This is the eve of my thirty seventh birthday. June 21st – the Summer Solstice – is my birthday. Woot!
I am proud to have the privilege to celebrate another revolution of the sun on my days. The number is a little alarming though. Not the number in itself, more the societal perception of it. What it means from the outside. But I suppose that just keeps on happening, with increasing effect, as the years pass.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day, over some particularly strong and buzzy balinese coffee, which was very enjoyable, but got my mind whirring at a million bejillion one hundred miles an hour (my kid taught me to count like that, I had forgotten the skill.)
Anyway, I recalled, during this conversation, how as a child I used to imagine the kind of woman I would one day, hopefully be. It was never about anything concrete or physical, nothing to do with my job or anything like that. I just had a feeling in my heart (of freedom I think, artistic, physical, mental and cosmic) of how I wanted to feel. The me of the then-future, was full and colorful and wise and had traveled and seen a lot. She was fun to be around and the kid-me of back then liked her a lot.
What occurred to me, in this caffeinated sense-high, was that I really think that Younger Me would totally dig Now Me; but that I am a lot younger feeling inside than I thought I would be when I was picturing it all back then. Because this Now-Me is still Me, something that Young-Me couldn’t quite grasp at the time.
I generally try to avoid the term ‘grown up’ in our family. All other animals are either young or adult. So I am simply an ‘adult female’, with no bizarr-o manners and cultural norms attached.
No phoney, hearty laughs over conversations about wine and private schools, or jokes about how feckless we were when…
No mum-bum jeans, as far as I know. I am a mum though, with a not particularly tiny bum, and I don’t have a mirror, so who knows?
In fact, all the things I don’t do that self-professed ‘grown ups’ may or may not do, is as long as it is broad, and pointless and divisive to discuss.
What is important here is that I am most definitely an adult. And an adult who enjoys taking part in most games (for all our guises and chapters and choices and lifestyles are all games, right?) as long as they are not stifling and/or competitive.
I never liked competitive sports, I feel that they bring out the worst in people. Not my cup of tea. And I like tea. Analyze it as you will, but competitive sports make me want to run away to the woods and take my clothes off, pick berries and sing to myself.
I guess I kind of already did that.
I am Jo, and my family and I live in the woods. On the eve of my 37th birthday, I reflect on my journey, which – I hope – has many many great years left to run and run. Because it is brilliant. I love everything about it. Thank God for Life.
I am (almost) 37 years old.
I was born and raised in a small town in the county of Surrey in south east England.
I lived – the first-born child to my two loving and devoted parents – in a small semi-detached house with my one sister and one brother. My parents did end up moving two days before I left to start Uni – 500 metres down the road, to a charming cottage with a stunning garden – but I spent my whole childhood in that one house.
We had no pets, bar a bunny and a goldfish here and there.
I went to the local primary and secondary schools, performed well but was not uber-engaged or enchanted by much, if any, of the curricula, although I did have a few stand-out teachers who influenced me.
I had friends, good friends, but also met with the barbed brushes of bullying and ostracization at times – most notably, during my penultimate and final years of secondary school, aged fifteen or sixteen.
Painful; yet fabulous preparation for life as a wild and wandering renegade – more often than not, an outsider, too far-out to be in
After taking a year out, working in publishing in London and traveling to the French West Indies, I studied French at the University of Liverpool, an institution I was drawn to not for the strength of the faculty (although it is a solid school), but for the partying that the awesome city of Liverpool and her people had to offer. And I wanted to get as far as I could from the stifling obsession with social class that is so pervasive in the south of England. It is as present a part of culture as the tea bag, and it sucks.
So – Liverpool, French, a year teaching English in Guadeloupe (again the French West Indies), graduate with honours and receive some commendation for my ability to respond to literature and pen a note or two.
Shudder at the ‘options’ laid down before me by a society that is morally and economically and emotionally and socially and psychically and physically buggered.
Deliberately buggered that is, in order to serve those it has always served – The Rich.
Always, always, always those too few, who live their lives parasitically off the lifeblood of those they deem to be beneath them: everyone else. And the Earth. Draining, harming, digging up, pillaging, blowing up, polluting, disrespecting, tainting, poisoning, nuking our Earth. And all of this, for their own meager satisfaction, during their own meager lives, based on their own meager intelligence, perceiving nothing but the fact of their own meager selves.
In fact, perhaps this accusation can be extended to all of us to a greater or lesser extent. We are not the serfs of the past, well, large numbers of us are not. Our serfdom has a delicious consumerism and sense of choice to it. These things are so delicious that we do not want to lift the curtain to see the long, grey faces of the demon corporate-folk, banker-wankers and legislators who pull the strings of this cardboard cut-out culture of contentment, crap food, celebrities, culturelessness, forgetting and shame. We are blessed.
We are free to make consumer choices, to drive cars, fly in planes, use electronics, to eat food that is not native to our food-shed or even to our landmass. We are beautiful, animal creatures, governed by the same laws that govern everything else in the natural world. We are part of the circle, and yet we are so removed from our nature that we are able to choose to contest the fact that our disrespect is costing us our Life. We are so ‘privileged’, that we have privileged ourselves with the ability to doom ourselves. What a dangerously absurd situation.
Such a shame that the world has always been dominated by the most stupid and useless people. It would appear obvious that the extent of a person’s power (over others – for it is always about that, right? Power over others), can be measured as an inverse proportion to his humanity.
Hence, the leaders are always twats. Unless they are freedom fighters. In which case they are more often dead.
In fact, I digress so much that I cannot remember where I was or what the point was? What was the point? Oh yes – ME! Me me me!!! Tomorrow is my birthday, hurrah! I was twitting on about my childhood and the like. Shall I continue?
