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I´ve decided to make a “Christmas calendar” on this blog. Meaning that every day from the 1th of december to the 21th (I´m heathen, what we celebrate is solstice) I will post little gifts. Right here. Recipes. DIYstuff. Interviews. Nature poetry. The works!

“Oh but why oh why, Andrea, weren´t you burnt out and didn´t you need time for yourself”
Yes I was and yes that is true.
However I had a spectacular realisation yesterday and now I´m going to write up a super long blogpost about it.

If you don´t have the time to read this is the point: I´ve felt I´ve been plenty generous and I´ve felt that I didn´t get enough in return. I´ve felt like I gave and gave, that I was used and taken advantage of, I felt like my generosity was spit upon and mocked, I´ve felt invaded and assaulted by pscyho vampires (it´s a thing, look it up), I´ve felt like a prostitute and I´ve felt like I was working for nothing. Take everything of me! Eat me up! I wanted to be generous with our lives and the emotional turmoil of living it because it could maybe inspire someone, make them feel less lonely, I felt like I really HAD something to give…. but after a while there were no sparks, not even embers left in my soul. I was empty. Empty as an empty vessel in a whole universe of empty. The balance of the giving economy felt skewed.
THEN, yesterday, I realised that I wanted to make a christmas calendar, I wanted to GIVE that to readers, to strangers.
“But you don´t have anything more to give?”
Turns out I do.
The moment I decided to make the christmas calendar I was overwhelmed by ideas and energy. Heathen wreaths. Bird feeders. Christmas cookies. Interviews with people I admire. Norse traditions. Poems. Image of the day. How to build a fire. The moment I decided to give even more- I received even more.

What I get out of it also became clear. It´s not money (I wish it was). It´s not peace (I wish it was). No. What I get out of it is just energy. More energy. Still more energy.
Which is, basically, also kind of currency I guess.

The point being the contours of this thought: Maybe you have to be an empty vessel before you can receive? Maybe you have to burn out all of the time? Maybe you have to keep on just giving and giving? Maybe the economy of it isn´t skewed but rather my ideas about money and peace? Prize! Maybe I don´t know about the real costs of things nor the prize, maybe I´m totally incapable of thinking differently about economy, maybe I´m stuck in a capitalistic system INSIDE MY OWN HEAD!

 

A STORY OF GIFT

I´ve said it before and I don´t mind saying it again. We ran to the forest because we were desperate. Modern life had us sick, depressed and weirded out. That´s why we ran. To look under every stone, to run along the currents, to find each other, to ripple with life all through the days!
Needles to say that we paid a high prize for our freedom. But then again: freedom´s just another word for nothing left to loose. And I feel free. Most important. You know it is most important.

We built two cabins in the wild and raised four children. We´ve had our share of animals, we´ve grown our share of vegetables, we now know that more than farmers we are hunters and gatherers and more than village people we´re forest people. We know that now. It´s ok.
When I put little Sigurd to sleep during the dark times we always pretend to be cave bears. Every single night. During the lighter summer nights he falls asleep out by the fire, murmur of humans, ghostly sounds of waving trees. It´s a good life. Poor in golden coins, rich in love and it sounds like a hippie dream only that´s it´s true. We DO. A life of love and spring water.
This is the path we have chosen. Sometimes it´s covered in snow and we can´t go anywhere, sometimes it´s slippery from rotten leafs, sometimes it´s hot and dark, sometimes we argue all the way. Sometimes we can´t see our own hands. Sometimes it is pure and utterly bliss in a way I can´t even describe, I don´t think I will ever find the words to describe it.

 

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Six months ago he began to make music again. It´s been four years. He´s been busy walking… the path of our forest life.
Jeppe is a musician. He played at the Copenhagen Square, Tivoli, The royal Theater. Keys. He left that life because… for the same reason all artists at some point try to leave the loop: it´s rigged and you have to kiss a whole lot of ass to make it.

And I suspect “making it” keeps the artists occupied so they won´t shout  out their songs of innocence and experience from the rooftops “emancipate yourself from mental slavery” But they should. We should. I should.
“Making it” is a lie. I should´t even dream about it.

He brought with him a lot of his musical equipment here to the forest. He has not touched it for years. He hammered nails in the roof and it sounded like music, he used his axe on the logs, he shouted of triumph and roared in defeat. There was much music in our lives… but the thing about music is that it is communal, unlike writing, which is solitary and that right there is the difference between my husband and me.

