Tag Archives: adventure

Collaboration and adventure

There probably are ways of collaborating that aren’t inherently vulnerable, but I’ve never looked for them. Working with someone else creatively always calls for a certain amount of letting go. It means accepting that you aren’t in control of the whole vision. It is of course possible to have people working together and one of them be in charge and control the overall shape, but that’s more like getting other people to help you realise a vision. It’s not the same as true collaboration, where everyone’s vision is equally important.

Collaboration requires compromise. It means accepting that your ideas are going to change and evolve. People who want to control the whole thing, and people who want to stay in control of their own bit, seldom make good collaborators. This works best when there’s a fearless leap into the dark and a willingness to embrace the unexpected.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to business-as-usual. Our culture encourages us to stick to our guns and hold our positions, as though life and creativity are military operations we can win or lose. So often, changing is framed as weakness and lack of commitment, but for creative collaboration, it is the magical essence at the heart of the process.

Letting go is liberating. Not having to dominate, or win, or direct is a really freeing experience. Being allowed to change, is wonderful. Being able to give up on things because you’ve seen something better, is glorious. And yet, in normal life we are not often encouraged to do these things.

Don’t fight your corner. Don’t hold your position. It’s much more fun to surrender to the process, get swept away by other people’s ideas sometimes, and be open to the unknown. Life is so much more of an adventure when you do not have to be right, or in charge or in any kind of control of what’s happening.

Seeking the handcrafted life

Creativity should be an option for everyone. Making and re-making, repurposing, and upcycing are skills we all need to reduce what we throw away. The pleasure of creating from scratch should be everyone’s right, not seen as the domain of the talented few. Whether that’s cooking or gardening, rag rugging, painting, dancing or singing or anything else you can think of, we should all have the time and resources to follow our creative interest. Not as a way of making a living, necessarily, but for the sheer joy of it.

As an aside, I think there would be much greater appreciation of professional creativity if everyone was engaged with it for fun as well. A culture of creativity would increase the value of original work.

Creativity is not just about obvious arts and crafts activities. It’s also about how much innovation we have in our lives. Do we just run through the same routines day to day? Do we do what we’ve always done, powered largely by habit and clinging to what’s familiar? Does life have scope for adventure in it? Is there room for surprise, for joy, excitement, novelty and pleasure? Can we make these things for ourselves or are we only looking to buy answers to those human needs for interest?

One of the things I’ve learned working creatively, is that inspiration requires space. You can’t be busy all the time and expect to keep coming up with great ideas as well. It’s the quite down time that hatches plots and plans. It’s the unstructured spaces where I can daydream, chew over things I’ve learned and wool gather that makes room for a lightning strike of inspiration. If I’m nothing but busy, I don’t have anything like as many good ideas – about anything.

The busyness of conventional western life doesn’t leave us much room to think. Most of us are sleep deprived as well. We rush from one thing to another, time pressured, money pressured, constantly getting messages about why we aren’t good enough. These forces can leave you living a life that is not of your designing. You can so easily end up running after money and then needing that money to console yourself for everything that’s missing. A slower, less economically active life can be both less expensive and more rewarding. Without the space to think creatively about how you live, this is hard to achieve.

Most of us have more time available than we think we do. The trick is to turn off the screens for a bit. Screens are addictive, and feed the fear of not keeping up, the pressure to be available, the sense of panic if we don’t know what’s going on and aren’t busy all the time. Turn the screens off. Remove small screens from about your person. Turn them off and leave them behind and go to a quiet place, and just breathe for a while. Look at the sky, or a tree, or the life in the grass. Sometimes it takes a while for all the chaotic, stampeding things in your head to calm down, but eventually they will, and once there is calm, there is space to ask questions about what you want, and what you need, and what just has you chasing your tail to no real purpose.

When you have time to think, you have the scope to think creatively. When you can think creatively, you can take much more control of your life and live on your own terms. A handmade life, imagined and crafted by you and for you. It’s well worth making the effort for.

