost, and ditching the graywater, pushing dirt into a pan, hauling wood, and chopping vegetables means Othala continues to thrive. These are not the glorious things, but they do allow for glorious living to ensue.

Pileated woodpeackers have been spotted in the maples, and a cow moose with her yearlings. Chickadees are singing their spring lyrics and I wonder when the Black Bears will break their fast and hibernal stupor. This man worked up a vigor in some -8 degree balminess, and hauled sacks full of wood naked into the witch’s cabin up a flight of stairs, wearing nothing but a Russian rabbit fur hat, and Laplander sheep wool boots. It could have been the nutmeg I had for dinner the night before, or a sense of younger vitality stored in me from time of yore, whatever it was, it helped me believe the spring Goddess Eostre would bless us soon with all her concealed gifts. The last of the ashes to sweep out and the burning wicker of old man winter, the dances around the May Pole, and the equal chase of the sun to the moon. New faces join the village as of the latest journal. A woman who crafts one of a kind clothing, and a mother of three. This single mother archetype seems to run in south Knowlesville and I am grateful to hear their landing stories on how they came to be a Knowlesvillian. Meanwhile Seven and Spirit are on the cusp of growing their family clan, and another New Brunswickite waits patiently for his plot in the land trust. Our village fills with talent, and skillful service; permaculture gardeners brush up with a metalworker and master carpenters, midwives neighbor to writers, teachers and homesteaders. We have singers, songwriters, and community leaders, come from awayer’s and proud to be here’s, the old guard and the new. A successful trading post has been established and the first gathering for barter and exchange went handsomely. My nephew was born, bearing the name Grayson (‘Warrior’) to my brother (‘Bro for short) on March the 8th, and his characteristic features certainly carry the marks of the lineage.

I’m on a Slavic/Baltic/Russian folk music binge, as the sun staved Kolovrat disc flies through the sky a little higher, sun worship starts to reel the body ever outwards into the natures of these mountain siblings. We trade our seeds and adopt some more, ready to make our contribution to the lineage of vegetables and herbs, we grow that wisdom the feeds us, root, stalk, sinew, radicle, and all the fruits that are gleaned in the bliss of an idle afternoon. Spring will bring more time in the field, barefoot and base tanned, and in the highlands of these Appalachia, with the song dogs wailing lyrics on firefly nights. A new furry canine will make a new home with me in Othala. Tradition, the husky descended from Siberian sled dogs will run a new tract of Boreal woodlands and Atlantic mountains and grow up a handsome yet savage wolfdog.

A visit to Babylon yielded intriguing insights into the hyper domesticated lives carried out by urban dwellers, and the odd customs and bizarre etiquette carried out there. Six weeks had elapsed since my last excursion outside the heathlands, and into to metropolis. Feeling like a stranger in a strange land, I found a place to park, another practice rather novel and intriguing to me, it feels like a kind of game. Entering the marketplace I scanned the horizon for acquirable meats and fruits, then proceeded to glean the best cuts from a selection of hog left out in the open, and gather some fruits that were already dry by the time I got to them. I did not find their fishmonger, or their chief and saw no children. They used no scales to weigh their vegetables and instead had shiny metal tables with glowing numbers reading their weights on them. They kept all the bad food in one place at least, and I picked through a couple of these more reasonably valued goods. There were whole lanes of alcohol, and sweets, and food in cans, but not much that grew from the ground, and I pondered how it was all produced because I saw no green spaces or forests nearby. They would not accept trade for the things I wanted and many things were wrapped in plastic, including what they wore over their faces. Though one of the cities woodworkers was honorable enough to remove his covering and tell me about his business making archaic furniture like monk chairs, and wine racks for cellar dungeons, proceeding to show me advertisement of his productions. His hair was bushy and moustache wild like mine, and he seemed equally out of place in that silly place… the women seemed fit enough, but the men did not, nor did their hands look like working hands. There was all kind of plants indoors, wrapped in more plastic, and a lot of people looking lost or confused. I wondered who organized the marketplace and who they traded with.

