To my considerable excitement, I stumbled across Cornwalls’s largest freshwater lake on my explorations last weekend not very far from the delightful small coastal town of Porthleven – Loe Pool! Nobody had told me about it, but having been born by the largest European freshwater lake – Lake Constance – it enhanced my increasing sense of rootedness and belonging here in this marginal coastal region, which I very much feel, for whatever mysterious reason.
I will walk around and about it during my forthcoming solitary retreat over Christmas and the New Year. I’ll be staying in a local buddhist friend’s chalet within walking distance of Prussia Cove for two weeks – I’m really glad to have got it together to book that, as it gives me a focal point to look towards, in the midst of much current flux and confusion. When not out walking and communing with the sea and the lake, I’ll be immersing myself in Dogen’s Shobogenzo, and try to reconnect with a deeper level of meditation practice. I seem to have lost my momentum with meditation just now, at least when practicing alone. However, when participating in or leading communal sits, I tend to plunge effortlessly into quite a deep stillness, which is interesting, and very much the opposite of my previous experience. Maybe it’s related to my longing for finding a communal living context again, or even living and working together in a simple and coherent way … which I can’t help thinking would make it easier and more likely to achieve greater depth and quality.
At the moment, I feel that I’m floundering about in the shallows too much – doing lots of interesting things, but in quite a fragmented and disconnected way still, as I am circling around my new base, not quite landed yet … though my small quirky flat is continuing to be a most beautiful temporary perch. I feel really in tune with the restless seagulls and jackdaws roaming around on the surrounding jumble of rooves and windowsills, always searching for something, never feeling quite settled and content. And with the unpredictable autumn wind. I’m actually welcoming the descent into the darker half of the year this time, as it seems to be in line with both inner and outer reality, and is inviting a much needed slowing down and turning inwards towards reflection. I’m curled up cosily on my sofa today with the new ‘Dark Mountain’ book which has just come through the post, looking out on horizontal gusts of blustery rain over the ocean. It’s like being in a tall ship, relatively protected from those wild elements, although a fair bit of draughty air does find its way through the ancient sash windows – definitely not passive house standards here. I quite like that though, not to be completely cut off from the wild elements but just roughly, provisionally sheltered, and constantly reminded of nature’s power.
It’s been a disillusioning month, during which it has become clear that the Quaker Eco Village project does not match what I’m looking for enough to go with it. But I learnt a lot in these last few months of pursuing it, and both what I do and don’t want to move towards is gradually becoming clearer through all these valuable researches and conversations. I’m now beginning to realise that two steps might be necessary, or maybe there will be two parts of a connected, scaled down vision: an easily accessible small town base to live and work in and invite others to – possibly including the option of communal living on a tiny scale over time – and a retreat hut in the wilderness, which I’m still hoping will be built from scratch from reclaimed and recycled materials. So for now, I’m looking at affordable flats or houses with a sizeable garden, either in or around Penzance – and the field turns out to be quite interesting and potentially viable. I’m trying not to get too excited yet, as many unknown and as yet unknowable factors abound – but turning away from someone else’s overwhelmingly ambitious vision to something much smaller and more modest feels like a huge relief. Somewhere to mark the full moon and the seasons, to grow a few things and create a warm and welcoming space to be in and to share with others, one to one and in deliberately small and intimate groupings – my heart says yes to that! This is what Paul Kingsnorth suggests in his recent paper ‘A storm blown in from paradise’:
What we need to do collectively is to let go of our human hubris and reconnect fully with our habitat which gives us life, which is the stuff we live in and through and can’t do without…but will we be able to recognise that? I listened to a fascinating interview with David Abrams the other day, in which he wonders whether our addiction to technology and virtual connection is based in our desperately longing to be immersed and embedded in something larger than ourselves again, but tragically looking for it in entirely the wrong sphere – it’s the biosphere where we will rediscover aliveness, whereas ‘the internet of things’ just deadens us and cuts us off from the living world and from each other more and more. But we’re already so far gone into the matrix that we don’t notice that any longer and don’t want to hear it, and instead wrap and trap ourselves and each other in 5g technology – heaven help us. My hut in the wilderness will be an entirely signal-free oasis, maybe somewhere on the Lizard Peninsula…*Song title from the German punk band ‘Einstuerzende Neubauten’ (‘Collapsing New Builds’); german philosopher Heidegger’s untranslatable word ‘Befindlichkeit’ means both the whereabouts and the mood of a place, person or situation.