Tiny adventures

I crave adventure and new experience. I have the kind of budget that does not allow for travelling, and I would not fly if I could afford to. My energy levels are unreliable. I don’t have the physical strength, stamina, balance, or co-ordination to do exciting, dangerous sports. This combination of factors does not, at first glance, lend itself to the adventurous life.

However, my life is full of tiny adventures. I’ve found all kinds of small ways of taking myself out into my locality and having intense, unexpected and rewarding experiences. Here’s an example. Recently there was a thunder storm. As it was also warm weather, Tom and I headed out into the rumbling darkness, bearing an umbrella.

We watched the storm erupt in the next valley. Sheet lightning, tinged with yellow and orange lit up the nearby hill. All around us, birds called out in alarm, and then the skies opened and we huddled under the umbrella as the cloud burst turned the air around us into water. It was dramatic, and intense, and right outside my door.

We’ve sat out in summer evenings to watch for bats and listen for owls. We’ve been on the hills to watch the sunset, and this summer we’re going to be exploring the dawns more, with a bit of luck. Our lives feel rich and interesting. We don’t have to travel far to find something worth seeing or to have a novel experience.

Map Work

In this era of sat nav, it seems as though the entire map is known and that you can just get the bit you need coughed up on request. Here to there, with smooth precision. You are more likely to make mistakes and get lost when using a physical map, especially if you’re inexperienced, so why be old-school about it when there’s technological solutions to be had?

Once upon a time, when a map maker didn’t know everything about the map, they’d add creatures, and the wonderful ‘here be dragons’. Older maps show the known and the unknown. On your sat-nav route, almost everything aside from the roads or paths you’re following, become unknown. Unremarked upon, and invisible to you. Set out to drive in this way (something I’ve done many times as a passenger – I can’t drive!) and no one mentions the dragons. The countryside and the cities whizz by, devoid of features aside from the little that can be gleaned from signposts.

A map tells you what’s behind the hedge, what happens if you take the scenic route, and what you might want to stop for. The sat-nav journey is all about getting from A to B at the greatest speed. This is not the only way to travel, and we may be losing the art of poking about, being curious, stopping for a look. The journey is no longer about the journey, and we are the poorer for that.

Maps hint at the unknown. They show the places you won’t see from the road. I’m a big fan of the ordinance survey, with its habit of including ancient sites. I’ve had many a walk to a spot found on a map. Around here, there are many hidden valleys – places it’s hard to see from anywhere else. The map reveals them, as does the willingness to get out and ramble without a fixed route in mind. Where motorways and railways cut up the land, it is maps that you need to reveal the secret passing points, the ways of defying progress to cross the road.

Maps can be a source of delight without even having to leave your home. They raise questions and offer imaginative journeys. They reveal place names, and often in those names is a dash of history, or a hint of the stories that might be held within the land. Old stretches of Roman road are immediately visible, information about the relationships between places, too. Road networks can have a really distorting influence on how we understand landscape. They inevitably restrict journeys to certain kinds of routes and places, missing out the steepest, the wettest, and with that often the most direct. Maps show us the possibilities before we get out there and take the risks.

The map can invite over-planning. Too much insistence on careful use of the map can remove the scope for adventure, and the curious pleasure of getting lost. There are landscapes in which getting lost is a bloody stupid idea, but in tamer places, a little low risk confusion is good for the soul. If we become too focused on the map, and the pre-determined route, it stops us from following whims and asking what’s over there… For the nervous and inexperienced walker, the physical map may at first be a necessary crutch. For the person in a wholly unfamiliar landscape, it may seem vital – there are other ways of dealing with this, and I’ll be back to them later.

My preferred method is to pour over the map at home, and leave it at home while I test off to test what I’ve understood on the ground. Then, on coming back, I’ll go back to the map to see what I did, how it related to what I’d intended, and to find out what I’ve learned.

The journey back

Following on from Pathworking with Dunsany, I want to talk more broadly about the journey back. If you don’t die in the process, then the end of every adventure involves a return journey. This is just as true of rituals, pagan camps and deep meditations as it is for wandering Hobbits. At the end, you go home. This is an important part of the process.

