Wood is Good

Coming home through shin deep snow with a hefty piece of oak on one shoulder and a bow saw on the other, after walking under one of those Turner skies through gently undulating forests of mostly oak with some evergreen madrone and a few random conifers. The oak is dry next to my face and I can feel the soft moss, usnea, on my face. Deer, rabbit, even mouse trails winding through the snow, and now my big boot prints. The smell of smoke as I get closer to home, the sound of our kids. Kayla chopping some wood, stepping inside and suddenly our den is cosy and alive. A big fat feeder of green oak heads the hearth and the fire steadily and magnanimously provides the centre of our circle, home, lives.


This has been the flavour of this winter for me. As I count, it’s been something like my sixteenth living like this and it is ‘living like this’ because it’s a conscious choice. Daily. And it feels fresh and new, daily. It’s not like I sit down every day and think,’Hmmm, what shall I do today…I know, live in a tipi.’ I’m trying to make a distinction between people born into a simple life and me, born into a complicated (industrialised) life and knowing the difference, a bit.

I’m glad that my kids can see the horizon. It’s important to me, something that I can give them. It struck me in a movie called Mongolian Ping Pong (a great film, highly recommended). The main characters are children, Mongolian, and one scene stays in my mind of a boy sitting contemplating the steppe. He’s probably about nine or ten and it’s only coming from an environment of closed in buildings that I can recognise the longing of ‘my’ nine year old boy to have some stillness, unchanging and expansive distance inside of me.

What we’re doing is radical, it seems. Not because we’re living an aesthetic life, the most incredibly beautiful life we can dream up, more because we’re turning away from the material life that we might be expected to live (a family with two children in the USA).

Before enlightenment- carrying wood, fetching water. After enlightenment- carrying wood, fetching water.

After all these years walking through the woods with (or without) a bow saw I still feel like I’m going out looking for wood for the first time. There is always something new, different to find. Maybe it’s because the wood is always in a different place. I don’t know what I’d do with myself without the daily practice of getting wood. A recent realisation has brought me to the understanding that more than live in a tipi, we live around the fire. The tipi happens to be a really good way of keeping the weather off at the same time as letting the smoke out.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of explaining myself here. I’m trying to just write beautiful and inspiring words. I love that our home is movable but that’s not the point. I love that our home isn’t trying to create a separate bubble from it’s environment; that it works with the water, fire, air and is on the ground. It’s also not the point. Neither that we “sleep on the earth and shit in a hole in the ground”.

Through living a wholly physically accountable life, I can begin to recognise the spiritual in me. It’s easier to know what is real when I’m sat on the ground around the fire with my family. Wood, water, food and then, anything else is a bonus…



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