I was very fortunate to have parents who liked to go tent camping, sometimes a month at a time. My dad, who was in the Navy, would get a month long vacation and my parents and 3 siblings would take the entire time and travel around the United States. Visiting National Parks, relatives, friends, historical places, staying in a motel was a rarity. Staying with relatives, who often lived in lovely places in small towns or in the country, was part of the adventure.
When we lived in Indiana from when I was 8-11 years old, we seemed to camp very often. I loved sleeping outside on a cot, under the stars. I was glad my parents felt safe. I just felt confined in the tent. I loved looking up at the stars. My parents said that when I was around a year old, a raccoon got in my play pen and took my bottle. I was told that this didn’t phase me a bit, and when they saw what happened they were shocked. I am not sure how they got the raccoon out, and when I think about this happening it seems impossible.
I have a picture of me taking a picture of little chipmunks. They weren’t afraid of me!
I was blessed to also have so much freedom to be outside in all kinds of weather. Most of my growing up life was spent in Southern California, where playing outside with kids in the neighborhood was very safe. I loved our acre or so backyard in Indiana, where we had a narrow strip of forest that divided our yard from the next door neighbor.
I was enthralled by that little forest space, and my siblings and I would play pioneer, making beds out of pine needles and building shelters out of natural materials. Sledding in the winter at McCollough park, making snow men, and ice skating on the lake were a blast.
We would often “go to the snow” when I was a child. Where we lived, in San Diego, was only 90 minutes or so away from the mountains where in the winter it snowed. I loved it! My dad would take me fishing, and I loved getting up early, seeing the sun come up as we drove. although I know now that fishing is a cruel sport, it was a lovely way to spend time alone with my dad.
Going grunion hunting at midnight was a thrill. I only wish we would have gone to the beach just for the fun of being there late. The poor little fish were so abundant at certain times of the year that we could scoop the little guys up and take them home for some meals. I think the thrill for me was being outside at night, at the beach.
Of course swimming at the beach and eventually taking up surfing, was a way of getting close to nature. I was never good at surfing, but I liked getting up really early to catch the best waves. Having a wet suit kept me from feeling the cold too much, but there was a certain amount of discomfort that I felt good about enduring.
I think Jr. High, and High School were in many ways my hardest time in my life. Part of that was the peer pressure to be someone who I was not. The other was that I didn’t have the outdoor life I had been used to. All of my life until I was in the 7th grade, we had a nice yard. Not to have a yard was unthinkable. One of our nicest yards was at house where my bedroom opened out on to a bricked patio where I would play games like hospital with my friends. It was easy to be outside when things were so pleasant with all the fruit trees, grass and flowers.
In 7th grade we were displaced by the 805 freeway, and we moved to what I thought was a dream house. A pool took up the whole front yard, and there were 5 bedrooms–enough for a bedroom for each of us kids! Yet in so many ways I was miserable in that house. Although a pool was nice, there was only so much that could be done. And no more walking barefoot as I was used to–on the grass and outside.
In college I took up backpacking and loved it. It was the best thing I could have done. I loved outdoor volleyball, too, which I think was great because I was outside barefoot, running around on the sand. I enjoyed riding my bike, jogging, playing tennis and surfing. My college years were hard in many ways also–yet I wonder if it would have been even more difficult had I not been outside so much.
Backpacking was such a natural thing for me to do. Camping in parks had become too tame for me. Going out into the wilderness far away from electricity and other distractions was always a treat. I had the good fortune to have two good friends, Sue and Susy, who loved to go backpacking–because I was not a solo backpacker by any means.
Wow. I could write hours about how I have always been attracted to the outdoors, and especially the wild. Just writing about my first 19 years gives me a lot of gratitude. I will highlight the remaining years:
One of the things I was drawn to when I travel at age 19 for 13 months, was to walk long distances and go to wild places. the wildest place I went was Swat Valley, Pakistan which was a place, I was told, that was dangerous for a white woman to travel alone. I was warned to never go into the forest because I could easily be raped. Even with that threat, I did venture into the forest because it was too tempting and beautiful. I almost did get raped but was saved miraculously. that is how badly I wanted to go into the wild!