Well six month ago he salvaged the keys from under the bed or behind some tools in the shed or maybe from the loft under a pile of winter clothes. He´s been playing music for night and day ever since. Yesterday he travelled to Copenhagen. He´s taking his new songs to the studio, he´s going to play music with his friends.
I am so thrilled that music is back in his life. He´s been needing it, maybe we grew a little too old or a little too viking-amish. He needs the music. No doubt about it. I am so happy for him.

Here´s a picture of him and some fishing device he made out of and old spoon and a picture of some fishing, no particular reason, I just like the pictures and I like him too.

 

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finale

 

 

I tell you this story of Jeppe because it´s a story of gift.

Yesterday I realised how much we have been given. I´ve been focused on the hard prize we paid (blood, sweat, tears, all of our energy, last bit of our fire) but when you focus on how much you deserve what you have and the prize you paid to get there-  there is a danger of becoming righteous. And I don´t want to be that. So yeah, we paid a high prize for our freedom (and I say “freedom” because I actually mean it). High prize. Yes. But we have also been given so extremely much. Healthy children. A happy home. Good neighbours. The help of strangers. We have been lucky. This is a rich life, it truly is, and I am in awe of it.
I am humbled when I sit down and think about it.

I think about it a lot because it feels like we have been running a marathon for four years now and we just reached the finishing line. It´s very slowly sinking in. We actually, actually did it. It´s over now. We´re home safe. For real.
I´ve been so busy living it, struggling, it is only now I REALIZE…..

It took some time to shake of the dust and the dull, the apathy and the paleness of modern life, we have been shaking, manic shaking, like wet dogs for four years now,what  a strange dream, now be gone!
And here we are. I can write. He can play music. We built the home we live in with our own bare hands. Look at this! We did this!

(Our sign)

 

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A STORY OF THE PRIZE YOU PAY

All of the people we have welcomed in our home, all of the emails not to mention my book, I gave a lot when I wrote that. I gave a lot touring, speakings, readings, talks. You give your life to strangers and then they assault you with their problems. They load off all of their fears and anxieties on you. One day you´re their hero, next day you´re “too much”. There´s no logic to it. You can´t trust strangers. Not at all.
Only this happened. A reader wrote me a mail. “I think you feel your craft turned against you. The fuzz about your book and then the spotlight (realising that you liked it and at the same time despising yourself for that) maybe it made you feel that you lost your art”
How did she know?
I think she read it between the lines. That sole experience: a total stranger understands you better than you understand yourself… made me doubt my cocky statement. Maybe you CAN trust strangers? Not all of them but still… and come to think about it there were much of that. Strangers hugging me in the midst of the fuzz. Strangers defending me. Strangers with tears in their eyes telling me that my work matters. Strangers taking the piss out of me (which it like, I´m too serious). Strangers cheering. Strangers donating. Strangers sharing my work.

And after four years of struggles we have been given even more: we have been given back the gifts of our creativity.
I can write again. More free than ever. He can play music again. It flows through us!
There was creativity behind the pain. As there was release and redemption after the struggles.
There was.

Generosity becomes such a burden when you feel it only goes one way. Such a heavy load. Onwards you go until you have no life left in you. Empty. Empty until all you see is the empty. All you see is the giving. Not the receiving.

My work as a writer might never give me money nor peace. Why do I expect it to? Who told me it should be that way?
Should my work give me money or peace?
Ideally I guess it should, that would feel somehow fair, but it never does.

It seems that this is what I have to add to the world. And I´m thinking that I should somehow be PAID for what I GIVE.
And I´m thinking that this might be wrong.
I might have misunderstood it.
Maybe there is no prize or golden medal in the end. Maybe what you receive is not what you want- but what you need?
And maybe what you receive can´t be measured at all?
In regard of the release, the redemption and the realisations…. maybe you can never demand it? Expect it?

THE GIFT ECONOMY

Jeppe and me have been working “in the gift” for a long time now. We have done people favours and people have done favours to us. We have been giving and we have been receiving. There has been much doubt and a whole lot or worry about money. Situations like this “The decision we continue to make” which arguably underscores the problematic aspects of whether this is a free choice at all. I know. Though. That we have been lousy at recognising how much we have actually received. I think we have been lousy at this because we have been raised to measure success in money, security has been objectified (instead of personalised) and we have had a real hard time understanding our relationships to the broader community as well as amongst us.

The gift economy is part of the new paradigm, the cultural revolution some speak of. Him and me are practioners. We have the scars on our body to prove it.
We have been trying to make gift economy work and I´m not sure we succeeded on the other hand I´m not sure my conceptions of success is even valid.

