Daily rambles

I’ve probably often mentioned this, but one of the greatest benefits of unschooling is that I get to spend at least two hours in the place I love the most, the mountains. (Well… Hills. But I consider them mountains, not having ever lived in a country where mountains are actually mountains.)
I live in the city, sadly, but I am blessed by the fact that with just a few minutes in the car I can be in the forest.
You’ve probably guessed just by the name of this blog that yes, I am a tree hugging hippie in many respects. You have guessed correctly.
We usually go on the same walk, but the benefit of that is that you begin to see things more clearly, because you know the area so well. I could probably find my way around the valley with my eyes closed at this stage! The trees where we walk are mostly sitka spruce, a beech wood, and a mixed wood where there are beech, sitka spruce and a sprinkling of ash at the edge. There’s an abundance of hawthorn to the north closer to the farmer’s land, a beautiful elder (elderberry) tree in the ash area, one or two budleia along the first path, birch, sweet chestnut, larch near the car park and a ragged mixture of gorse, heather, moss, and reeds in the area where the spruce were felled some time ago. It’s incredible to watch how that entire area sprang back after being cut, from being piles of grey, bare branches to a flourishing habitat filled with birds and deer. For plants, there is a lot of rosebay willowherb, heather and gorse, foxglove, nettles, coltsfoot, rushes, bracken, countless amounts. There’s plenty of fungi but I am sadly not at all familiar with their names, apart from sulfur tuft (There is a LOT of that around) and fly agaric.
The animal life is also alive, with deer constantly around, fox tracks, ravens, woodpigeons, chaffinches, robins, coal tits, jays, etc. Just this morning we were going up into the beech wood when the chaffinches we had spotted for the last few days were even more lively than usual. We sat quietly for a while and watched them feeding on (We think) the beech mast all over the ground. I’d say there were between 20-40 of them. As we reached the top of the beech wood there were two jays flying between the branches overhead.
There are a thousand stories I could tell about those forests, and I don’t think my keyboard would hold up if I tried to recount them all, so for now I’ll head onwards to other, less computer based activities.
By that I mean carving a handle for my (proudly hand smithed) knife. That’s what it will probably mean for the next week or so until I finish it. Or knitting. I’m knitting a lot lately too.

Peace,
Amy

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Speech on Nature

I had to do this for school, and it got into the school speech competition, which has three people from every year and there’s judges and stuff and I’m kinda terrified… I really wish I’d just said I wouldn’t do it, but it’s tomorrow, so I’m too late… Sorry that this is kinda weird and unedited, but I’ve not got much more to post so yah…

Good afternoon teachers and fellow students. I’m Amy, and I am here today to speak to you about my love of nature, and why I think everybody should love it too.

I would say that I’m pretty well tuned in to nature. I sit in class dreaming about trees. But I’ve been connecting to nature a long time, you see, but connecting with nature isn’t something that you learn, it happens through experience. But sadly, many people never get the chance to try. The way in which I began to discover nature, myself, was through learning about survival, wild food, tracking, and bushcraft, which led me into the woods. Once you begin to learn about the wild, you really can’t stop. For a year, I went out walking in the mountains every morning, rain or shine. I got to know the surrounding hills and forest like they were my back garden.

Nature is where we come from. It is a part of each and every one of us, but it has been torn from our lives. Not many people connect with nature much any more. Sometimes, it feels to me as if soon, everybody in this generation will be ingroant of the world beyond, and if they don’t share any knowledge of nature with their children, thos kids won’t even know nature exists, beyond this scary, wild place outside. Re-connecting this generation to nature may be one of the most important things humans will ever have to do.

In Ireland, sadly, there aren’t many opportunities to learn about nature connection as there are in other places, so I haven’t met any people my age over here who really love nature.

 

Every year in Scotland there’s a gathering from all over the UK and Ireland of people who love nature in the same way as I do. When I was there, I met eleven other teenagers who were so rooted in the natural world, I was pretty much instantly best friends with all of them. We went off into a journey into the cold, wet, muddy wilderness of Scotland, we hiked through a lot of rain, storms, mud, broken tents, lost shoes, getting lost and not being too happy in general, and still it was the best thing I’ve ever done.
I got to know them so well over that week that at the end we could hardly part, because when you connect with like-minded people, when you go through tough journeys and meet your edges together, it’s the most uniting thing you can do with a group of people. We were guided by four adults who were always with us and sometimes by a man who had pretty much inspired my love of nature a few years before with his incredible skills.

There is so much research supporting the fact that children thrive when they are outdoors. If every child had that chance to explore and learn, to play and connect with others and the wilderness, many childhood troubles might be lessened. All our natural insticts to explore, discover and learn would grow and develop. So why don’t schools support this more?

