“Many take the path well-worn, but they are only given a half-lived life. To those willing to brave the unknown path, the dark thicket, a remembering of love, magic, and purpose returns. There is a wild woman under our skin who wants nothing more than to dance until her feet are sore, sing her beautiful grief into the rafters, and offer the bottomless cup of her creativity as a way of life.” Toko-pa Turner in her book, Belonging
We’ve been living on our land for two years and have faced many challenges in our journey to the present day. Perhaps the most significant and unavoidable challenge we’ve overcome is access to land. Be it sharing, leasing, owning, squatting or otherwise we all need access to space. Our dreams needed a Place for us to create a safe space for us to unfold, build a homestead, establish an edible food forest, foster biodiversity and birth a center for Earth connection to inspire and educate others. And so began the search.
From an old Native American elder story rendered into modern English by David Wagoner,
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you Are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still.
The forest knows Where you are.
You must let it find you.
(From The Heart Aroused - Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte)
We had stood still. We had heard that calling... It was time to find land...
My Grandfather (Buppa) summed life up pretty well. He told me that all one needs to live a fulfilled life is to find your Purpose, Person and Place.
We are all such unique beings and all have different aspirations. This is what makes the world such a great place. What my Buppa was telling me was that I needed to find out what I was here on Earth to do, where to do it and with whom. Once I met Wren and we saw our Purposes were deeply aligned, all that was lacking was a Place.
Access to land may be one the biggest limiting factors for humans to express their uniqueness and live a vibrant and autonomous life.
As Suzanne and Erik say of their homestead dreams in North Chatham, NY,
“Being in-tune with nature and feeling like a part of the landscape is important to us. We wanted to have a sense of place where we would know all the plants and animals and could explore the land, as well as care for it.”
Even before we met in late 2012, we both had a pulsing and all-encompassing need to find a place to call home, build relations with the land and live out our dreams. The ideas and visions come fairly easily, but the nitty gritty of where to manifest them proved much greater challenge.
After returning from a 4 month sojourn in Peru, we were inspired to wait no longer before finding home. Check out the story of how a potato called compass helped us arrive at this decision. We were itching to start our life on the land, hungry for the opportunities that land access affords. We couldn’t wait. Landing in Chicago in mid February was a shock, culturally more so than climatically. From there we were set to begin the quest for land.
We were filled with umpteen ideas and possibilities, but where to begin? Luckily we didn’t have children, debts, mortgages or anything besides family tying us to any one place (not to say one can’t do this with those things though). The real limiting factor was the hurdle of legal residency; I am Canadian and Wren is a citizen of the USA. Whether we ideologically agree with these borders, laws and distinctions (which we don’t by the way), we didn’t want to live outside the law. Visiting and traveling without fear of deportation is important to us. That’s a whole ‘nother story…
We brainstormed, envisioned, researched, inquired and generally focused our full attention on it. Wren’s parents were extremely generous is letting us stay with them in Indiana. This allowed us rest, regroup and research before setting off. I finished my Sprouting Book and Wren scoured the internet for possible places with affordable, yet rich land. We had some income from goods we brought back and pedaled and didn’t have nagging responsibilities, but didn’t even know where to look. We knew our dreams relied heavily on perennial food production and didn’t want to navigate the extreme cold of my homeland, so we began narrowing the search.
This was a difficult time emotionally. We had both been living as travelers, moving or staying as we saw fit, changing scenery as easily as clothing. But now that the seeds of homing were germinating, it was bringing up a host of hurdles, anxieties, fears and uncertainties.
We felt the pain of yearning for a life that we weren’t living, and knew we had to step off the edge.
We were physically taken care of, but on a spiritual level, we hungered for something else. We needed to live out OUR life. We thought, talked and read endlessly about it during our stay in Indiana. The urge was so strong that even before we knew where we were headed, Wren stared a hundred tulsi plants, catalyzing the departure. At some point we decided to get on with it, collect our things and drive to North Carolina.
We packed our VW Jetta to the gills with our camping gear, clothing, merchandise, a hundred or so tulsi seedlings and even used cooking oil we used for fuel (our Jetta can run on veggie oil). We headed off to North Carolina following an inner beacon leading the way. We hoped that we would find what we were looking for.
Leaving her parents’ house was a big step, as it represented the first leg of our journey. We were filled with incredible excitement and optimism alongside the vulnerability and even trepidation that greets those who are willing to journey into the unknown.
