You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
- Mary Oliver, Dream Work
In the long dark days, before light was at our command, we wore Winter like a coat. But somewhere between technology and consumerism, it became maniacal. Folk stopped paying Nature any mind. The money men conspired and before we knew it, the inherent need to retreat and fatten up, became instead, resolutions and guilt trips.
I often liken myself to Boxer from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The cart horse who worked himself to death because (Napoleon the Pig aside) believed “any problem can be solved if one works harder”.
Growing up rest and self-care were seen as lazy, selfish, and indulgent. This did instil in me a solid work ethic, but it also led to an annihilative approach to my own health and well-being. Such are the demons bestowed upon me.
In my defence, self-sustainability leaves little time for self-care. But flu and a fucked back made me finally see sense. The four weeks of December felt like a year; it was time to heed Mother Earth’s advice.
My return to social media, particularly Instagram was reluctant. But I wanted to share my art. However, it didn’t take long to realise things had changed. The platform is now a quagmire with algorithms that shift like sinking sand. Add to that the daily pressure of having to create innovative reels, posts, and stories. It takes hours and hours and hours and, ironically halts creative flow. It’s nigh on impossible to keep up without compromising your craft. Insta demands evermore.
The first winter here went by in a blur. The second we were just happy to have electric. This one, I sat somewhere between resignation and resistance. I couldn’t figure out the difference. But it’s like looking through the thicket, sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees. Then it hit me. In 2022 I was social media free. While it wouldn’t be fair to blame Meta entirely for my mental misery, the devil is in the details.
That year was dedicated to our life off-grid, my time spent outdoors and in nature. Simple but sorely missed pleasures, such as having the time to read and read some more. Getting my hands dirty planting dreams and nurturing notions. Walking without counting steps. Chopping logs and carrying water. The primal satisfaction of hard graft. Then feet up in front of the fire with a day well done. Sitting in silence staring into the flames, dram in hand as logs cackle and spit.
Setting up a business take time and effort; I’ve been there done that before. I’m proud of the fact that I did again while living in a teeny tiny caravan. Nor do I have regrets, life’s too short for those. Thanks to Insta I have met some truly amazing and talented creatives. Made dear friends, and been inspired and educated.
But to make Foggy Bummers a success it required a sacrifice. Even though it wasn’t my intention, I fell back into bad habits, working ridiculously long hours and ignoring the warning signs. The difference now is I’m fifty odd years old with a small holding to tend. And one can only bend so far before something breaks.
"I'm sorry if you couldn't find me.
I have been in the woods.
I put myself there because I couldn't be good.
I have been running with foxes and hunting with crows,
and I have found myself a home where nobody goes"
- Florence Welch, Useless Magic
So, this year I made the decision to step back from the socials and the business. To take a load off my husband who kindly carried the can throughout 2023. He’s been home the whole of January and we’ve spent most of it in the garden. Preparing her for Spring and planning for the growing year ahead.
We lost track of time taking long walks deep into the heart of the forest. I fulfilled a dream to own horses again rehoming from World Horse Welfare. Welcoming Dusty the Fell Pony and Storm the New Forest into the fold. Stashed the log store, for round these parts the Cailleach doesn’t lessen her grip until at least March.
Better still, December saw the build begin. The foundations are done, and the frame arrives in two weeks. To my disbelief, the builder reckons we will be in early Summer. With regard to the socials, I intend to dip in and dip out. This year my focus is on writing and illustrating my children's book without interference. Making our new house a home and gardening, in particular growing a wildflower cutting patch.
It may be brutal, but I am glad for Winter, she is the essential rest from the wheel of the mind. Her rawness is the peace of wild things, with Winter comes wisdom.
Despite what my demons may say, I am not flawed nor is it inertia, this is hibernation, and I am Nature. Just as the sun and moon hang low in skeleton sky, midwinter strips you back to the bares bones. It is time to wrap the earth around me and make my bed. And from the warmth of the womb, retreat to lick my wounds.