I yearned to go “trekking” in Nepal and see the Himalayan peaks. But because there was a ban on all back-packing carrying hippies, I could not get a visa. I was SO disappointed.
I spent a week or so in a bird sanctuary. I was extremely lonely, yet it was so beautiful. The beautiful lakes of Bandiamir in the Bamyan province of Afhanistan were thrilling to me.
Although I never went backpacking in my travels, going into the wilderness, I still had many opportunities to see the natural beauty of the areas, which in those days were much less touristy.
When I returned to the USA with culture shock, I was immediately drawn to find the Garden of Eden, an organic garden which a feisty old raw food vegan, Quincy John Workman, had established as part of the Free University. I hadn’t been able to find it when I attended SDSU, but I felt compelled to find a place where I could be outdoors close to nature. That is where I met Cliff–now my former husband and present dear friend. I see now that this was the smartest thing I could do because being close to nature was so healing.
I was able to trade for rent living with a family in lovely Leucadia, at the end of a quiet culdesac. What a blessing! All I wanted to do was create a beautiful garden in the back yard, and walk to the beach. I would spend time at the garden of eden as well, riding my bike the 3 or 4 hours it took to get there. Most of my life was spent out doors.
When Cliff and I moved to Arkansas, we lived in a 16 x 8 foot trailer in the middle of 40 acres of forest. We got our water out of a well, and used candles or hurricane lanterns for light. We spent almost all our time outdoors–foraging for food, making gardens, helping the people who invited us to create one of the first organic farms in Arkansas. Bathing in the pond right up until it was freezing, and drying ourselves with our hands, was a form of adjusting to temperature that is now getting very popular.
We didn’t have any heat in our trailer, and we wanted to see if we could survive. Some friend insisted on putting a wood stove in our trailer, so we did have heat. But we spent many cold evenings bundled up and accepting that we would be just fine. And we were!
It may have been in Arkansas that we were introduce to sweat lodges, and I always loved sweat lodge ceremonies, the acknowledgement of nature, and the contrast between sweating and then jumping in a cold creek.
Returning to Calfornia after 3 years in Arkansas was a bit of a shock. Much more crowded, of course, but more exciting. Still, much time spent outdoors but not as much. I see that time as one of the hardest times in my life. Was it because I got disconnected from nature?
Raising my kids I was fortunate to have read “The Continuum Concept” before my first was born. I was 35. Jane Liedloff had stayed with a tribe of very peaceful indigenous people and wrote about her experiences and why she thought they were so cooperative. They were outside a lot, of course, and one thing that stood out to me was that the children were allowed to play with machetes and play around the pits where wild animals would be caught. Now that I think about it–I hope the animals were caught and released–I am not sure what was done with the animals.
But I admired how the kids were taught not to be afraid of the outdoor dangers, and so I let my kids take risks, climbing trees and rock walls and doing other things that many parents would be afraid of. I wanted to teach my kids to trust themselves and their instincts.
And of course having kids helped me be outside more because I read something that Tagore said that resonated with me. “Kids should be primarily outside until the age of 12. Since I was also drawn to unschooling, this made perfect sense.
We were fortunate to live in places where our kids could run around freely outside for most of their lives.
When Cliff and I divorced, later I met Robert, my second former husband. We ended up getting to a point where we could no longer pay expensive rent in Leucadia plus our $500 a month van payment. So we live out of our van for a year. I love many parts of it, and this forced us to be outside a lot. I felt homeless at times because Robert needed to take the van to work, and I would be wandering around town with my two year old son Chris–yet maybe that forced outside time was a good thing in some ways.
When I was 7 months pregnant with Chris, I was in a very distraught state of mind for many reasons. I felt compelled to go back packing at Idylwild alone for the first time in my life. I got my equipment together and drove to the trail head. Immediately, people started telling me there was a big snow storm coming and that I should turn back. I kept going, determined that I could handle it. Finally, after the 10th person or so gave me the message, I did turn back. But my desire to be outside in nature–in the wild–tells me that I intuitively knew this was what I needed for healing my broken heart. I did spend the night in a bed and breakfast and at least I was out in nature in a way in that setting.