By Toni Demuro
Here’s a few words Wren wrote the day we left that capture some of the emotions we were experiencing.
"the early mornings in the jungle. so much life. a back-beat buzz, chirps, noises from who-knows… this energy is recalled this sunny morning, indiana. the crickets’ zipping symphony rings in the morning heat. and it feel as though i am on the edge of a new world.
the sun is a god, burning, and we are the post-petulant journeyers of the light. the world’s game is a facade. industrial buildings still being built while their late ancestors lay stricken across the street. many still believe in the puppet’s predictions on the tele-vision. yet many towns filled with earnest, good-hearted, hard-working folks, have already suffered the collapse of the post-industrial leave-behind. there the people know within in their gnawing tongues that grocery stores- fueled & filled by the petro-industry- are an illusion. that the whole facade of the grand triumph of western civilization is a farce and that, all along, it was a hair away … from total collapse. once the fake-paper-bills leave… and people find that there was really nothing in their bank accounts all along … that is when the gnawing starts.
but this story isn’t focusing on that side of the post-industrial collapse. this story happens way before the mass of the world sees through the facade of the unstable illusion of western civilization’s laughable triumph of personal or collective “security”. this story, as i said, is about the post-petulant pilgrims who heard the call & saw through the illusion before the emergency struck, before the industries totally collapsed, before there was no food in the grocery stores because the petro-industry couldn’t deliver. before the water & air was totally polluted beyond repair.
the crickets’ melodious symphony plays this morning as we set off, in the gaze of the great sun. there is an eerie feeling in the air, similar to the feeling of the jungle, the great-life-chamber of the universe. civilizations may collapse, but the post-petulant pilgrims set off, awakened, present, and skillfully armed with homesteading repertoire.
on the edge of a new civilization. we have drank of the grandmother juice in the jungle and we have seen the galaxies. we are present & aware on this earth. we know the power of beauty, of truth and of love. it is in this and with dreams of greenhouses, straw bales & rainwater barrels that we alight on our journey."
We traveled like never before, together in a car seeking home. We visited places, looked up realty listing at public libraries and connected with folks online. Sleeping in campgrounds and talking with people as we met them, we continued our quest, guided by intuition. Whenever we could, we’d take a load off, rest a few days and give the tulsi plants some fresh time.
(Tulsi in its eventual home)
Sometimes we’d made a sale on Etsy where we listed our goods form Peru and other crafted and upcycled items. Inevitably there would come a time when we were run down, tired and hungry when I’d have to get into the middle of the car, unloading all our things to retrieve an item that sold for $30. These were the times I felt like giving up. The moments when I wondered if we were just crazy.
For those of you who have ever been days without a shower, spend hours on the road, been hangry and tired and fed up with everything you may know a little of what we went through.
But persevere we did. We met some really cool people along the way, went to enlivening gatherings and saw Rising Appalachia live for the first time at a small intimate gathering. Our first major lead after realizing that most land is really expensive in NC was through the North Carolina Farm link program. The objective of this organization is to connect potential farmers with established farmers and land owners in hopes of fostering collaborations and offering access to land where it otherwise may not be possible.
We set up a meeting in Asheville with an agent who talked over our situation with us and began looking into possibilities that could grant us access to land. A few days after the interview, we heard back from her and she said she had found a potential solution to our lack of land access. We were intrigued.
We drove out to a property with the agent that had been put into land trust and was stewarded by a 74 year old woman who had lived there on her own for over 25 years. She didn’t have any grey hairs and made a living from apples, blueberries and other homestead goods.
The property was up a mile long road, 4WD access only. Nestled among mature hardwoods abutting a huge tract of National forest and replete with fresh mountain spring water. We arrived inspired and open to the possibilities of sharing land and seeing what dreams could unfold.
As Wren wrote the day we arrived,
"we are driving a boat fast and suddenly the boat comes to a complete stop & all the dreams gathered in the hull slosh around, hitting us in the ankles. it is wet obviously and hot, although parts of the boat are covered in shade and it is there obviously that we rest & look around at the islands surrounding us. where are we? and what made us stop? are we stuck in mud? have we hit some new thing or have we stumbled on something very very old? so old, in fact, that people have forgotten that it exists? so old that there is this old, gnarly possibility before us, mostly forgotten; a way of living, in fact. a way so old & so forgotten & covered up with faucets & sinks & heating registers that people don’t look for it anymore.
but there is the purest water here. and shade & the origins of all things. and we are here. alive."
To be continued….
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