Saga of Othala, ch. XIX: Getting Ready

Snow… how does that make you feel?

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.

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