Robert and I loved to go to a hot springs where we could take baths in natural hot springs–something I also did when I was in Afghanistan. One pool had a big pile of clay which we smeared on each other and let dry. I had been enamored by the book, Return to Nature by Adolph Just, and healing with clay was one of the most inspiring and useful things he taught me. I was alway drawn to the earth!
Eating fresh fruit from our fig and apricot trees in a yard Cliff and I had was one of the most uplifting things I could dream of doing. Even though it was a small yard, it was a calm paradise for me.
I’m going to fast forward to now. I love being outside more than ever, and when I can spend a whole day outside gardening and being with nature, I love it. I feel so close to the plants and ever little lizard, bug, animal, bird call, the vultures flying above. Once I saw an albino deer, which is supposed to be super rare. When I see animals I think they are messengers to me and I look them up to see what message they might want to impart to me.
I feel drawn to the rewinding concepts. there have been times in my life when I was convinced I was going to become an expert in wilderness living skills, and I have taken some classes. I have some Tom Brown books, and a few other books on the topic. I am contemplating living on the land without heat and off grid during the winter, and see how I do. Because I am really enjoying a raw food diet and the convenience of electricity and wanting to communicate still, I doubt if that will happen. But I do intend to be outside more this winter and not be afraid of the cold.
I sleep outside in a screened in tent under a deck so I don’t get wet if it rains. I love waking up with the sun and watching the sun rise. I love the fresh air as I always have while sleeping. When I read once that sleeping outside is super healthy, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Once I slept in my car when it was 23 degrees outside just to see if I could do it–and I survived! I was willing to try to live in my car in the winter, but I have too many good friends and I was able to trade my rent for living the convenient life in a house.
I am glad I found out that rewilding is a growing movement, and that in so many ways it is in alignment with how I have intuitively lived most of my life. Even when I lived in the city, I always had access to nature–except for the 5 years in National City when the front yard was mostly concrete and a pool.
oh, I forgot to mention how when my daughter was 6 months old, Robert and I were going to travel all around the country looking for community. We ended up in Bull Shoals area, and for various reasons ended up being there for 6 months. We cooked outside on the open fire, and were outside almost 90% of the time. Part of the time we lived on a lake, the other part was on a river. That was a wonderful beginning for my daughter–to be so close to nature.
Okay, I really am going to draw this to a close, and go out and say good night to the stars and get in my cozy bed outside.
I realized after writing this that this value, Rewilding, is actually the most significant of all the values. I have been intuitively following the principles in this value which I see as essentially following universal principles that are found in nature which a loving creator set forth for all to follow.
For example, although I was good in school, I hated it. I did not like the confinement which felt like a trap. I craved recess and PE time. I loved creative writing. I hated critical essays or writing papers. I loved my band/orchestra/singing classes. But sitting down, listening to lectures, and doing senseless tasks.
Yet because I was under the influence of society, I believed that the only way I would survive in the world was to go to college, get a degree and get a good job. My three siblings learned to operate in the world quite nicely. I never did.
Oh, I have always been able to keep a roof over my head and have in so many ways lived a good life. I even have some entrepreneurial skills that helped me to support my family when that was necessary.
But I didn’t get that degree because I got the message (from Creator, I believe), to leave the culture that was influencing me so heavily. I thought that simply traveling to Europe would do the trick, but the message came through my sister, loud and clear. Leave the civilized countries and go to wilder places. That is when I traveled down to Turkey, through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
I remember my first experience of an outdoor market in Istanbul. compared to Europe–it was so wild and uncontrolled!
Just a few days ago I was reading about the people who Cliff and I helped over 44 years ago. We were the ones who did the grunt work of building fences, loading and unloading sawdust for the blue berry plants, and clearing out the black berry patch by hand so we could harvest blackberries. Nowadays, people who do such work usually get paid with room and food. All we got was a 16 x 8 foot trailer and a well with a bucket. We paid for our own food!
The owners of the farm are still working at farming, and extremely successful and respected for being the first organic farm in Arkansas–and just continuing to do that work. I felt jealous. What if Cliff and I could have stayed in one place and somehow gotten land and somehow developed some more security.