For just a bit more:
Post-grad at the University of London: a teaching qualification and some in-depth study of Education, Literature and Theatre.
After all the study: a mad scramble of leaving the UK for extended bouts of traveling and roaming about our planet; and returning to the UK to gather more dosh from working various jobs and intermittently pretending that I liked them enough to stay and buy a flat and make a go of it in the smoke and climb the career ladder and do all that stuff but not doing it because the concept actually made me miserable.
I worked bars and restaurants and nightclubs, I did freelance editing and writing work for large publishing houses, I was a secondary school Drama and English teacher, and a florist.
I walked and rode trains around Eastern Europe, walking through forests and mountains, crossing the Czech-Polish, Polish-Slovakian, and Hungarian-Croatian borders on foot. I spent a month in a hammock in the woods on a small island on the Dalmatian coast; I travelled extensively around Morocco, lost myself in spices, writing, hashish and Islam; tried moving to Bristol, and Glasgow; visited India, fell in love in Goa (another story); tripped off to Thailand after the news of the tsunami broke, spent a couple of months as part of a clean-up crew on the island of Ko Phi-Phi, traveled around Thailand and Cambodia, moved to the north of Thailand, settled for a while practicing yoga, galavanting, painting and chilling, while living in a wondrous commune in the mountains with some deliciously wonderful people (the place was called Wonderland!); tried living and working on an organic farm, left sharpish when I found out the guy was ‘farming’ as a cover story for growing weed (a crime for which the punishment du jour was shooting on sight); moved to Bangkok, lived in abject poverty awhile, was hospitalized with kidney disease, lived in a wooden stilt-house on teensy island in the Chao Phaya river, taught English, worked with a physical theatre company, got back on my feet; split my time between the city (weekends for work) and the islands (weekdays for chill); enjoyed earning what represented some serious dollar for the region (most jammy job ever).
Left Thailand for the United States to pursue artistic training at Double Edge Theatre in Western Massachussetts. Met my husband, a wild-haired, blue-eyed, strong, kind, creative genius, an adventurer, a lunatic, and the sanest person you’ll ever meet.
Got married in Topanga Canyon outside LA, on a mountain-top, by a street-fighting teacher, witnessed by a woman who gave us free Jade plants from a free ad on Craigslist. (She was the only person we had met – have you tried to make friends in LA? I mean, seriously!!)
Moved to NM.
Started the whole farm/homesteading period of life.
Moved five times in almost seven years.
Started a touring band – Silvermouse.
Made two kids and collected a shed-ton of animals.
Moved to the Caribbean.
Cut to present.
Eve of my birthday (said it again), everything to be grateful for. Camp evolves and changes as it grows and we root deeper.
Tomorrow is the solstice and, fittingly, this week has been all about the sun, one way or another.
First, arrived our Soul Pad – ‘sol’, geddit? It’s a well-put together, ethically produced canvas masterpiece. A cross between a scout trip, a circus tent, a healing space and a Bedouin traveling home. We sleep soundly and long, breezes sweeping across us from the ground level windows and through the large door. We sprawl out on our ridiculously spacious imperial bed. We feel great.
To get up to the Soul Pad, which is erected (fernarr fernarr) on top of a large 16×16 foot platform, we built a set of steps with a large front stoop. We built this entirely from pallets, harvested from one of the local supermarkets – 16 in total. The deck/stoop part is two pallets wide and each of the three steps is two pallets deep. We put an old carpet on the top step so there are no gaps for little feet to get stuck in, or for toys and whatnot to fall through. The steps are covered with that spongey, puzzle tiling stuff for kids, with numbers on; a gift from the headlamp donor of yore, since departed from the island and moved on to new beginnings in the Pacific northwest.
Our old tent is now in a new part of camp, a wooded area now referred to as ‘Play Camp’. We harvested a double slide, platform and ladder (for a treehouse) from the dump, after the former municipal (and perfectly awesome) playground was dismantled and trashed, for reasons unclear and/or unknown. Still, we scored.
Then came our sun oven. The ability to bake bread and cakes, make stews, roast meat and dehydrate fruit and veg using nothing but sustainable materials and the heat of the sun. It arrived today, so will be christened tomorrow with a fresh loaf and a birthday cake. Huzzah!
Lastly, our solar system is now complete.
This means that we are freeing ourselves from our dependence on the mains electricity at the house, to charge phones and laptops (the solar mini-laptop charger is pants, it takes about three days in full sun to reach full charge: fine for phones, completely useless for daily laptop work purposes).
We will be able to run a fan as the weather heats up from the bearable hot as anything of the current time, to the less bearable hot as hell that is to come.
It also means that our music rehearsals can resume full throttle and our new project, Earthadelik, can grow the roots and wings she needs – yeehaw! [If you want to check out our music so far, take a look at our Silvermousepage.]
We still rely on the house for refrigeration and the freezing of our cold packs. This will change as we expand our solar set-up and buy a fridge. All in good time, all in good time.
So, sunshine, thank you for shining for so long on the day of my birth. Thank you for cooking our food and for providing us with electricity. Thank you for shining on the watermelons that are growing and the greens, the tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers (until the latter were devoured overnight by those pesky green worms that so love to eat everything on this island).
Thank you, Life, for providing me and my loved ones with so much, and with each other.
And thank you, Young Me, for having the bollocks to buck convention, follow your heart, and follow the wind when it blew like it was meant for me.
It blew me to the free-est, most wonderful, grounded, earthen, humbling, satisfying, rich, adventurous, rhythmic, harmonious, and blessed experience I could have imagined.
Viva la revolucion! Ella es bella.