Home is where you live. It’s where you come from, where you belong, be it ever so ordinary. Part of the coming back can be seeing the old place with new eyes. Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, you may find that the adventure allows you to see what was splendid about what you had all along. It may mean bringing back some of the mystery and wonder to share with those who did not go on the journey. It may simply mean finding a place to nurture the more down to earth part of yourself, because we need that too.

A wonder that you cannot speak of to someone who will appreciate it, turns out to be a lot less wonderful. The making of story and offering of experience to another human is part of the adventure. That sharing puts the adventure into perspective, places it in the wider story, perhaps helps us make sense of it too.

The contrast is important, between the wonderful and the ordinary. A life that was all ritual, or all pathworking would cease to make as much sense. That way, quite literally, lies madness. There’s only so much wonder a mind can take before it needs a rest, and perhaps a nice, mundane cup of tea and time to reflect upon things. We appreciate most stuff better for having a degree of contrast. The inherent peace of the ordinary probably seems a lot more valuable once you’ve trekked into Mordor, or whatever your personal equivalent may have been.

It can be tempting to want to disappear, taking the envisaged road into faerie, and never looking back. In the more profound moments of prayer, in the wilder dreams, in the deepest meditations, that call to just go and never return can be loud and powerful. This drab, damp life, this grey England, this lousy government… if only we could step through a magical portal and never come back. Only the coming back is necessary, and worth doing well. Come back smiling, with fresh inspiration, not reluctantly like a kid being dragged out of a playground to go and do homework. Bring a few shreds of glamour and wonder with you, for the rest of the world has need of them.

Only when we come back, can we reflect on where we’ve been and figure out what it means.

Leaving the Nest

Whether you jump voluntarily, or are pushed, the moment of leaving a safe space to strike out alone, is a bit scary. Nothing wrong with that. Apprehension and fear are entirely natural responses to uncertainty.

Flap the wings frantically, jump, not knowing how to fly. See if you soar, or plummet.

If you don’t leave the nest, soaring is never going to be an option. But of course neither is plummeting to your doom. Is it necessary to jump? Is there anything wrong with choosing safety and security, the comfort of the familiar? All of us spend most of our time doing just that. And once we’ve jumped into an unfamiliar thing, we set about turning it into something safe and known. We might only choose to ever jump a few times, or we might spend our lives hurling ourselves off things, testing limits, seeing what will actually make us hit the ground with a sickening crunch.

We make the nests out of familiarity. We build things we can rely on, trust in. Things that insulate us and keep us feeling like we know what’s going on. Sometimes that turns out to be illusion. Little birds who choose to stay in nests are sometimes eaten. The process of leaving the nest is an act of abandoning certainty in search of adventure, but it can also be self preservation. What seems secure now might become a trap in time. Like a nestling on an arctic ledge, if we stay too long, our safe place may be iced over and we will die. Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing when jumping is the safest option.

Regardless of the outcome, there’s always that glorious moment of freefall when it all seems possible – you could crash, you could conquer the sky, all of it can be yours. Possibility resolves into actuality, we hit the ground, or we don’t. We decide whether or not to do it all again.

For some people, the thrill of uncertainty is everything – the rush of a new job or new relationship more rewarding than continuity or permanence. For others, being forced out of the nest is hellish, and they will build the next one as soon as possible.

For preference I need both. Periods of calm and safety, periods of wild crazy flapping, the occasional hope that I might indeed fly this time. I have a suspicion this might be quite normal.

Today I have jumped out of a nest. Druid Life used to be a column over at www.thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com – a blog featuring the writing of a number of Pagans from various traditions. I’d been there a while, growing the column, getting some readership. It offered me a degree of safety, the sense of being held, but like all nests, it limited where I could go and what I could do.

Time to test the wings, and see if Druid Life can fly on its own, or whether I have just jumped out into a place of silence in a land devoid of readers…