I like a sense of community, and a harmonic togetherness of people. In fact, I believe that harmonic togetherness is exactly what will save our fair species and our fair planet. But, sometimes (often!) I find being around lots of other people can be wearying and depleting, particularly when there is discord, low intentions or harsher energies. The forest is the home of my soul; there is no place on Earth that gives me a sense of peace and vibrancy the way being surrounded by trees does. It is much easier to be around trees!
I love any stories about the forest and, let’s face it, in stories the forest is where the magic happens. The forest has remained a predominant presence in our human psyche, whether as something loved or feared, since our days of dwelling within the vast swathes of trees that existed across the land. It was a place of wolves and beasts, hidden castles, witches, bandits, and other unseemly things. It was also a place of beauty, awe, nourishment, faeries, excitement, freedom and adventure. It could be unforgiving or nurturing. And so, the forest is as apt a metaphor for life as I have ever come across! (Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland is a fascinating read if you are interested in our ancient connection to the forests)
The comparative lack of big stretches of forests these days is lamentable. Our life of modern conveniences is something to be incredibly grateful for, and I am aware that the practicalities of living like an ancient forest dweller wouldn’t always be so exhilarating to those of us who have grown up with flushing toilets, tap water and comfortable mattresses. But, if someone were to offer me a Briar Rose cottage in a sunny glen somewhere deep in a forest I would be very tempted (dwarves optional. And yes, I’m mixing my fairy tale metaphors I know!).
I think this is why the stories of Robin Hood appeal to me so much: to be able to retreat and immerse oneself so fully in the forest that you could, if desired, disappear and appear in society at will is an exciting and liberating notion for me. In Britain, there are very few (if any) tracts of forest left in which you could disappear for years on end. I love the idea of the noble outlaw fighting corruption and injustice, but it is the forest-dwelling aspect that fascinates me most about the hooded archer. Ah, to disappear into a realm of magic and imagination (one that is not just solely in my mind!)… Sometimes, whilst walking in my local woods I can almost pretend it is just me, the trees and the forest critters for miles around. Until a dog walker appears, that is.
As cramped as a forest may be with flora, it is still the only place with enough space for me to be me.
My recent obsession (possibly borne from my childhood obsession with fairy tales like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) is tiny houses. If you read my recent post on The Wisdom of the Shire, you’ll already know I adore hobbit houses built into the side of a hill. Tiny houses are like our modern day equivalent of hobbit houses and fairy tale cottages. Often they are ecologically and ethically sustainable, full of charm and evocative of a simple life. Admittedly, limiting my book collection to fit into one of these tiny homes would be challenging (err, nigh on impossible) but the otherwise non-materialistic and environmentally friendly ethos of the tiny house concept sits well with me.
The tiny house movement is gaining traction, and for good reason: they are cheaper to build and sustain, for one. Imagine being free of a hefty mortgage with money to spend on other things like adventure! Here are a few of my favourites so far:
So you can see more about them, the articles about these respective houses are as follows:
And this one by Simon Dale is just too beautiful, adorable, hobbity and good to be true, but it is actually real! –
See how he built it here: http://www.beingsomewhere.net/hobbit.htm
This isn’t living in a wattle-and-daub hut with a soggy straw roof and a family of rats for company (though, if fairy tale rats they would be nice and friendly, of course). This is simple-living with charm, style and a little bit of fairy tale magic! That’s what really appeals to me: the imaginative, artistic and financial freedom. I’ll be honest, living in a tiny house isn’t feasible for most (not yet, anyway), but there are aspects of the tiny house lifestyle that we can all incorporate. Reuse, upcycle, declutter!
These tiny houses are like a half-way point between reality, story, modernity and imagination. You can live in a tiny house in the woods with running water and a flushing toilet, if you so choose. Close the door of your little cabin on a night and you’re tucked away amongst the trees, the stars shining undisguised by street lights, and then in the morning you can rejoin the world. Or, you can continue to pretend you are one of the Merry Men (which is what I do).