Writer’s Wednesday: A Year Without Matches by Claire Dunn
Have you ever wanted to just escape the city, suburbs or even a small village in the country side? Just leave it all behind and go out into the wilderness. Well Claire Dunn did just that, she spend a year in the Australian outback building her own shelter and learning how to light a fire without matches. She wrote about her experiences in My Year Without Matches: Escaping the City in Search of the Wild and it is a fascinating and inspirational view into what a year in the wilderness can look like – and how it can help you figure out who you really and what you really need.
Our mission is to build our own shelters, and gradually to acquire skills such as making fire without matches, hunting and trapping, tanning hides, gathering bush food, weaving baskets, making rope and string, moulding pottery, tracking, increasing sensory awareness, learning bird language and navigating in the bush. Visiting instructors will join Kate and Sam to teach a series of workshops over the first half of the year. Then we will be left to fend for ourselves.
The rules are few. Apart from no booze, we are limited to thirty days out of camp, and thirty days of visitors in. It is essentially to be a Choose Your Own Adventure story, with equal emphasis on experiencing the changing face of the bush and ourselves, over four full seasons. A cross between the reality-TV show Survivor and the solo wilderness reverie that American poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau elucidated in his book Walden. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” Thoreau had exclaimed in exaltation of his self-styled life as a forest hermit, words I had inscribed on the inside cover of my journal. To qualify for the program, all we had need to do was study the basics over two week-long courses, and prove that our motivations weren’t madness or law evasion.
Even though she’d been working to protect the environment and the Australian forests and thought she knew what the forest was like, actually living there turned out to be quite a different experience…
I thought I knew the forest until we moved in together. And then, as is often the case with flatmates, I realised I barely knew it all. It had been an easy assumption to make. I was a forest campaigner; the forest was my life. All day every day it was what I spoke of, what I thought about, what I loved.
More importantly, I imagine, was learning how to truly listen to yourself. To stop being a human doing, rather than a human being (something I can personally relate to).
“Claire, the messages we receive from our culture run deep. It trains us to be human doings, rather than human beings. Your upbringing was particularly strong in this.
“For a woman, in particular, this comes at a great cost – separation from her true self. The most important task for you this year is to return to the feminine.”
“The feminine is guided by feeling and intuition. She learns to listen to the impulses arising within her, and acts according to her own sense of rightness. Her heart, not what the outside world deems to be success, is her map and compass. This is the seat of her power.”
“What I want you to do is simple: I just want you to feel. Feel everything. Unmoor your emotions from the judgments that will arise and come back to your heart. Ask yourself, ‘What do I feel like doing now?’ And then do that.”
I think this is such an important lesson for all of us. Learning to truly listen to ourselves, figure out what is the right next step for us and realizing that we don’t need to check of all of the things on our to-do list, before we are “enough”, before we can do the things we truly desire.
I pick up the pace, my face red with the knowledge that I am being seduced again by the false promise that there is a magic point in the future when enough will be enough, when I will tick the right number of boxes to give me permission to slow down.
In conclusion she touches upon how most of us could do this, if we really wanted to, but so few of us do in part because we don’t truly believe it’s possible. In my experience this doesn’t just go for spending a year in the wild – it is just as true for our other dreams.
“You could do it, too,” I say lightly, as the young guy looks wistfully at my shelter, knowing as soon as I say it that there’s plenty of reasons why he can’t, or won’t. While the few thousand dollars and the luxury of unattached time mightn’t seem like much, it’s more than most people have. And that’s the easy part. Hardest is the belief that it’s possible, that you can do the thing you’ve always wanted to do, the one thing that calls to you more than anything. The thing you’ll only regret in its absence.
My Year Without Matches (currently $5.07 on Kindle) is beautiful, inspirational and thought-provoking – I highly recommend it.
Would you be interested in spending a year in the wild? Do you have dreams that you think are impossible? Are they really?
What have you been reading lately?
As always I invite you to find me and connect with me on Goodreads.