If you want to read more about gift economy there is obviously the work of Charles Eissenstein. His personal assistant (I want one too! Jeez Louise! A personal assistant! Gimme! Someone to help me be me!) is named Marie Godwin and I really like her. In Danish we call people like her “Fire souls” (this is true, it´s an actual word in Danish: the people who burn, who give all, who make things happen).
She wrote an essay about “How to run a business in the gift economy” and I like that too. Mostly because I spent all night thinking if I even want to run a small business (I don´t think I do, if I wanted to I would have done it a long time ago, why don´t I want to? Why will I do the speeches but not sell handmade knitting sticks? Or make courses? A webshop? Why? Won´t I sell objects?… and so on, it continued all night…)

Such where my thoughts this morning tending to the animals and collecting some rafts for a fence will build next year, Sigurd running around, dog running around, hens running around, roaming in the wild.
Random thoughts about gift economy. Next post will be about something practical. FOR SURE.

I wanted to tell you that he has the gift of music and that he deserves it.
I wanted to tell you about the christmas calendar.  It gives me energy just to think about it so maybe I´m not even doing it for you… but for me.
I don´t know. I don´t know the relationship between giving and receiving but I KNOW it is a challenge (and a duty) of our time is to explore it.

By the way: I saw a headline on a major Swedish newspaper yesterday when I drove Jeppe to town. It said “You´re right. This is the most miserable november in the memory of mankind”. Headline story. Stockholm got two hours of sunshine this month. I found that funny. Funny ´cause it´s true.
(consider this last anecdote a gift from me to you: thank you gift for reading all the way through my super long blogpost!)

35 comments on “Gift economy

  1. Hanne Ishøy Nielsen says:

    Hvor er det dejligt at høre, at Jeppe er igang med musikken igen! Til lykke med det. Og jeg glæder mig til vintersolhvervskalenderen. Knus!

    Like

  2. The Entwife says:

    I just discovered your blog and have been reading it voraciously. Thank you for sharing your reality, both ugly and beautiful. I’m Heathen (and 40, and a mama) too, and really looking forward to your Calendar! Thank you 🙂

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    1. Wellcome! Looking forward to getting to know you 🙂

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  3. Hilda says:

    A long post indeed, but a pleasure to read. I very much look forward to seeing your calendar, which I think is a brilliant idea.

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    1. I look so much forward to doing it! 🙂

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  4. BeeHappee says:

    Oh my goodness Andrea, I love you, you are a genius! So much fire you have fire lady, don’t burn the forest down. 🙂 Looking forward to the calendar and hearing some music. Hugs.

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    1. Look so much forward to sharing the music, hugs right back at ya!

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      1. BeeHappee says:

        Why do you need the sun in Stokholm, you are shining brighter than the sun. 🙂
        You know what I most admire (and, sorry, envy) about your lifestyle? Time to think. When we used to pick potatoes from the ground, by hand, we had time to think and talk. When we rode on the hay wagon way up high pulled by my grandpa’s horse, we had time to think. When we pulled weeds out of the garden for hours, by hand, we had time to think. We need that. We automated all the tasks, to give us more time. Now there is none.

        Ass kissing. Yeah. . Wishing him luck and strength this time around. Maybe the 4 years of tree cutting roughs you out so you say it as it is. I have this lady in the office doing contracts, she is a writer, and she does corporate contracts, and she manages to find joy in them. She tells everyone exactly the way it is. It is so rare, I tell her often how much I like that in her, and she calls me kiddo, and I love her even more for that. 🙂

        I have a couple good song writers, if Jeppe needs help. They are 3 and 6, and really awesome. 🙂 Lots of creative energy in those kids.

        Have you seen a good animation by Ghibli studios called “Kiki’s delivery service”? It is about a young witch, who delivers packages flying on her broom. But then one day, her magic is burnt up, she cannot fly until she escapes to the woods, just let’s it go, and finds her magic again. Your post reminded me of Kiki.

