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The gift of despair

When you live in a log cabin you built yourself in the middle of deep forest there are certain things that set your life apart from other peoples life and by this I mean SPECIFICALLY: all you see is up to you, it´s your own work, it´s your own responsibility.

Example: You travel away for a while because you need money for new glasses and what have you NOT. Besides you might feel like you have a mission or something, a responsibility to the human community (but not the current model of society which is seriously two different things). But then, when you get back your home will be cold.
And I´m not talking “chilly”. I´m talking deep frozen- because when you live in the wild you have, among other things, turned your back to thermostats and central heating.
It takes an hour. At least. Full turbo on all three of the wood stoves. Cover the kids in blankets and place him between the furs.
And then you divide the chores between you, you have to, one person can´t handle everything alone.
He checks the outside of the house and the animals (which our neighbour have been taking care of) while I lit a hundred candlelights and take care of the food, checking how much chocolate the mouse has eaten while we were gone (that mouse!)
We slept under the extra thick blanket. I bought it 20 years ago in a second-hand shop and never knew it´s secret: it´s made of some kind of magical wool. There´s noone but you in that deep dark forest, there´s nothing to depend upon beside yourself and your teamwork so then you get to understand it. Teamwork.
And the importance of routine. And the importance of having done it before.

So here I am, drinking my holy cup of holy morning coffee, following the small birds in the top of the birch trees with my eyes, listening to the sound of… nothing, which is really nothing at all, the silence is loaded with sounds you ear just has to awaken because it´s been numbed by the sounds of sirens. The many colours of pink as the sun slowly rise between the trees. The cats watching the birds. The fact that the hens are completely quit right now can only mean one thing: there´s an eagle circling the premises. If your ear wasn’t so numbed you would have been able to hear the beating wings.

Someone (Ben Hewitt, I adore him) asked me about despair. What kind of role it has played in our lives.
There has been a lot of despair. We would´t be here if it wasn’t for despair, recognising despair, acknowledging it and finally acting upon it is the whole reason while we fled to the forest.
And in the forest itself there has been a lot of despair. A lot of death.
This is why I haven’t written a lot about the glory and the grace, the wholeness, the pretty, the absolute overwhelming LOVE.
I believe despair plays an important role for us humans. I think it makes us act. React. Fight.
This is not saying that I don´t appreciate the glory and the grace, off course I do, the overwhelming love and the all encompassing peace… these emotions are equally important, but you can´t close your eyes and pretend sorrow, fear and despair is not there, you cannot jump to conclusion or skip parts of the road…. you can´t just sit there and be holy and insist that life is all beautiful when life is not. This is not the nature of life. This is not the nature of the forest anyways.
It´s brutal.
It´s brutally beautiful.

And that´s just like my opinion man.

I´m thinking about all of this on this very morning with the small birds and trees and the sun and thunder boy playing with lego and fire burning and all of the work we have to do in a little while, when I´m finished drinking this holy coffee.
I´m making rye bread and cookies and candied ginger today and I´m so utterly completely absolutely totally awesomely surrounded by glory and grace, the world is made out of love this morning and I´m finally home.
I wouldn’t be here though if I had not taken the long, dark, hard path going into unknown territory and past super dangerous wild animals.

No pictures today but at least this post IS about yule. How I see yule anyways. A celebration of love and glory and grace (and teamwork) but also a very delicate time, a thoughtful time, where you need to reflect upon your life in it´s totality.
Maybe that’s why christmas always made me so depressed before. Like we tried to force-fed ourselves with a very narrow vision of love.
I don´t want to do that anymore.


