The joy of living wild, even if only for a few days, is my passion. It brings me close to the Earth and teaches me more and more how much she is my friend, my mother, teacher, mentor, and my companion.
Living in cities, towns, villages, even being able to see another house, changes our relationship with the Earth and the natural world. People feel safe, there’s always someone to turn to if things go wrong, you’re not alone. Many people don’t really relate or commit to the natural world and, in consequence, don’t really see it. If they find themselves “out there” with nothing human in sight they often begin to panic, to search desperately for a signal on the phone, for a house, a barn, even the sight of a cow or sheep makes a difference. The cry of a buzzard or a fox, the sight of antlers on the horizon, the grunt of a hedgehog or badger in the dusk may put their hair on end and set their imagination freaking out.
Add to that the many television programmes that speak of us “battling” with nature and you have a culture that feels permanently in a “them & us” situation with the natural world. It just isn’t like that. The scariest thing out there in the woods is you!
Going out to stay in the woods … not at a camp-site with showers and toilets and play facilities and so on and so forth … brings you close to the world, the Earth. It’s not hard to do and with a little effort you can find a group of friends who have permission to camp in the woods or on the hills. There are internet forums where you can meet them and make friends, and they will be only too pleased to welcome you, teach you and help you enjoy nature. You don’t need to go on an expensive bushcraft course, you can learn slowly and gently with your friends.
Children are very welcome at these gatherings too, they learn a lot and have enormous fun, gain masses of confidence along with their skills and are not bored … nor boring! They don’t even want to be stuck at home with boxes of pizza and their tablet and phone.
And yes, funnily enough, all this being with nature, learning to live wild, camping and hammocking in the woods, building shelters, learning to fish and to cook your fish, make a fire, chop wood, which wood is best to burn, which to carve a spoon from, how to use nettles to make cordage … the list goes on forever, but yes, all of this is part of the life of the shaman in our British tradition. For the shaman, all of nature, all of life, is our elder brethren, all of them, cats, dogs, trees, worms, butterflies, fish, foxes, mice, rats, squirrels, stoat, deer, eagles, falcons, robins, crows, all of them are older by far than us. Current estimates say our lovely Earth has been going for about 4 billion years (yes, billion!). Humans have been around for something over 1 million years.
Let’s get a proper look at that … one million is one-thousandth of one billion, or one-tenth of one percent. So that means humans have been around for a quarter of a tenth of one per cent of the time the Earth has been going !!!
Oooof! That does give some perspective, doesn’t it? You get a much better idea of why shamans know that everything else on Earth is our elder brethren … we are barely at the amoeba stage with respect to everything else!
It’s a huge perspective jump but going out and living as wild as you can manage for a couple of days really does help you get a grip on the idea. Learning about nature, how other species live and work, how they all work together, the one providing the needs of another, how we humans can learn to fit into that huge and incredibly ancient plan, really does help. And learning how to put your tent up without damaging things, how to make a fire, how to make shelter, all those things, enable you to broaden your view and learn to be friends with nature rather than fearful of everything that doesn’t come with the central heating :-).
I love it and it is always teaching me new things, making my connection to everything else deeper and broader and more intimate. I love to be out alone too, with no-one else near, seeing nothing human for days on end is a joy for me and I will tend to hide if I see or hear humans coming. That comes with practise, learning how to do things and gaining confidence in your own abilities. It also grows as you grow you friendship with Nature, coming to know her as a friend who will help you if you ask.
The joys of living wild, if only for a few days, are so great and give you so much. It doesn’t matter whether you want to follow the shaman path, that’s not important. What matters is that it brings more joy into your life by enlarging your circle of friends to include the non-human world.
If you fancy giving it a go you could do worse than joining the forum BCUK and making some friends who will be delighted to introduce you to wild living.