        I tried reading Charles Eisenstein for 3 consecutive nights, I think, and I fell asleep all three times. I will revisit maybe or read the assistant’s story instead if she is the fire behind the guy. Ben Hewitt was mentioning he wished he had the “fire” of Charles, but hey, I read Ben’s books in one sitting. 🙂

        Giving, yes. I try to learn from my kids. My daughter makes little presents for me every day. I have a stash. She makes a gift for every kid twice a week when she goes to her nature playschool. My 3 yr old son cooks for me, saves little crumbs of his favorite cookie, or his own recipe of tortilla wrapper with olives and jam. 🙂 And one thing I love about my crappy job is not at all pay, or having to be away from my kids for a while, it is helping people. When the phone rings, and I can help them out, but ever more so than help, just listen, just hear about their dog, cat, or child, or frustration. It is giving, one smile at a time. 🙂

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        1. What nice thoughts and daily experiences you share here. Thank you. And you are right about the time to think. I find curious that a lot of people have so many ideas about how our lives should be here in the forest and one of the critisms that I got was that was thinking too much instead of just enjoying being in nature. How screwed up is that? So if you live in nature you have to just sit there and meditate all day? Why do so many people imagine life in the wild to be like that? It´s true what you say. There is so much time to think living like this- and I think A LOT. I don´t consider this thinking “unauthentical” though I don´t even think it´s a problem that I think so much (well ok yeah it is, sometimes). I think all of the people who live simple lives…. lives in a world of constant reflection. It´s good.

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      2. BeeHappee says:

        Andrea, I was thinking about this comment of yours thinking vs enjoying nature. I think they are not opposing things necessarily, rather complimentary, as yin ans yang, complimentary and interconnected. It is about balance, like everything else. You have too much of one thing, and it shifts out of balance. Like your body cannot live off just one food for too long, you could not just stare at a flowing string without thinking or sit in between four walls analyzing endlessly. But maybe you needed to rebuild some balance, so you are thinking more, maybe there was thirst for that. If you listen to what you need, you will do the right thing and find the balance. Hell, if someone gave me all free time in the world now, I would probably sit there alone in the woods for months thinking, until one day, full of all that thinking, I would say, ok, now I am ready to get back to wiping running noses and making hot coco, now I need that. 🙂

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        1. Yup. I find it to be like that too. Actually life here is kind of (bi)polar, flexing between one thing and the other; thinking/doing, quiet/noise, beauty/brutality, summer/winter not that one thing is better than the other it´s just that everything change. All the time. Me too 🙂

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  5. Esther says:

    I love the idea of the calender, thank you for that !
    How i wish that your book ( translated in english) will be availble by then….

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    1. I´m so exited to see how the book will be received by another culture than the danish. The book will be out around may or june in europe as for america I don´t know yet. Looking forward to writing the calendar though. So much more… approachable… than writing a book 🙂

      Like

  6. Julie says:

    Det kan føles helt fattigt at skrive tilbage på så mange gode ord, med næsten ingen… Men det vil jeg sige: jeg er vild med dem, tak!

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  7. Tres Jolie says:

    Andrea I think you are following the path of a true human being. If you ever need any help just let me know. I ran away, too, because the city was killing me. I ran to the mountains. I would hit the Generosity Enabler link if you had one. I want you to do whatever you want with no worries.

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    1. Thank you, Tres jolie. We´re good, we´re not as poor as we used to be that´s why I disabled the generosity enabler that I had on this blog. It got us through some really hard times, that button, I must admit, and I´m very grateful for all of the people who supported us 🙂 (also some of our readers sent us packages for christams one year, packages of sussages and chocolate and books and honey, it was so beautiful!)

      Like

  8. nicoleaugust says:

    ¥es, a Generosity Enabler link ! Asking can be hard too. I found this talk gave me lots to think about : http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking

    Like

    1. Oh, I love that talk so much. I´ve watched it a couple of times. It´s the perfect ted talk 🙂

      Like

  9. ncfarmchick says:

    So much to think about after reading this that I will be mulling over it for some time, I think. Wanted to comment, though, to say “thank you” for your honesty and generosity. I am particularly looking forward to the Norse traditions part of your calendar as my grandmother is Norwegian and so many of the happiest memories involve my time with her (She is 85, still skis, sails, swims, and is right at home with us in our own bit of forest.) There is something to the idea of emptying yourself to allow the good to flow in. Its never fun, always uncomfortable but who ever promised us comfort? The best times of my life, in fact, have come during or after a period of intense discomfort, now that I think about it. Cities are all about manmade escapes from the discomforts of nature and its no surprise to me that some of us flee them like our hair is on fire. Because, maybe it is, spiritually speaking. Living in the forest has never made me feel more alive and reading your posts are greatly enhancing that life, too. So, thank you. I, too, am interested in reading your book when it is translated to English. Soon, I hope?

