Tuesday, 10 March 2009


“The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever! The faint silvery warblings heard over the partially bare and moist fields from the blue-bird, the song-sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell! What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations?” Thoreau, Walden

Spring has arrived (though a few days ago we had more snow) and I am enjoying watching the seasons change. The sounds of the mountain are different now – bees buzzing, migratory birds singing and squabbling, lizards darting out of sight as I pass, farmers doing the things farmers do in springtime (which invariably involve tractors – it’s like the tractors have come out of hibernation).

I am starting to spread out. Winter was spent largely working, moving at a pace, or sitting within a few feet of the stove. Now I am bathing, preparing food, lazing around, doing yoga, meditating, reading, all outside. It’s great!

One of the big draws of this lifestyle for me is that, while I find it beautiful, it is fundamentally a celebration of substance, rather than of style.

Conversely, the rest of the Western world is fast becoming a cathedral to style. If something, or someone, seems a certain way, then that is apparently all that matters. It is of much less importance what that thing, or who that person, actually is.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that it will soon be time for me to leave this wondrous mountain. In a few weeks time I will be heading off to the big city in order to set about recording some music, which will hopefully become my second album.

I am looking forward to this. I have all these pent-up songs that only exist on voice and acoustic guitar, but in my head I can hear the full production and am beginning to salivate when I visualise a recording studio.

But, for all the reasons mentioned so far in this blog, I am also a wee bit trepidatious about heading back down into Babylon.

The city too hot
I-man got a cool life
Upon the hill top.
(Lee "Scratch" Perry)

This feeling reminds me of the end of festival season. I used to work at festivals and when you’ve spent a couple of months traveling around, basically living in a big moving festival, where everyone around you is muddy and celebrating and being the most loving and happy and inspired that they ever get, the idea of walking back out into everyday life is a bit daunting, even depressing.

I remember airing this reticence to a friend in a festival once, many years ago. He was a few years older than me and had been around the block a few more times. His reply has stayed with me. He said, ‘On-site is on-site, and off-site is off-site’. Then he shrugged.

These days though, I am increasingly interested in what makes on-site on-site, and what makes off-site off-site. Really, all that is different is people’s attitudes. Their state of mind. An optimism and a letting go.

Maybe, if we all put in a bit of effort, we can turn off-site into one big on-site!

Coming back to my style versus substance rant, one of the ways I think that people get opened up and happy at a festival is that by day three, everyone looks like shit. On the first day everyone arrives in designer hippy gear – specially bought decorative wellies, newly dyed (semi-permanent) pink hair and so on. You can feel the paranoia in the air, as everyone tries to look either like they were born in a festival, man, or conversely that they are absolutely not festival people, unlike you sad twats, and are just here for a laugh.

But by day three everyone’s forgotten what they look like. They haven’t seen a mirror in days, they’ve had no sleep, they’re covered in mud, and they’ve been high, they've been low, come up, come down, drunk and hung over, a whole bunch of times in such quick succession that this psychic washing machine has transported them to some kind of parallel universe where, no matter what’s going on, everything is ok. And in this parallel universe, what kind of wellies you’re wearing (if you haven’t lost them by now) has somehow lost its significance.

The trendies, the hippies, the punks, the goths, the ravers, the sporty types, the sloaney types, the hoodies, the business types, the geeks... man we are so consumed with this need for an identity. Like shapeless ghosts, we drift around, lost and frantic, until we find some shape to wear so that the world, we hope, can finally see us. Actually, we don’t even want them to see us, because we feel too ashamed of who we believe we really are. So we hope that people will see the form we have taken, and mistake it for us.

On this mountain, who cares? There is no dress code. The birds and the trees don’t recognise human subcultures. The earth is happy for me to walk on it, no matter where I bought my shoes. I sometimes spend days in pajamas. I haven’t noticed a single vulture scowl.

Don’t get me wrong – I love style (as opposed to ‘fashion’). Walking down the street can be art. Why not dye your hair pink? I love pink hair. Humans have decorated themselves since before they got up off all fours and declared themselves homo sapiens, to a universe that cares nothing for Latin.

It’s not style that I am against, so much as lack of substance. Even the arts are riddled with this inability to spot the difference. Where has all the soul gone??? I listen to the radio on occasion and find myself swearing until I turn it off. I flip between anger and despondency as I scan through the stations. Inevitably, silence soon resumes its residency in my ears.

Music can be so healing, so inspiring. It can remind you of who you really are. Why is so much of what’s out there just sonic chewing gum? It might keep your ears busy for a while, but it has absolutely no nutritional value.

[For those of you who listen to radio on the internet, I would like to give a quick plug at this point to: www.gimmenoise.com and www.belowzerobeats.com, both of which are run by people who actually like music].

I have a few more mountain tales to come before heading off and am trying to be as ‘in the now’ as possible, while at the same time working out how to pack down this life once again and leave it stable, so that when I return there is (hopefully) a yurt still standing, a spring still running and clean, and a stack of wood for my first night’s fire.


jason palmer said...

google 'thames path meetup' and join me on a walk sometime :)

Todd said...


Just wanted to say thanks for the blog and videos, it's nice to see a person doing what they want rather than what is expected of them. I'm a 23 year old graduate student in the U.S. and your writings and videos have struck a similarity with some of my own ideas and thoughts lately. Thanks for sharing, I haven't listened to your music yet, but will give it a shot. Btw I see you're delving into Buddhism, take a look at OSHO, you may really enjoy reading his works.
He's one of my favorite authors. Best of luck to you.

jason palmer said...


Padma said...

Hi Todd - thanks for dropping by! I've not read much Osho but have bumped into his teachings regularly over the years.

I used to do an outdoor Buddhist retreat in the summer which was a couple of fields down from an Osho retreat. Several times during the week the night would be filled with their primal screams!

Re doing what you want vs doing what is expected of you: The way I see it is, if what people expect of you is not in line with what you want, perhaps they do not have your best interests at heart? Or if they do, then perhaps they don't know you well enough?

In general I have found that there are at least as many people on the planet who support what I'm doing when I'm doing what I want, than expect me to do something different (e.g. I was amazed at how many old ladies commented on how much they liked my pink mohawk when I had one many years ago). So I guess if I'm in the mood to meet someone's expectations, I tend to choose those types of people!