If schools set aside more time for spending in the wild, so much would change. In this day and age, it is vital that children get to experience this, as otherwise they might never be able to learn whether or not they love nature. Everyone should at least have the chance to see how amazing it is out there, how incredible it feels to build a waterproof shelter from the forest floor, to forage for wild food and make a meal from it, to create a fire from nothing but what’s around you in a forest.
If children and teenagers learned to learn by asking questions and investigating them themselves, as I did, rather than sitting in a room, never asking, never questioning, just being talked at, our childhoods would be a lot more enriched and happy.

Our future depends on this earth. We cannot simply live off this planet any more. We must live with the earth, if we are to survive as a race. Humans have treated the world with such disrespect over the last few hundred years, and if we want our children and grandchildren to survive, the first step we must take is to reconnect with our roots in nature.
We have to go backwards to go forwards, and what better way to learn how important the earth is than by connecting with nature?
Thank you very much for listening, and I hope I have inspired you to think a little differently about the natural world.

A few thoughts on nature…

This morning I went up the hills for the usual hike, and wow. It was so beautiful, you wouldn’t believe. Argh, it was so perfect.
I really want to live in the woods so badly it hurts. It’s like this feeling that just pulls at my heart and soul and it’s just so strong that it is the most deeply embedded thing I have.

Recently I started seeing nature from a whole new perspective. Nearly a spiritual one, I think. I’ve started to feel the earth moving and breathing beneath my feet and I can feel these presences in the trees that just pull me.
I saw a really nice stone this morning. I felt this weird thing… I thought it was that I wanted to sit on it, but I wanted to be it. I wanted to blend with the stone, become the stone.
You already know I’m weird, right?
I feel nearly more comfortable sharing these thoughts with strangers, even though I know that friends and family also look at this blog. Even so it feels less personal… Yet more personal…

Yeah but a few months ago, I had this really powerful experience with a tree. It was part of a nature camp. Basically what we were to do was go out into the woods and find a tree and sit with it for about an hour or so.
I found this beautiful beech. I said hi, and she let me in. She was definitely a she.
So I sat there, and I really connected with this tree. After a while, I was lying among her roots, and I really wanted to sing to her. So I did.
I never forgot that tree. I think it changed me a little. Because, I could feel her presence so strongly that it spoke to me.

A little while ago I started getting this urge to draw spirits, shamans, people on the verge of each world… I don’t really know why. I suppose that sort of thing has always enchanted me, drawn me in. I don’t know, do some people feel that way about their religion? I’ve never been religious, I’d say, but I follow many Buddhist teachings and I do believe in many Buddhist traditions.
Is this what some people would consider a religion? I’m not sure, as it is simply a connection with the earth and spirits, for me.
I don’t really know any more. All I know is that I want to be out there.

I really want to find someone my age whom I can share this feeling with. Nobody I have ever met in Ireland is quite as obsessed as nature as I. In Scotland I met a few… And it was the best time of my life. I just want someone to understand 😦
Personally, I believe that if more teenagers were connected to nature, the world would be a hell of a lot better. I love life. I love being me. I love everything and everyone.
And I think it’s because of nature 🙂

Knocksink Wood

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This place is so incredible, like seriously beautiful. I was there all day today.
To those who know it, you might not think it’s too great. A nice river, some big trees…
Have you ever gone further, though?

We went out foraging, me my parents and our dog. We’d been there before around the same time last year but we had only gone around the main loop. But up a little path up the valley, a whole new world opened up. I’ve never seen so many old, deciduous trees in Ireland before. It was so pretty, and the river was shining blue and argh. It was so perfect. The ground was all mossy and there were mushrooms everywhere.
But enough of me. Here’s some photos.
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Summer!

Well, at last, finally, we have summer.
I am now officially the happiest person in the world.
It has been 19c since last Saturday.
There is not a cloud in the sky.
I have eaten icecream for the last three days for the first time in five years. (I know, I’m mildly lactose intolerant, but seriously, that stuff tastes so good that I can put up with the sore throat. And my intolerance is getting better. Now I sometimes only get a cough for a day)
For the last few days, all I have done is lain in the garden on the hammock and read all day.

Yesterday, I went for a walk early in the morning up Three Rock/Two Rock mountains. This, before I went to school, was my daily marching ground, and so I know the place about as well as my garden. And I know my garden pretty damn well.
It was so beautiful. All the leaves were out and green, the sky was clear, the air was warm, the sea was sparkling…
Here are some photos.
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The sapling

I wrote this a little while ago

I sit down hard on the rock beside the river. I can see the streaks of red in the sky. The sun is setting. I have to get home, or I will be stuck out here all night. That would be too cold. So cold I could die. But I still hold onto the cold earth in the hand.
I really don’t know where to go now.

This morning, I went for a walk. It was a brisk morning, but I still went.
I just wanted to escape from the house, even on such a cold day where nothing stirred. There is still some ground frost left over from the winter, the cold, cold winter where we couldn’t even move the car for a month it was so freezing out.  I suppose that helped in making everything so much more hard inside.
So today, on the warmest day so far this year, I decided to go for a walk.

