Saga of Othala, ch. XVIII: Story is Everything

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!

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