Truly though, the contrast of modern life to one lived somewhat antiquated with a Luddite mindset makes for an interesting adventure into the city. I do not turn my wheels often, and earn my living salt within eye-gaze of my village, and thus not venturing out too far beyond the frozen fields and snow roads of south Knowlesville. Some of the prospects entertained in just a forty minute drive from my cabin porch door never ceases to captivate me. Yet not with interest or awe, but with stunning confusion, memory cues, and a modified social presence. Coming from the robustness of a place in the world like India, to settle on a backroad in rural New Brunswick indeed breaks up up any form of continuity that may have been amassed in my short saga, and I forget at times the world out there. All the roman styled straight roads and euclidean geometry, high prices and advertisements, instant food acquisition and millions of products ready to take home without any work to grow or make them oneself. I tried a digression to write the last paragraph as a visitor to this modern world, or a savage who just ended up here in the twenty first year after the century. I can securely say I own only as many plastic objects in my life to count on one hand, this is including plastic parts and implements on things like furniture, bedding, clothing, tools, books, boots, appliances, and vessels.

I am also grateful and boastful to be living with no debts, or loans to anyone, no institution, corporation or government, and to owe no one anything next to my respect, my services, and my love with those who have earned it. While I ‘post no bills’, and do any writings and research on ultra low speed internet, transmitted from wary weather driven satellite signals near my windows and no further. There is something to be said about this alone when it seems everyone who has graduated high school already has some kind of growing tumor of debt, instead of a healthy nest egg. Though I hide no golden eggs in my nest, and keep sharp axes to deter those to come and try finding one without permission, I have reason to believe that this is a mark of some modest victory and success because it keeps email trolls, tax wardens, bankers calls, and credit merchants from barking for my interest and hardly won funds. Less ghastly draws on my life force through recruitment of my attention, the better.

There is an ease of joy by keeping all systems simple and/or analog. Routine actions like making coffee, filling a kettle, getting warm from the cold, even listening to music have all taken on deeper involvements, where hand pumping water when my jugs are empty may be the work between me and a mug of herbal tea, and the heat of a radiant flame takes longer to fill the room, but also heats the bones and blood with a healing touch, not just the skin to climate controlled rooms. The beams that hold up my hall are splintered, the floor is wavy, and the roof does not shed snow. The door freezes shut with me inside, there are cold air draughts and my kitchen is made of Tamarack and Cedar, not marble and steel. I carry baskets on my back, on my waist, and in my hands to bring food to neighbors, or else forage and fish for something to put in them. Almost everything is truly biodegradable, and even if I were to migrate from this place and it was forgotten under the change of time, then rediscovered in the ground by a future residents of earth, there may be little to find because I collect nor save any junk, and find it easy enough so far to acquire only what brings joy in my life; from a hand crank juicer and coffee mill, to sheep and bear furs for bedding, a woven chair that needs patching and old leather shoes for walking on a wooden floor, that also need patching. My life comes secondhand, only new or firsthand with regard to experience, knowledge, and community solidarity. I appreciate things that need light fixing, clothes with holes, fruit with bruises, and rusty tools. I value hand forged and hand crafted implements and more things done with real hands like fresh baked rye on thursdays at the school, handmade quilts for new babes, grinding spices with a rock, and relieving myself into a dry pit covered with ash and sawdust. I honestly do not know how I could adapt convincingly to the quick and convoluted modes and methods of the modern world, it would be some cunning theater or bewildering failure.

And then there is of course, the c-word, to which my sentiments and thoughts are on par with certain mentors of mine, of which some of their missives I can get behind with gusto and conviction, to paraphrase and transmit Jack Donovan at length from his Script; “Social distancing” is a euphemistic confection that evokes both “social justice” and “social responsibility.” Perhaps it is going too far to call “social distancing” a Trojan horse for socialism…or maybe that’s exactly what it is. To explain the machinations of bloated bureaucracies, I generally tend to prefer desperation, delusion, self-interest and incompetence over conspiracy. The country issued orders mandating a soft house arrest and the closure of countless businesses, it was called “Shelter In Place” and “Safer at Home” and, weirdly, a “Pause.” I guess you could also call a prison sentence a “pause,” though it wasn’t quite that, so I’ll avoid the gratuitous hyperbole and say it was a little more like parole. On parole, you’re allowed to go to the grocery store and go to work, but there are limits and rules and the promise of freedom is dangled if you follow them. This is, certainly, what the various “phases” of reopening have been and will be like. Businesses and citizens on parole. All sorts of nauseating feel-good phrases were popularized to comfort citizens as they were being relieved of their freedoms, like “we’re all in this together,” with the implied paranthetical (whether you like it or not). Perky people — who obviously didn’t have anything at all — insisted that “we got this!” Many of these novel phrases are coping mechanisms, but by far the most insidious is “The New Normal.” So vague and flexible. It soon seemed as though at least a third of the population would accept any new intrusion, regulation or confinement as long as their influencers contentedly repeated that it was “the new normal.” The words we use tell a story about the way we perceive our world. New phrases are designed to shift thinking and realign reality. Words are power. The Bible said “In the beginning there was the word,” and Nietzsche said that masters were the givers of names. When you repeat their magic words over and over, you help them create their “new normal.”If you want to maintain control of your own mind, be wary of whose words you repeat. These little catch phrases are scripts. If you don’t want to be an actor in someone else’s play, don’t read their script. Refuse to say, “social distancing,” and “we got this,” and “we’re in this together.” Refuse to participate in the process of manufacturing consent — in creating “the new normal.” However, if you don’t use their language, understand that it will make them uncomfortable. It will make you an outsider in their Empire of Nothing. Barbarians are people who use a vulgar alien tongue that offends the sensibilities of those who have acclimated to the “new normal.” And if you refuse to accept the new normal, it will make you one of the new barbarians.

