Well, now that the last firework has fizzled out, the hangovers have dissipated and the new year's resolutions have already begun to crumble for most people, we find ourselves looking down the long cold barrel of 2015. Let it be said, 2014 wasn't the best of years, unless you were a hedge fund manager, a member of ISIS or a Satanist, but on the whole it wasn't markedly different from 2013 or 2012. We still find ourselves desperately trying to stay afloat in the kayak of sanity on the white water rapids of media misinformation, bare-faced propaganda and other forms of cultural hysteria.
I mention kayaks because I've got them on the mind at present having recently picked up a bargain sea kayak from someone who bought it, tried it and didn't like it. It has holders for fishing rods in the back so I can head out into the bay and line-catch mackerel and, if I'm lucky, sea bass. This is just one manifestation of why, for me, 2014 was actually quite a good year. Because despite spending most of the year in a state of penury and having to endure calls from well-meaning but misguided relatives to 'get off my backside and find a job' I find that I actually achieved rather a lot — far more than I would have done had I been sitting next to a potted plant in an office and fiddling with a spreadsheet. A quick rundown of the highlights would include:
- Planting some 300 trees in my woodland and making some good inroads in turning a compacted and barren field into the early stages of a forest garden. I completed digging the pond by hand (it only took a year) and it is now lined and filled and ready to start receiving organisms.
- Digging out the basement of our house (also by hand). About 100 trailer-loads of soil was removed and transported to the woodland where I used it to build a level base for the poly tunnel that will be going up in the spring, gods willing.
- A plethora of small-scale experiments with growing, catching and preserving food was carried out. Cabbage was fermented, wine was brewed, cider was put in oak barrels, mushrooms were grown in coffee grounds, squirrels were shot and cooked in red wine, chestnuts were foraged and medicinal herbs were learned about and planted. Furthermore, we now get a weekly box of vegetables delivered from the local community organic farm, allowing us to move one step further away from the big box supermarkets.
- Chickens were hatched out of eggs in our incubator and are now roaming around in the basement. A coop has been purchased and will be put up in the back yard as soon as the chicks are big enough to live outdoors. Having adopted a more-or-less paleo diet for health reasons, we get through a lot of eggs so having a few chooks roaming around in the back yard is just what we need.
- I wangled a free trip to Denmark and Sweden courtesy of the MIL and spent two weeks roaming around in the wild by myself in Thoreauesque contemplation.
- As a direct result of said trip I have almost finished writing a book which uses that journey as a narrative framework to explore ideas surrounding the psychology of the long descent, with a special emphasis on experiential nature knowledge and the ideas of the Stoics. I ate hallucinogenics, got thrown out of a shopping mall, met a caterpillar and swam in a sacred lake. I've shown it to a couple of people and they have said positive things about it such as "It's completely uncategorisable". Expect to see it soon in ebook format and then in other formats soon after if I can raise enough funds.
- Also in writing, I saw my article on genocide in Laos published by Dmitry Orlov in his book Communities that Abide, and had a work of speculative fiction selected by John Michael Greer for the forthcoming book After Oil 3: The Years of Rebirth (in fact After Oil 2: The Years of Crisis has just hit the shelves).
- I attended the first meeting of the nascent Cornish Coppice Federation (the CCF — yes, I know. The organiser conceded "Every time a new acronym is coined in the field of forestry, somewhere, a wood elf dies.") The aim of this group is to create a network of small scale coppice workers across Cornwall to help revive this old and sustainable craft. As a result I have learned to make charcoal and have an order for 100 bags of it in 2015. It's a start.
- I discovered an ancient bronze age settlement partly straddling my land. Archaeologists came and looked at it and congratulated me on my discovery.
- I got to meet some inspirational people. Most of them were just regular folks doing their thing but being amazing about it. Ones you might have heard of are John Michael Greer, whom I cornered for a couple of beers in Glastonbury one evening after a Druid celebration. And just a couple of weeks ago I was invited to a lunch with Natalie Bennet, the leader of the UK Green Party, who turns out to be very down-to-earth and not like a politician at all. Of nuclear power station she said "Let's just forget about whether people are for or against them, the truth is we simply can't afford them." Refreshing honesty.
So, purely from a creative and resilience perspective, 2014 was not a bad year for me. I continued to build my library of useful books, purchased a few more quality tools for maintaining my land and developing my crafts, and also gained greater depth of insight into what we might call the spiritual matters which I see as increasingly important to facing up to the present and future as the narrative of eternal scientific progress picks up speed in its unravelling.
And what applies to me applies to other too. One notices — and I'm generalising here — looking at the threads below articles in the collapse sphere, that reflections on 2014 tend to be maudlin and gloomy with the exception of people who have actually broken out of the mind prison, hot-tailed it out of Dodge and are building things up for themselves in the teeth of the prevailing system. For it has come to pass that even the simple act of growing a chilli pepper plant on your kitchen window is an act of defiance and a step in the right direction towards the kind of freedom that has been expunged from the over-developed, over-regulated and over-manipulated countries of the world.
I have to sadly contrast such acts of defiance with what is continuing to unfold here in Britain, where food banks are becoming commonplace, children are going to school with empty stomachs (or stomachs full of Red Bull because parents seem to be under the impression that it is nutritional) and a general feeling of bitterness has seeped into the public discourse. The mainstream media doesn't get it — all they can do is harp on about how great the growth is, not realising that it's a growth in debt as the real economy shrivels up like a banana skin left on a sunny windowsill. No doubt about it, there's plenty to be angry about. Fracking, underground coal gasification, the politico-banker vampire squid class, TTIP, a warmongering EU, road building, people getting their heads sawn off ... the list goes on.
And there's a rising anger too. Perhaps it's all the debt or all the crass media screaming about immigrants. Or maybe it's the creepy feeling that the good times are over which crawls around in the fetid basement of the collective psyche like a greasy rat gnawing on the electrical cables that light up the house. Maybe it's all the war propaganda, the empty promises of the scientific progressive narrative and the unspoken fear that everything could be taken away in an instant. I see and hear the anger everywhere. It's in the people bawling obscenities at each other in the alley that runs beside my house, it's in the white-knuckle drivers who overtake me on blind corners because I'm sticking to the speed limit and it's in the fingertips of the bedroom trolls who prowl the internet seeking to pour invective and hatred on anyone who stands out.
All in all it's not a pretty situation when one looks at the broader view. 2015 looks set to see the thermostat cranked up a few more degrees in the Dante's inferno of modern rage. I'm not a great one for predictions but knowledgeable people I know have said that various planets are aligned and the tealeaves don't look good. The plunge in the price of oil signals something momentous stirring. Whether or not the rickety financial structure on which the US fracking boom has been built can continue to support both the weight of a loss-making industry and the dreams and delusions of a nation remains to be seen. But if and when it comes crashing down it'll be one for the history books. The situation isn't that much different here in the UK where it has been revealed that 70% of North Sea oil projects are unprofitable and in danger of collapse. I made a prediction three years back that we would see some form of energy rationing in the UK before the end of 2016 and I am still happy to stick to that. Meanwhile the delusion-making spin machine churns faster and faster, spitting out dreams of colonies on Mars, bubble cities at the bottom of the ocean, fusion reactors in our iPhones. Otherwise intelligent people still send me links to articles that say we can have sleek cars that run off nothing but air, and that a global conspiracy is stopping us from harvesting the infinite energy the exists, er, somewhere just behind our left ear.
So, in 2015, gods willing, I'm hoping to build on 2014. My new year resolutions include taking up smoking and experimenting with drugs. Yes, I've bought a nicely-carved briar root wood pipe which, when packed with rich cherry tobacco, provides moments of relaxed contemplation as I'm working in the woods. As for the drugs, I am experimenting with growing a range of medicinal mushrooms in felled logs. Having read the work of fungal pioneer Paul Stamets I've become a believer in the idea that there is a lot of knowledge and wisdom that's been lost in this world and that we have our work cut out to try and rediscover it — and that mushrooms can help us on that quest. Thus I'll be quite scientific about it, making notes and observations.
This slacker shall continue to work every day in 2015. For me, my life has become entwined with and inseparable from my work. In a good way. I hope to get bees this year, and I'm sure there will be a lot of learning to do. What with writing, producing charcoal, cultivating mushrooms, nurturing Fox Wood and growing food, I have to remember to leave time for the other good things in life, such as walking on the beach, cooking, swimming, reading, listening to music, and now, kayaking. I do all of these enjoyable things with my kids too. I don't see why they shouldn't grow up learning that the more enjoyable things in life are usually free.
So, to anyone reading this, I hope 2015 will be a good year for you, that you will grow wiser and more resilient, that you will continue to move in the right direction away from the unfolding train wreck of our modern world, that good health keeps your cheeks rosy, that you don't take yourself too seriously and that you continue to keep your balance as you navigate your kayak down the creek of chaos and avoid ending up it without a paddle.