Then when I reviewed the rewinding information, I realized that staying in one place was just not in my nature.
But those were wild times, where working outside was its own reward. And hitchhiking with very little money, arriving in my home town with a dime to call my parents to come and get us. Wild living!
I remember when someone called me a “free spirit.” That was one of the biggest compliments I could receive.
Now that I actually own land legally, which does not mean I really own it–because no one can own land–I want to have a school where people can learn wilderness living skills, as well as all the other principles that go along with rewilding–without the hunting skills, of course.
I heard of a woman who lived for a year simply eating wild greens. Breatharianism is scientifically provable. I heard a ted talk by a woman who lived for 6 months foraging for food. The potential for living close to nature is boundless. I am starting to dream big. I dream that we as a species can learn from all the lessons we have had about using nonviolence as a way of bringing peace, the lessons of veganism, the lessons of non-hierarchal governing systems and egalitarian living and the importance of thinking for ourselves instead of giving our power away and so much more.
I theorize that there were peaceful civilizations who came before us. And peaceful, vegan tribes. But they were so innocent and trusting that they let people (like Cortez, or Columbus, or other explorers) take advantage of them. Nowadays, we need to be alert to the games that sociopaths and narcissists play. The powers that be would like to see us dumbed down and thinking that we need to be kind, vulnerable, and open with everyone.
Yet this is not a wise way. I learned the hard way with my experience with Direct Action Everywhere that giving my power away hurt myself and others. I became part of their process to bring people into the community. I wanted to write “lure people in” and I think I will do just that. I was like a bait–giving credibility to DxE because of my age, my Christian faith, and even my pro-life stance.
Without going into my deep disappointment with DxE (you can read more here http://www.isdxeacult.wordpress.com ) I actually feel a sense of relief that I learned this lesson the hard way. One of the reasons I am writing so much about the values that I hold dear is that I want people to get to know who I am, and grow to trust me. Of course I could be writing fiction and deceiving you completely–yet if you do feel drawn by my words, my posts on Facebook, all the links I have provided about past experiences–there is a good chance we can get a long 🙂
I am rambling, and I get back to the topic I was on. I want to have an experiment on this lovely 18 acres of land that I am so blessed to have stewardship over. To be able to experiment with implementing the values I have listed and see if we can create an example which others can emulate. I have not yet found a place that is even close to having the values I have listed, especially the rewilding principles. I am so glad I heard about rewilding a while back, and that there are an increasing number of people who are promoting this.
I used to dream that I would win the Nobel Peace Prize. When I was 21, I dreamed of running for president. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to “save the world”, and especially after I returned from my life-changing travels when I was 19. At times I have been envious of people who were able to create large organizations or successful communities. Why couldn’t I do that? I joined DxE because I really thought they were going to be the organization that would transform society in the way I dreamed. I weep and I think about my lofty dreams, hopes and aspirations that I went to Berkeley with when I was going to dedicate a year of my life to serving DxE.
I thought I was going to have to sell this land because my second former husband, Robert, and I, could not figure out how to divide the land between us. We certainly could not co-exist with his dreams of building an aquaponics operation right next to the Common House that was already built. He felt inspired to give me the land, with a commitment that if I ever could pay him back, I would.
For the first time in my life, I have a resource that I have complete control over. Surprisingly, the day that Robert made the decision to turn over the land to me was the day I decided to go public with my concerns about DxE. Some people have thought I have suffered immensely because of my decision to speak out against DxE. And I have. Yet the gain of having freedom to pursue my dreams of community seemed to be my reward.
I want to close with the words of Jesus which are touching me more profoundly than ever before, and which I think are his message to all the world about how we truly can live in harmony with our “wild” nature.
This is from the sermon on the mount, which some people, including Ghandi, consider to be the essential teachings of Jesus. I think that he is teaching us that we can be breatharians at most, or we can learn to create the garden of eden once again–and live so lightly on this planet that we can truly restore the earth–instead of ravaging it. This is what I long for.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.: Mathew 6:25-33