Beside my house, on the outskirts of the city, up the hill slightly, there is a forest. A large forest where you can sit for a few hours without seeing a soul. That’s the reason I always go there when my mind is full. I always take my knife, just in case

I decided to walk to the river that runs through my forest. On the way, I saw a sapling.
And not an old one, either. It was a fresh new bud, bursting out of the ground in spite of the cold. Maybe the seed had decided that life was short, and so on the fifth of March, even though it still felt like mid winter, it had set out its new sources of life. I could tell that the frost was taking its short life already, as there was already browning on its leaves beneath the slender rim of tiny, sparkling crystals and it was sagging heavily, crumpling away.
So I decided one thing.
I would save this tree’s small, fragile life.
And so I pulled off my gloves and began to dig through the frozen soil with my bare fingers. At first, I made no mark on the solid ground, but after a while, the heat of my fingers warmed it up and it began to scrape away.
While I was digging fruitlessly, I looked upwards, towards the tops of the trees. I saw the sky, blue and chilling, the silhouettes of the bare trees only making it more cold. Sometimes I like winter, because the coldness and the starkness of everything reflects my thoughts and feelings. In the summer it feels too much like the earth is rejoicing without me. But in the winter it sympathizes with me.

My fingers felt roots, and I gently worked around them. I would not want to injure this delicate creature. After much teasing, it came free of the earth. I slowly stood up, my legs sore and knees cold.
I began to walk. I didn’t really care whether or not it was in the direction of home. I never wanted to go back there.
A jay laughed mockingly in the trees around me. It reminded me of the jeering laughs of my classmates, as they made fun of me. Made fun of my messy, worn, too small clothes, my tangled hair, my hollow, dark eyes, my unusual alliance with trees. They hurt me and they knew I would never tell anyone.
Because the teachers didn’t care any more. They didn’t care about me.

Often, I considered leaving. Going to someone, getting help.
I ran away once. I knew he wouldn’t notice. I left for the whole summer, living in the woods out here. I went back every week at night when I knew he would be in the pub.
But when school started again, I went back. Because I knew that if they noticed that I didn’t come in any more, they would send someone out to find me.

I wandered for ages, deeper into the woods. Although I had lived there for so long, I didn’t recognize this place. But I kept going, because I had nowhere else to go.

That’s how I got to be here.
I sit down hard on the rock beside the river. I can see the streaks of red in the sky. The sun is setting. I have to get home, or I will be stuck out here all night. That would be too cold. So cold I could die. But I still hold onto the cold earth in the hand.
I really don’t know where to go now.
I realize that I left my gloves behind when I was digging up my sapling. I try to follow my tracks backwards but I lose them and see that I am going in the wrong direction. So I crumple in exhaustion beside a tree. I try to pull some branches near, to insulate my body.
I place my head to the ground.
A robin sings beside me. I think it can sense my thoughts and feelings, because as I lie there lifelessly, It hops nearer and looks closely at me. It jumps onto the earth in my hands.  The robin’s beady eye twitches as it cocks its head and looks all around. In the fading light I can see the vibrancy of its red breast, so bright and cheerful.
It looks so happy.

I cast my eyes up towards the darkening sky. I can see a star beginning to shine out. The trees rustle in a gentle breeze.
I wait.
And then I sleep.

I awake the next morning to a blanket of snow over my cover of sticks.
I don’t know if I am dead or not. I should be. But I still sit up, and begin to make a shelter for myself. It’s a long process, and so I start early. At least I still have my knife.

By the end of the day I have finished, and I slip inside. I have kept the sapling, and now I plant it carefully inside my shelter, in a place I will not tread on it yet I will be able to keep it warm at night.

The next day, because of my hunger, I find a few edible plants and feed off them. But I know this is not enough long term. But before that, I have to make a fire.
I begin to construct a bow drill, with a long strong stick and my shoelace. I take off my other shoelace too, so that I can make a basic bow later.
After a long while of tiring, painful rubbing, I begin to create smoke from my drill. I drop that into my tinder, and with some gentle coaxing, build up a small fire. I keep it down, so that I can have heat but minimum smoke or flame. Then I begin to carve away at my bow.
After a few days of painful hunger, my bow is finished and I have three arrows, fletched and sharp.

Finally.
It’s just one bird, but it is enough. My first catch.
The skinning and gutting is a nasty business, but when I set the pigeon roasting over my fire, it is worth it. I go down to the river to wash my hands, delirious with hunger.
That was the best meal of my entire life

And now, three years later, probably many miles away, I still live.
Sometimes I wonder if I actually died that day. My life just got so much better after that one time. Since then I have worked hard, but I have not seen another human. I like it that way.
And for the sapling that led me to where I am, it is now a flourishing young tree. I took it with me when I moved two weeks after that fist time I left and planted it here, in this secret, far away place where I don’t think anyone will ever find me.

Some people may wonder how a seventeen year old lives in the forest on her own.
But I’m born for the forest.
I belong here, with the trees.
And I will stay here forever.