The rules of the game of life is being gone over, but only if you were playing this old trap in the first place. The old phrase of the 60’s “get out of my movie” can apply here, as we are to choose how to draft the script, and which ones flounder or are scrapped is up to us. If you want to adapt to viruses and other associated threats, then I encourage you to become more resilient, harden your body, work outside, take risks, eat a lot of medicinal plants, build your castle and know that you are the King or Queen there, but never worry. Death eventually subdues us like a lover, but in the meantime we can live all the way alive on every other day. Don’t let yourself be willingly tricked by archetypes of deceit, and claim your future with your might, let your own health be a rebellion, and others will see that it is ok.

For the first time this season, the cesium climbs into the double digits above zero, and the maple sup starts gushing from their spiles. The Black Walnuts and Yellow Birches will flow too with medicinal saps, and sweet syrups for meats and bitter beverages. I have several birches on my land, of which some of the chosen specimens may get a tap this year. In the old days the folk of the land used steel buckets with hinged lids to collect the lifeblood of the tree, and transport it with two horsepower carts back to the sugar shack. No reverse osmosis machines, or miles of pvc and silicon piping. No plastic, diesel fuel, or power drills. Maple bottles may have been glass blown manually including the caps, and minimal impact on the forest was made. In the old old days, stainless steel was not even a thing, and the sweetwater was collected in wooden buckets made with hand forged ribs and hand split wood, then swelled to make a tight seal, ensuring not a drop of sweetness would be wasted. I have even heard of wooden troughs hanging off the trees to channel the sap back to the holding tanks or vats for the boiling off. Canoe paddles were stirred inside the vigorously boiling viscous liquid to transform the syrup once step further into its crystalized sugar form. Nowawadays, there is a huge investment, company shares, land leases, organic standards, millions of dollars in product and polished metal machinery, and the strained systems of running several sugarbushes on natures calendar which is often sporadic and spontaneous. I do hearken for those times of yore, when the men were of a different ilk, and followed suit with traditions because it made sense and generally involved the whole community without a hierarchy of profiteering. I can learn to accept that these traditions also morph and evolve and can preserve what is possible in this day and age, by carrying the appreciation for what has defined Canada in many ways. The syrup and tree sugar tradition is perhaps one of the eldest of known forest stewarding techniques known back to the indigenous peoples, the maple leaf adorns our flag, our coins, and government insignia, and the maple is equal in importance to Canada, as is the Olive to France, the Oil palm to Brazil, or the Curry tree to India. I am proud to at least carry the standard of this national love.

With the snow melting into sunken mounds, my darling and I made a venture for the ocean on the Fundy coast, and the shores of New River Beach. My last foray here had been in the high summer of ’17, when I foraged surf clams, sea buckthorn, and crow berries with two fine women and their children. We feasted on a manoomin cooked over flame with these afformentioned berries, beach hips, and seafood. This visit was made without prescribed intention but rather a spur of the moment freedom chase and the soulful connection back to unlimited coastline. As the tidal bore left a rivuleted sandy beach in her ebb. Stout winds robbed our warmth and stole the shawls off our backs, as we explored the crenulated rocky banks, and frozen features of the fir flanked forests. Bits of shamfered driftwood were collected for dog chews, and car mantle pieces and a rendezvous with a sister on the beach made for a unique village connection three hours from home. The blackened boulders contrasted with pink slabs, painting a beautiful picture of the lands edge.

It is on these fluxing seaside inlets where I feel most connected to the rest of the geographical planet. A sense of belonging pervails to these inlets, bays and tides, like Vik-ingr on their Scandinavian fjords.

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