Living in colourful obscurity

So far this winter, we’ve had three snow-sleet-storms. Outside the Yurt, hail belted down and ice blanketed the outer layer of canvas, the decking and lawn.

Rain, hail or shine, I tend to the fire inside, stoking the embers, feeding precisely chopped limbs of macrocarpa, totara and gum into its belly.

A large pot of water heats gently on the cast-iron stove top. Water streaks down the underside of the pot lid and evaporates as the heat rises.

When it rains or it’s cloudy, only one light is on. A 7 watt LED bulb strung above the kitchen sink, illuminating a fifth of the Yurt – enough light to move around to.

The water pump is off, the jerry can is full, as are three plastic ex-tonic water bottles we use to brush our teeth and wash our hands.

I notice my days begin later than before, once the sun has risen over McArthur’s Hill and is peaking around the large gum tree by the roadside. It saves on using power – our most cherished commodity – especially when one grey day blends into another.

The morning walk happens swiftly after breakfast – Tesla makes sure of that – and lasts at least an hour. Mostly, we stroll along the beachfront past large clumps of salty seaweed and over slimy rocks to Picnic Point, then through the damp, sweet-scented forest.

On our return, I chop two big loads of wood and a tub of kindling and take my time with it – usually thirty minutes – a podcast episode in the background, cup of tea at the ready.

I’ve always loved chopping wood, stacking it, and preparing the fire. It was one of my chores as a kid. There’s something deeply primal that ignites in me whenever I’m swinging the axe. I feel capable, strong, and resourceful as I complete the task.

There is no end to the jobs to be done here: fixing leaks in the bathroom, setting traps, checking the solar system and battery bank, cleaning out the composting toilet, waterproofing the Yurt, maintaining the water outflow from the kitchen, keeping the compost area contained, getting rid of bracken and Darwin’s Barberry, playing with Tesla, making sure Tesla hasn’t wandered, sweeping yesterday’s sand and dirt up, filling the jerry can… on and on.

Any computer work I need to do gets done later and later in the day as the outdoor jobs increase, but I don’t mind. When the sun is out I want to be out too, soaking it in, listening to bellbird and tui, and lately a grey warbler or two. 

Yes, life has shifted dramatically over the past three and a bit months. 

Recently, Tesla skulked inside, a sheepish look on her face. She’d just returned from eating shit. Human shit. Our human shit! Shit that had been freshly dumped in the outdoor compost area – aka the shit pit – out back. Disgusting, but not her fault. I spent an hour stapling netting around the compost area and covering the mess with bracken. 

Never a dull moment.

These external shifts in routine have made this winter feel especially colourful. I get to the end of the day feeling worn out but satisfied, and still reasonably motivated to do something creative, though this side of me hasn’t flourished…yet. 

Internally, the shifts are more intense and shaky than I expected. I wake each day feeling rested and calm despite my mind, which still works against me. 

My mind wants me to feel anxious every waking moment. Our species! The way we have and continue to treat the world and each other. Deforestation. Extinctions. Afghanistan. Lockdown. My mind wants me to feel useless and insignificant in the face of the many crises going on. 

If it weren’t for my many management strategies, including conversation with friends, vipassana-esque breathwork, physical activity, journaling and creativity, I’d be on the brink most days. It’s a hard thing to admit, from my privileged position, but it’s true. Some days, I’m just so fucking over being alive.

You have to be comfortable in your own skin here. Days can go by without seeing or talking to another human. Ed works in the city three days per week, so it’s often just me and the dog. I’m someone who can handle being alone, but loneliness is a different isolation.

For now, my most important daily practise is learning to be truly comfortable in my skin. I’ve experienced moments of this over the years, but it’s still something I’m working on.

The wonder that is Elizabeth Gilbert put it beautifully during a conversation with Krista Tippett:

“People talk about “self-love,” and I think that’s a very intimidating concept. I think “friendliness” is a nicer way to think about it. Can you be a little bit of a better friend to yourself? Would you ever allow a friend to speak of themselves the way you do in your interior moments? And so that’s what changed everything.”

Being on friendly terms with myself is quite the experience. I’m keying back into my intuition. The inner knowing that operates outside of time and space. The tiny voice that offers clarity in the blink of an eye; guides you from the inside out.

Often, when I’m with others, I find it harder to hear the guidance offered by intuition. There’s so much noise; so many competing ideas, theories, stories. I don’t know if I believe any of the stories now.

I especially don’t believe the story of ‘fulfilling your potential,’ as told by social media, the news, and influencer culture. Change the world. Be your best self. In my line of work, the narrative is “grow a community of followers; one thousand to start! Sell your products to a global audience; post every hour about every little thought you have, joke you’ve laughed at, and momentary achievement for that day. Know, like, trust!”

The commodification of potential irks me so badly. I’m lucky to be a woman who can write honestly about who I am and how I feel. I’m lucky to narrate my own life. To create my story and live by it. FFS, I got to 43 and I’m still alive. I’m still capable of love and forgiveness. That’s an achievement in fulfilling potential. 

So, I chop wood. I clean out the composting toilet. I clear the bushline of bracken. I throw the ball for Tesla. I tick off my list of computer-based tasks. I luxuriate in process-driven creativity.

Right now I’m living a life of obscurity much like the nudibranch, colourful and complex, unseen but not in hiding, and I’m finding meaning in that.

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