Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Spent the last few days snowed in on the mountain...

And other news...

I now have, not only a woodshed, but a woodshed filled with wood.

You don’t need a chainsaw, you need friends who have a chainsaw.

I built the woodshed in a frantic couple of hours, like some rabid sculptor channelling the muse.

We were walking out in the hills about an hour away and found an old branch which was the perfect size and shape to act as the corner of a woodshed. So that was the initial inspiration for the venture. Carried that back. I’d had my eye on a certain part of the land. It’s hidden by a tree to some extent so the shed is a little less intrusive on the landscape. It also has a couple of bent trees hanging over from the terrace above, and one wall propping up the terrace, all of which made me think ‘A ha! Look at all this work that has already been done in order for me to have a woodshed!’ Anyway, I arranged these various ingredients, bound them together with twine and threw a tarp over the top. Tied the tarp to the front and weighed it down with stones at the back. Bish bash bosh – woodshed.

Just in time too, because they came up that old hill pretty soon after, carrying that there chainsaw, and made quick work of a couple of dead trees on the land. It was very exciting and noisy. End result, loads of firewood for the next month or two, and a fun time was had by all…


"Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction.
Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."
Thoreau, Walden

I was walking up the path from the village last night. It is almost a full moon so there was no need for a torch. The moon casts a beautiful light when there is a clear sky and no intrusion from street lights. So I’m walking up the hill, thinking about this life and wondering why I find it so significant and important.

I had at that point a vision of a path overgrown with brambles, so that you could hardly see it was a path anymore. There are a number of paths like that around here – old paths that have fallen into disuse over the years, as the lifestyles of the local people have changed, the roads have been built and technology has moved on. These old paths through the mountains have been clawed back by nature until they are difficult to see and impossible to walk.

By living this life, by writing my songs and by sharing what is in my head and in my heart, I am walking a path of sorts, and thus keeping that path open.

For me this is important. I have been aware over the past few years that many of the previous generations are moving on to their next lives and thus dropping out of contemporary culture as a living presence. I am thinking of the Beats – Ginsberg and Burroughs both died in the last few years. And the hippies are dying off now too – Kesey died recently, as did Leary. These people were important. They kept the paths open.

And I’m not just talking about the creative, arty types. The old socialists and communists and trade unionists whose hearts were broken by Stalin, and who are now considered by many to be of historical interest only, were vital in winning and protecting many of the rights we have now in the workplace and in society in general. I think about the ones that came over here sometimes, fighting in these very hills against the fascists. Orwell and Hemingway, and that bloke who wrote ‘Cider with Rosie’ were here. If we forget them and let them fall away, and no one takes their place as the defenders of our liberty and reminders of the possibility of a more compassionate way, we will regret it.

Often we think of these people – the artists, the philosophers, and the activists who made great personal sacrifices for the common good – as special (NB Gandhi and Martin Luther King were both inspired by Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience). We think that they are somehow different from us. But they are only different in that they got up and walked the path that was in their heart. The path that, as far as they could see, was the right path to tread.

It is easy not to bother, but what kind of life is that? You will die anyway (just ask them), your time here is temporary, and you don’t know how long you’ve got. Do you really want to spend it zoned out in front of the TV, or in town choosing wallpaper for the dining room?

Now I know people say words like this often, and they can seem a bit trite. I say them not because they are easy to say, but because I have been at death’s door. I have seen the end of my life. I have felt it. (I had a near-fatal brain haemorrhage in 2005).

These words come from death’s door: Don’t live as if life is a permanent state. We are just passing through, the conveyor belt is moving as we speak and you cannot see the end of it. We really do not know which comes first – tomorrow, or the next life. What is in your heart? What do you care about?

Now the interesting thing about my vision (for me) was that I realised that no one even has to know that I am walking this path, living this life, performing this function for the collective psyche. I just have to do it. Just doing it is enough.

The boundary must be kept by someone. I think it is important because there always seem to be plenty of people at the other end of the spectrum, pushing in the opposite direction. I don’t know why really. I suppose there is a certain pleasure to be gained from being part of something big and powerful. You get someone to drive you to work, maybe a copper with a gun outside your door (to protect you from enemies because you are so important), and all-expenses-paid trips to places full of Big Cheeses who feed you nice food and put you up in hotels with nice carpet.

These people work for the machine. They see people as units and want them to be quiet, uniform and easy to control. This creates a more efficient society. It makes the nation economically stronger and it makes the State more secure from internal ‘threats’ (such as public scrutiny). And it’s just neater. We want a tidy country, not some raggle-taggle, make-shift chaos of individuals. They get under your feet and take forever to process. And they don’t fill in forms correctly…

To paraphrase Banksy, there has been far more damage caused in this world by obedience, than by disobedience.

I believe in human freedom. The freedom to grow, to dance and to shine brightly. As Nelson Mandela said in his inaugural speech, we are not afraid of how small we are. It is how big we are that scares us.

The thing is, it is all very well having freedom theoretically. But if that freedom is not exercised, then is it really freedom? This is what my vision was about. Someone needs to be doing this stuff, and since it is my inclination, that someone might as well be me…

1 comment:

jason palmer said...

"He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature" - Socrates

Have you seen the film 'into the wild' ?