20 comments on “The gift of despair

  1. Eumaeus says:

    Mmmm… holy still gets nailed to the cross.. and it still hurts… and there is still despair…


    1. BeeHappee says:

      Maybe “especially” the holy?
      People people people, lighten up everyone! What is all the talk about being nailed to the cross, carrying the cross, despair. . Not trying to be the despair party pooper here, but c’mon. 🙂 I love this book, very helpful if you start thinking of despair and crosses:
      Starting at page 13
      “For a brief, intense period in your life you spend most of your time having fun – except for
      those equally intense moments when you are taken painfully by surprise. Everything seems
      to you to be another invitation to play, everything another opportunity for fun: the dog, the
      water dish, the blanket, a pair of shoes, a pair of feet. You play games like “monster,” making
      your parents run after you and groan in pretend scariness; and hide and seek, only not really
      hide and seek, but more just hide, and not really hiding either.
      Later, you get better at hiding – a lot better. You learn to hide so well that you don’t get found
      until you decide to come out. You learn to hide for such a long time that you start playing
      there, all by your self, where nobody can see you. You play on your own, inside, in your very
      own “inner playground.” It’s not that the world is any less fun, your body any less delightful,
      other people less playworthy, the opportunities to play less present, you any less playful. You
      just play somewhere else. Somewhere safer. Where you don’t get hurt as much, or noticed,
      The point I hope I’m making here is that it seems highly likely that, unless we do something
      about it, we’re going to find a lot more reasons for us to stay hidden. And if we want to make
      it safely and sanely through all the changes coming our way, we’re going to need to come out
      and play. And if we’re going to come out and play, we’re also going to have to take our need
      to play in the world more seriously: not so seriously that we forget to have fun – but precisely
      so seriously that we remember.” and …..


  2. I sure do recognise the despairpart. It is what drove us up here too and it still drives, since we are desperately trying to get a foothold here, both socially and economically.
    I wouldn’t consider your gift the gift of despair, but the gift of shared experiences, the gift of knowing you are not the only one…


    1. It´s so odd that so many of us feel alone… Thanks for commenting!


      1. Maybe because we feel like island in a madly raging sea??

        Liked by 1 person

  3. BeeHappee says:

    Hey, ok now, you do not have the button on/off thermostats, but you have the real thing, the fire. Many have the warmth, but not the fire. 🙂 So let the fire burn.

    If there is hope, there is no despair. Your post made me think of the many memoirs I read of those who were deported from their homes and homelands on cattle trains to the depths of Siberia. When you read the first-hand accounts of their children dying in their arms in the crowded cattle cars, of the desolate ice upon which they are settled, of starvation, of humans actually having to dig through the the other humans excrement to find an undigested piece of corn so they have something for their family to eat – yes, that happens… – you expect to see despair. But what do you see? You see them singing, you see them forming a dance club to light their spirits, you see them dreaming one day Stalin will be dead and they will return to their homeland farms even if their whole family is dead. . .
    Nature is reality, it is brutal, it kills, but it also forgives.
    Do you suffer for yourself? Do you suffer for someone else? Do you suffer for humanity? And how much do you choose to suffer?
    Had you taken a different path, not the dark forest/wild beasts path, who knows, you may have arrived at the same understanding. Not so much the path that matters, I think, it is where you came already and where you are going. And it takes a lifetime to figure that one out. 🙂


    1. Or….
      Maybe the vast majority was desperate, but a handfull refused to give in.
      Maybe that handful chose to deny the grim reality, because they could not face it or cope with it.
      Maybe they dreamt of Stalin dying and they themselves returning in a futile attempt to seek revenge or justice or, again, denying the truth or finality of their situation.

      In the end I do believe it is not the goal that determines who we re, what we become and what we do, but the journey itself. The endgoal is a reward, a carrot on a stick that keeps us going…

      Just a matter of perspective, really.


