I joined the woods almost four months ago now. Packing up my bags somehow less practically than the classic ‘hanky-bundle on the end of a stick’, I readied myself for the next adventure as many have done before. The woods have a history of physically and psychologically symbolising the unknown to us humans. On the fringes of society…Here there be monsters, and Tinkers Bubble is no different.
Bubble life often feels to me like living in a giant’s brain- a marvellous monster made up of 11 people, 3 cows, 6 goats, 13 chickens, 2 dogs, 3 cats, Monkalonk, Boobooz and of course the rest of the surrounding nature and all that it holds. Interacting with the unknown that we have all ventured into the woods to meet is like an unravelling of threads, but sometimes it comes along in a flash of excitement; an encounter.
Last week Alex and I bumped into an escaped cow as it dashed through the woods, all three of us stopping still for that moment as our threads crossed in transition. Our meeting took me back to Knepp, a rewilding project in Sussex based on 3,500 acres of old estate land, where I visited a few years ago. It is perhaps the closest to a wild England that I have experienced; with stalks like pterodactyls shadowing our footsteps as they circled above the trees, stags poised upon hillsides like old worn oaks and fungi the size of ogre’s boots tossed among the dank leaves. I feel that magic here too at Tinkers. It isn’t constant but it is here; lurking. And in hindsight I can see that it is neither constant there. Knepp has the feel of being on a safari and due to the current nature of the UK that is probably what it has to be for now in order to survive. Here we control space in other ways through our assigned areas for dwellings, growing, pasture, forest etc. But I suppose what both places are trying to untangle is; how do we live in that magic? How do we interact with the world in a way that invites the unknown into our everyday, rather than pushing it away into the woods of our stories? And how do we simultaneously not become greedy to consume these encounters and hunt down the monsters? Living at Tinkers Bubble is teaching me that I believe the answer is found in a kind of trust which I had not fully recognised before; a trust in impermanence.
When I first came to the Bubble as a volunteer last November, I was struck by a seven year old me who just wanted to play. Everything was, and still is, exciting. It was the first time in my adult life that I had felt fully connected to that part of me for a sustained time. The empowerment of being in a space where the line is “yes I can” rather than “why don’t you buy this to do it for you” still chips away at my fears of wrong doing and not knowing. Acceptance that at some point the fence is probably going to break, the weeds are definitely going to grow and somewhere there might be a secret rusting rake helps. But I think by welcoming a childlike innocence rather than complacency into our trust and care, the everyday can open us up to new understanding.
So now, as things have begun to slow ever so slightly I can again see my joy in the abundance of this land. Whereas a week ago I would probably have reported feeling pretty overwhelmed, mostly by the hundreds of carrots Greg and I are growing... And the rise and fall of the six foot nettles throughout the year is starting to feel like the coming and going of an old friend who I hope to greet next time with a wry smile.
I feel wonderfully small when I recognise the cycles that happen everywhere here. Yet there is also largeness in knowing that what I am learning has been/will be understood time and time again by Bubblers past and future. Tinkers Bubble is always changing yet is always the same. It has its niche; its role to hold us in the unknown woods so that we can try to untangle our yarns, sifting our fingers through some of the knots of society. As bits come loose, they can be cleared, ready to make new forms. To be honest, when I'm untangling strings I have no idea what I’m doing, I just let my hands feel the way and work it out. That is how I am attempting to explore the woods these days; trusting what feels right, monsters and all.
Till next time,