So now I am sitting in my van in far north on the roots of Slioch — mountain amongst other mountains, rivers and lochs known as the great wilderness in Scotland. Hot-water bottle under my jumper is burning/warming/enabling me so I can sit still in the cold and write…I’ve never been so far north before nor spent this much time in solitude…as a mother of 6 I’ve had different kinds of adventures — ones that travelled deep and around rather than far and away. So I am in my own great wilderness now, and am noticing how I instinctively seek little homes in all the places I wander, camp or park up…look for forage, fire tinder, good water, shelter and sanctuary amongst the bog myrtle and heather; feel for a welcome in fungied smell of composting leaves and quiet lapping of the lochs…this simple van I travel with is absorbing the place as placeabsorbs us — Place’s mud on the rugs, brown water from river in the kettle , sweet scent of old pines above van coming in through open door… you people i imagine reading this are a little home in my great wilderness I realise as I write.
I am never alone — I am in conversation with…everything…seal, choughs, bracken, my kettle, heather and feathers tucked in a crack in the ceiling lining of the van… Far more interestingly, they speak with me… I’m on a wavery edge most of the time — in towns and at petrol stations where standard human intercourse occurs, that world feels thin, unsubstantial, more muted than the life pushing in around me…it’s like being mad — I had psychosis in my early 20’s and i recall that sense of having taken a big step back from the everyday world into…somewhere else …and the consensus reality we call normal seemed strange and dreamlike.
Luckily, when I had psychosis, I didn’t get medicated. I was taken instead by a wise and rooted friend to live in a wild place on an estuary in the mountains of North Wales. There I wept and wandered and fell into the green lap of a mother I didn’t know I had til the soul sickness broke me open.(…talk about a game changer…)
What a gift it seems now to have come to know a way of seeing the world from another world, and not be sectioned. That threshold has never fully closed since then, though I’ve found ways to operate well in the “day world” — amusingly being many things that demand a firm commitment to the prevailing cultural idea of sanity and solid respectability — an NHS counsellor, landscape architect, foster parent and organic vegetable farmer. Questions about lostness are with me — Can you actually be lost/ found if everywhere is a new frontier, never before seen /felt/ heard/ sensed?
The way it is on this threshold now is different from that madness, in my 20’s. Then I found the day world to be something to fear, something bad, and drew back from it…now I find myself feeling as much curiosity and love for it as I do the “night-world” over the threshold…the day-world is where my family/ loved ones are after all, and also a piece of land that has rewilded me as I’ve held the boundaries so it can rewild itself for 21 years — yet this world where rocks clear their throats and bilberries catch my attention for a mutual sharing of the alongsideness of the moment feels more like real home. I am done over by astonishment at that every day.