  4. ncfarmchick says:

    One of our old hens died last week. Since then, my oldest son (3 1/2 years) has been bringing up the subject of death here and there. As in, I will mention a neighbor and he will say, “She died?” and that sort of thing. I can tell he is just letting it in and seeing where the concept fits into his young life. My mother, however, was all concerned when she heard him, “What on Earth would make him ask that?” He already knows what we adults try so hard to ignore at times. You can acknowledge the sad, unfortunate, disappointing, even despair-filled parts of life without letting it overwhelm the good, joyous, grace-filled parts. It’s all a continuum anyway, isn’t it? It seems to me that much despair can come from ignoring the despair, if that makes sense. I am reminded of a comment the rector of our church made to me once. He said that in all of the counseling work he does, almost all of it deals with people in despair over things they (and no one else) can change. And the only thing worse is to feel alone in that despair when its something everyone faces and should help to generate some real empathy. Thanks for the continued gift of your words. Stay warm!


    1. What a beautiful comment, thanks. I love how the pastor shares his experience. I think he is absolutely right.


  5. BeeHappee says:

    NC, good points. On kids and death, at age 3-5 it is very typical and expected. Waldorf books and curricula has many good stories to address death, as well as books such as “Stories for Challenging Behavior”. My daughter has gone through some despair you can call it, at age 6. . Also, quite good books are “Highly sensitive person” and “Highly sensitive child” by Elaine Aron, describe those who see more than others, and may feel different or alone.
    I keep harping on the importance of play, but I saw a real impact it has made, and it really was the only thing that made my child come out of despair. Adults invent meditation and all that stuff, which in kids world is just called play. Kids play out death, kids play out conflict, play out power/powerlessness. My kids were not too happy about the death of Thanksgiving turkey, so they created a game to be turkeys while beating me up because I am the bad hunter. We play a lot of power games, where kids put on “magic powder”, and beat the crap out of their parents, so they can feel some control when their life may feel out of control.
    I know Andrea would say, what are you talking about, we have no time to play, there is fire to be made, wood to be chopped, we are already exhausted enough. But kids always find time, right?
    “What goes away is our willingness to choose to have the fun that is offered us. We have too many other things to do. We’re not in the subway because we want to play. We don’t take the escalator because it’s more fun. We are there because we want to get somewhere else. So we aren’t, in fact, totally there. And because we aren’t, we don’t see the fun.”
    That famous serenity prayer is always worth repeating:
    O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
    The courage to change what can be changed,
    and the wisdom to know the one from the other….
    I find the knowing one from the other most challenging.
    or Mother Goose Rhyme:
    For every ailment under the sun
    There is a remedy, or there is none;
    If there be one, try to find it;
    If there be none, never mind it.
    Peace everyone. . .


    1. ncfarmchick says:

      Agree and appreciate all you have said, Bee! I think my oldest is pretty intuitive (I hesitate to use the term “sensitive” since I seem to always hear people use that in disparaging ways) but seems to just take in what goes on around him without having the same fearful reactions that some adults would have. Shows you how fear and anxiety, while normal and natural in most cases, can also be learned responses and not all that helpful depending on the circumstances. And my boys love “Mama Goose” rhymes, as they call them!


  6. Tres Jolie says:

    I love reading your words Andrea and I also love reading all these great comments by your readers that are inspired by your writing. Thank you one and all! Peace.


    1. Me too! I love these comments and the way we exchange thoughts. I simply love that… It’s such a blessing for us to know that we are not the only ones living like this, that there are so many out there. I’ ve felt alone for quite some time which is also why it made me so happy to connect with Ben.


      1. Scott says:

        I also was so happy to find Ben’s blog, and through it, yours. My family is trying to move toward a more simple, natural life, where we can appreciate hard work, adversity, cold, etc. And conversely be able to more fully appreciate the quiet, the forest, the bounty created by the work, the grace and peace you speak of. It is heartening and encouraging to read about others’ experiences in the same lifestyle.

        And for a total change of subject, please tell me that was a well-placed quote from the Big Lebowski in this post! Totally caught me off gaurd, and I loved it.


        1. It was! And thanks for noticing. Now bring me my freedom coffee!! 😉


  7. Scott says:

    Finishing my coffee. 🙂


    1. hehe. So nice to connect 🙂


  8. Scott says:

    Agreed! thanks. Merry Jul!


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