Beyond the fields we know

Most life happens at the edges, most growth is at the margins. They are often fertile places where the interplay between different environments creates maximum possibility. Something similar happens in the inner landscapes when we move to the edges.

There are three different things at work here, and they are all equally essential. The comfort zone, the unknown and the boundary. Having space – physical and psychological – where we feel safe and relaxed, is essential. I’ve tried doing this the other way, (not deliberately, it’s just what I got) and it turns life into a perpetual, exhausting battle ground. Without much of a comfort zone, there is no rest, nor peace, and if everything is allowed to become a bit other, a bit threatening and untrustworthy it’s a form of insanity as likely to paralyse a person as anything else. These are all things we learn how to construct, but might not notice ourselves making. The comfort zone, the otherness and the borders are largely of our own devising.

The author Lord Dunsany used the refrain ‘beyond the fields we know’ to allude to Faerie. I find it a very helpful thought form.  The fields we know are familiar, close to home, part of our landscape. Things can happen there that are interesting and engaging, but they fall within a predictable framework. Beyond the fields we know, all bets are off. Nothing can be relied on to function in the same way. For Dunsany, the border between the two is shifting and unpredictable as well, and that’s an important point. Where we feel familiar, and comfortable, where we feel uneasy and exposed can change and it’s not always obvious why. Our own borders and edges shift, sometimes they are easily crossed, sometimes painfully difficult.

As a walker, I have learned the enchantment of going beyond the fields we know. Even a short detour on an unfamiliar track brings a sense of magical potential. To see a familiar landmark from an unfamiliar angle is to see it anew. Going into the unknown, we can look back and get a whole other perspective on the things we thought we knew.

Going too far into the unknown, without maps or references, can result in an overwhelming, overload of experience that we can’t always make much sense of. Too much of the unfamiliar at once can be hard to take. At the point where we are lost, confused and exhausted, the adventure sours into something miserable. We have to cross back over into the place we understand. And here’s another lesson from Dunsany, because if you start out in Faerie, with that as your comfort zone, then the fields you know are other fields entirely, and Faerie becomes the safe space to retreat back to. It is not the landscape that is inherently strange or mundane, it is our experience that makes it so. In several Dunsany tales, otherworldly things return to their otherworldly places because this world is just too much for them. We who live here all the time do not notice the things that might make it wonderful to someone else.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Beyond the fields we know

  • Sally

    Wise words Nimue, thank you. Very apt on the day before meeting you and lots of other new friends in one particular field which may have much of Faerie about it!

  • Aurora J Stone

    These are wise words. The value of the familiar and the need to stay where it’s always safe can be as ‘dangerous’ as stepping too far beyond it. It is a challenge to find the places of balance and near balance where one can walk the shifting ground of the boundaries and maintain connection enough with the familiar. Of course stepping beyond is part of the adventure and often where the lessons we need are to be found, and ones we can easily avoid if we stay too safe. There is a fine and significant difference between the foolishness of seeking the ‘glamour’ beyond the fields we know and going there as one on a true quest. How one is responded to there may be reflected in the intention that begins the journey.

  • lornasmithers

    I also love this metaphor, and the way you’ve used it here, particularly in relation to those perspective shifts, where going beyond the boundary and into the unknown can change our perspective. And in extreme cases change our perception completely, so that even the known lands seem completely unfamiliar.

    Really interesting point about the reciprocity between us and Faerie. Myths and folklore teach us the gods and the fay desire interaction with humans, to seduce them, take their forms, to swap offspring. Perhaps some of this stems from them seeing our world as being as wondrous as we see theirs. Thanks for sharing this, something to contemplate further.

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