Thanks to the presence of family and community, for the last 5 years Lars, Carsten and I have been able to take a 2-3 week break from the obligations that living on a farm puts on us every single day that we are here. Traditionally we do this in August-September, after the hay is in and before we the fall harvest, a moment mid-way through our farming season when we find that we are quite exhausted. Before the pandemic, we would enter into a process of looking at possibilities and feeling into what we were willing to use in terms of resources and why. The ‘why’ piece of this equation was always quite clear: that Lars is unable to take a break and give his body the rest that he needs while being here on the farm as, more than any of us, he remains “on call” for.…everything and everyone all the time!
This year, as we were looking at possibilities, it became clear that, given the situation with covid, crossing any national borders would put us beyond our capacity both in terms of resources and logistics. So we again turned our attention to places within Romania that we would like to visit. Already last year we had taken a car-camping trip to Bucovina and visited a region there we had been wishing to see for almost a decade. However, car-camping becomes less do-able for us every year not only because of our (ever growing) discomfort in using petroleum to power ourselves about, but because our car seems to be growing smaller as one of us is growing bigger…
When we lit upon the idea of backpacking around our region, just going out the door with whatever we could carry and seeing where and how the land would treat us, Carsten and I were thrilled with the idea. Lars, the pragmatist, had more trepidation and wondered about our equipment, which was, how shall I say, not in very good shape… We would be needing sturdy backpacks, shoes, clothing, raincoats, and more, which we did not have… Knowing that there would be only a few, tiny food stores that we would pass at unknown intervals, we wondered how we would carry enough food, what would we do it the rains came? as we looked more deeply into the situation, we saw that, indeed, Lars was right: we were not adequately prepared.
And we had another problem: it is one thing to ask that the community help to take care of ducks and chickens, a cat and a dog, and water some plants, but quite another to take care of a horse who needs to be walked to different pastures and given enough water and stalls cleaned, etc…. So we thought: perhaps we can take care of two issues at once – help for us to carry enough food and water and lightening the load on our community members – if we ask Dutsu the horse if he would like to come with us on our journey. So we asked him and he was willing, though, as it turns out, not really very excited about it. And then our dog, Talpos was begging to come as well. So we set about making new and strengthening old saddlebags and began testing different packs for Dutsu and how to mount/balance them on him that would keep him comfortable enough.
So now we were a party of 5. We gathered everything we thought we would need and then tried to find an assortment of bags and packs that we thought might hold up to the task at hand. We also ordered a few things such as a small bivouac tent for our things at night and extra food for Dutsu and Talpos, a mat for Talpos to sleep on, and a long chain to attach Dutsu to a tree that would allow him a big enough grazing radius during the night. And then we set off. We took the long way up and down the hills in back of the village to arrive at a field close to our house to spend the first night. This was to see what we had forgotten and how the packing had worked. It hadn’t. Everything was falling off of Dutsu, and we forgot some very basic things, so Lars walked home in the morning to get them. Meanwhile, I was terribly ill and wondered if I would even make it any further. We waited some hours (for my nerves to settle as the last day’s packing had frayed me quite intensely) and then we pushed on toward the mountains, passing the second night above the village in an old apple orchard.
During that night we heard wild boars wandering around our tent and wondered why Talpos did not bark. We had imagined that she would alert us also if there were bears or other wild visitors nearby, but this experience and her silence made us wonder if this part of her duty would be upheld during our peregrinations…
We, or, rather, Lars, who knows the mountains better than the rest of us because of his frequent trips through them on horseback, planned our itinerary to include places where we would probably be able to find wild water, and also good grass for Dutsu. The third night was to be spent high on the foothills that separate our village from those in the next valley. We arrived at the designated spot quite tired after climbing for half a day with heavy packs. We ate lunch and lay down for a little rest. However, we could not stay there because we did not have enough water to make it through the night – and definitely not enough for Dutsu, who drinks a lot. The weather had been hot and dry for weeks and the water source that Lars knew of was dry. Sadly, we headed down the other side of the mountain.
And this is where our adventure began. It was not easy. Really not easy. And steep. But we made it, finally, to the river below where the animals could drink. We also found a spigot to fill our bottles as we traveled a small road into the next mountain pass. It was long. Too long. And clouds were rolling in. Dead tired, having traveled twice the distance we had planned, we found a spot by a small creek that was flat and would allow us to rest. All of us, except one. What we had not realised is that there was not enough grass there (what there was was already overgrazed by cows) to satisfy Dutsu, who had worked so hard all day and had not had enough time to fill his belly. He was restless all night and let us know it with his stomping on the ground. It was a steep learning curve. But learn we did…. We knew that we could not stop again before finding a place that would work for everyone.
Then came the rain. And more walking that was more than we could actually manage. But we kept ourselves doing through the sweetness of our togetherness and did our best – with a lot of help from our friends…. When we took a wrong turn and ended up further from where we planned to be and closer to some friends’ house in the mountains, we called and they said they could accommodate us overnight, where we could dry ourselves and our things. And they could even arrange a stall and some hay for Dutsu!…. and then, because of the weather, we revised our whole plan to create a new vision of walking to various friends and acquaintances and in this way we got through a string of very cold and wet days. And then on the backend of our trip we got back out in the wilderness and ended with one of the most splendid sunsets in one of the most glorious places we have ever been. And this ended up being our last night, so, this amazing beauty is within a day’s walk of our home.
Home feels different to me now that I have had this experience of walking on my own feet, drinking quite a bit of wild water and being with the land in an even closer relationship than usual around this place in which we live. Here at Provision we choose to keep our systems as simple and close-as-possible to the essential elements of earth, water, air and fire… and still, being even more out in nature on this walkabout pilgrimage was a revelation. One that I very much hope to revisit again next year. What has stayed with me very strongly are some questions.
“what if such family adventures in walking around the places we call home were more common , even expected occurrence?”
“what might such a tradition do for our connection to the natural world, water sources and our understanding of the importance of common lands?”
“how might such a custom strengthen our connection also with the human communities in which we live?”
“How might we change our responses to wanderers, pilgrims, refugees and other displaced persons?”
I think that such a practice would be possible in any location. I recall hearing about urban meditation retreats led by Fleet Maull in which participants were mindfully cast out into cities to live as homeless people live, changing their experience and perceptions forever…
Though our walkabout Provision was quite different than this, still for me there is some similarity in terms of needs; I gained more understanding and a closer connection to my surroundings, which brings me also more safety in terms of my subsistence and creativity/problem-solving. The entire experience also brought me into alignment on many levels: when I left home my feet were hurting inordinately and upon return I felt more strong and fit than I had in many years. Even though or perhaps because I had put in a tremendous effort physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I felt clear, powerful and happy to be here, to be connected to myself, my closest family members, my surroundings, my local communities and the ground beneath my feet.
Wishing us all health and wellbeing on our travels,
with great care,