Hannah here: This started out as a simple book review with a few photo's from our camping trip this weekend (skip to the end for the review) but it turned into a big old deep and meaningful post, so probably best to grab a cuppa….
When we left London, in October 2013, I wasn’t ‘ready’. I wasn’t ‘done’ with it. We needed to leave for practical purposes- to be nearer family, for a bigger house, to be able to afford the rent and to be nearer the sea. We knew all that. But London still held me firmly in its thrall. It called to me seductively, promising roof top bars and installations; pop up restaurants, street food markets and exhibitions. A call I answered dogmatically, enthusiastically; obsessively.
We put moving house off for over a year during which time I spawned a tiny human and met some dear friends on maternity leave who made me never want to leave. But then a mega house came on the market (and I mean mega- a 15th century, three storey, three bedroom BEAUT of a house for a hundred quid less a month) and that combined with the lull of living nearer family tipped us over the edge and we went for it. We moved to Kent.
We moved, and despite our living-close-to-family joy, I moped; caught a case of the blues. I slowly got into the swing of things, visiting London often. I had just began to feel familiar with the shape of the house and it’s beams, the shape of the town, some of it’s eccentric inhabitants and odd shop opening times, the feel of this new life; a life so very different to the one we had in London; when we were chucked out of our house. Boom. It’s a hotel now. You can stay in our old bedroom for 100 english pounds a night. We were nomads for 3 months; travelling around Europe (5 weeks of bliss in the eye of a storm) followed by stays in friends spare rooms back in the UK. Then we moved house. Again. And although this house is so much more right for us, it sent me into another blues tinged tailspin. Twice in one year! That was in October and by the time January came by I was very pleased to say goodbye to that tumultuous year, teasing with it’s ups, vicious with it’s downs and its overriding sense of unsettledness and unease. A flaky ex sort of year.
I’ve spent the 10 months since slowly adjusting, learning to trust that things will be the same for a while. I've been catching my breath and deepening my relationship with family and new friends. It took a long time to shake off the need to ‘DO Something Substantial with our day, and when you aren’t travelling or moving house or unpacking boxes and when there aren’t any galleries or pop up shops or concept playgrounds on your doorstep, and your only options are the beach or the woods, you pull on your waterproofs and wellies and Go Outside. You traipse around the muddy woods and visit the freezing sea. And I discovered something beautiful and simple and good there.
I learned to be slow. This seemingly simple concept had eluded me through most of my twenties. It was a very hard and very necessary lesson for me, something that took the combination of having a child combined with mother nature herself to teach me. I have finally learned to stop doing so damn much. I have learned to say no to things I would never have dreamed of turning down in the past. I have chosen not to spend my precious time on certain things and people. I have learned to be more present and deliberate and I have learned about the incredible ability of nature and it’s shifting seasons to calm and centre me.
This isn’t an anti London post. I still love London, still love our frequent visits and our friends there. It’s a post that has marked how far I have come in the year and a half since we moved away from London, away from a past Hannah who would cripple up with anxiety at the prospect of a weekend without a raft of exciting plans in place. A person who was too busy to notice the shifting seasons or the quiet pleasures that nature offered. Understanding the benefits of slowness is of course in part about becoming wiser as I’ve got older. But some of it definitely took moving away from London for me to fully grasp.
I’ve mentioned my ‘nature therapy’ a few times, and have been sharing more and more content on this blog which is related to living in tune with Ma’ nature, and grounding myself in her rhythms. I want it for my daughter. I want it for me. I want us to know the oaks and elms, the crocus and the daffodil, the robin and the finch, the first signs of Jack Frost or the ‘flower children’ at spring time. I can’t believe how flippantly I used to crush spiders, moths and slugs, something Frankie lambasts me about frequently “we need to look after all living things mummy” (!) Nature helped to fill an empty space or void, or rather helped me to be ok with an empty space, a tricky London shaped lesson I had to learn.
30 days of Re-wilding
When I saw one of my favourite bloggers, Lulastic, mention a new book, ’30 days of re-wilding’ it gave the process I talk about above a name- I had re-wilded myself! Or at least started too. Her new book, out yesterday, is a month of short readings to help families restore their connection to nature, a concept which makes my heart leap. I was lucky enough to get a review copy which I read in one sitting, enraptured. It’s cleverly designed with busy people in mind, so that you can read one short chapter a day and contemplate some of the simple actions she suggests; camp, walk barefoot where possible, collect treasures in a little basket with kids, create a nature table, go to the woods etc. It’s brilliant and achievable and mostly free; whether you’re living in a yurt in the woods or in the middle of a city.
A couple of my favourite bits: