Sassenach Swallow

Migration notes from North to South and…….

Call to the Wild

Summer was like your house; you knew
Where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
As onto a vast plain. Now
The immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
Sucks the the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
Ripened until it is real,
So that he who began it all
Can feel you when he reaches for you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Elderflowers jostle in clotted cream clumps. Every hedgerow and field border are thick with them.

Not only is the sun shining but the air is warm here now and beguiles me with the ease it offers; inside is outside and outside is inside and habitually layered garments now lie abandoned on chair backs and fence posts.

I feel positively guilty at the pleasure of it when I think of my beloved homeland, north of the border still battered by the bleaching north winds that used to tear at my lungs, crisp, clean and delicious.

Not withstanding that, summer is summer and for the first time in years shorts and summer dresses have been dragged from bags under the bed. The Small Hound seeks shade and bowls of water are offered everywhere for dogs.

Rarely is there a brisk blue sky. Mottled clouds span the horizons and the southern haze contains the warmth close to the land. The puddles are cracking and my beans look very sick in their pots. I am not accustomed to container gardening and feel lost for a solution….

Last weekend I was on Dartmoor. The landscape there is very jaunty; it bounces along, up and down, in and out with each ‘up’ offering extraordinary glimpses of deep valleys, dairy cows grazing knee deep and startlingly bright trees. The memory of Postman Pat in his little red van is clear in my head as I head down to Moor Barton and the Call to the Wild camp.

Turning off the road and down the track into shady woodland I am surprised that dartmoor is not all moorland as I had expected. ‘One thing I wont be able to cope with is midges’ I announce to my companions’. The first person we meet is literally covered in midge bites…..and proceeds to attract every tick around. The other nineteen of us however remain almost unscathed! Phew!

The weekend proceeds in a relaxed way, so relaxed that it is easy to underestimate how much we are learning. Wild food appears in tantalising dishes, loads of it, new tasks are mastered and no one bats an eyelid at crawling from their sleeping bag at 3.30 am to hear the dawn chorus,heralded by a solitary Robin ( the Redstart slept in!). This must be because the Night Jars were spellbinding last night as they swept the trees like over fed bats.

By Monday, porridge for twenty cooked over an open fire is a breeze; who needs matches?!

I am unexpectedly part of a ‘village’ community (as advocated by Stephen Jenkinson in his magnificent book Die Wise); a new experience. All ages, all backgrounds and cultures working and learning together, close to the earth. We are as close as brothers and this is only weekend two. Four more to go. With Bill Plotkin’s book Soul Craft as my constant I feel privileged and amazed to be here at this time, this timely time of creating new paradigms for being alive and ageing without regrets.

‘our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world’s hunger meet’ Frederich Buchner

Our farewells are warm and heartfelt. The outside world is calling so we scatter to trains and buses and unanimously wait with impatience for our next gathering.


“You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
Except the one in which you belong.”
― David Whyte


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