    Like

    1. The norwegians, you know, they are CRAZY!!! 😉 They are outdoors all of the time, skiing along, running, hiking, always with a smile on their face, so happy and…. fresh. They´re unbelievable! We live up the mountains close to the norwegian border so we see them a lot 😉
      I really look forward to writing about norse traditions and such, these matters are close to my heart and I used to study it a lot. Thanks for commenting. Regarding my book: it will be out in english around may or so, there´s still some negotiations taking place 🙂

      Like

  10. Hej Andrea – læste din bog for et halvt års tid siden og den sidder i mig endnu – som en drøm, som en længsel og som en klangbund for de tanker jeg selv tænker om den retning vores samfund og vi som indbyggere bevæger os i. Indtil videre er jeg mest med på tankeplanet, og jeg kæmper med at finde ud af at omsætte tankerne til et liv der bygger på et mindre drastisk livsvalg end jeres… Måske kan det ikke lade sig gøre, jeg ved det ikke… Måske kan et opgør med forbrugersamfundet ikke foregå fuldt ud inden for forbrugersamfundets rammer…
    Din blogpost her fik mig til at tænke mere over gift economy… Måske skal ordsproget “What you give is what you get” tages FULDSTÆNDIG bogstaveligt: det, du gir til andre er en gave til dig selv… Idet du giver, modtager du… Måske er “giving and receiving” ét og uadskilleligt? Måske er det derfor, du oplever et flow af energi når du gir? Jeg genkender det i hvert fald… Og ikkee at give kan dræne meget, meget mere end at give kan… Tak for det du giver her – jeg græder ofte når jeg læser dine blogindlæg – både over de dybe, filosofiske inglæd som dette, men også over indlæg om muldtoiletter og rugbrød… KH Lisbeth

    Like

    1. Kære Lisbeth, Sikke en dejlige kommentar, tak! Jeg tror du har ret. At give og at modtage er lidt det samme, ubalancen opstår bare tit og måske er det fordi vi er blevet opdraget til at man altid skal have noget til gengæld, at alting er et køb og et salg på en måde. Jeg tror ihvertilfælde det er ET af problemerne (bytteøkonomi har jo altid eksisteret- det undrer mig bare, at det kan være så svært for os i denne tid). Jeg er glad for at min bog satte tanker igang og jeg er helt sikker på at der findes tusind forskellige måder at “gøre noget” på. Imorgen skriver jeg om æbleskiver! 😉

      Like

  11. Martha Caldwell-Young says:

    Thank you. 🙂 ❤ _/|\_

    Like

    1. Martha Caldwell-Young says:

      The graphics in this video are seem to me to be pretty conservative Christian (and that’s not really my perspective) but I think the music is just so beautiful, I wanted to share it with you. 🙂

      Like

  12. Maria Lisette says:

    “Give and you shall receive”… Klassisk kliché, men lidt sandt after all… Tror nok at solhverv falder d. 22. i år, FYI 😉 Så du er nødt til at skrive 22…! 😉 God vind…
    KH

    Like

    1. Tak for info! (har ikke engang chekket op på det endnu).
      “Give and it shall be given unto you is still the truth about life” (dh, lawrence, fino fyr!)

      Like

      1. Maria Lisette says:

        Sorry….!!! Jeg har totalt uret! Det ér d.21…. (jeg har for meget om ørerne…) Har I en ledig plads i stik-af-skoven? 😉

        Like

        1. Så fik jeg dét på plads, godt 🙂 Anytime, Maria, anytime! En dag kommer vi to til at lave en udesidning sammen…

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Jytte says:

    Tak for din blog Andrea! Jeg vil glæde mig meget til din julekalender, specielt hvordan man laver et godt bål. Min søn har ønsket sig en overnatning uden telt i skoven når han bliver 10 i maj og så må der bål til! Kommer du til Oslo, så tager du kontakt, så har du en seng!

    Like

    1. Hvor sødt, tak! Glæder mig til at lave bål-post 🙂

      Like

  14. Sofie says:

    Glæder mig til kalenderen!!! Super ide!

    Like

  15. Hej Andrea,
    just stumbled across your blog via Ben Hewitt’s.
    I am Dutch, live in Dalarna and go through the same experiences (roughly) as you are. Switched the concrete jungle of a medium Dutch city for a place out in the Swedish country.
    What I have read so far is both recognisable and enjoyable and I hope you will not mind me hanging around a little more…. Your blog is so much more artistic than mine. 😉
    Thank you for your gift!

    Like

    1. Ha! Such a small world. Two people living in Sweden connecting via a blog written by some dude in… wherever he lives. How nice. Wellcome. Looking forward to your stay 🙂

      Like

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