I’ve been helping a mate of mine this week, delivering Level 2 Forest School training course (for practitioners). Aside from shelter-building, knot-tying and general Forest School ethos stuff, a large part of this level of training is in fire lighting. Lighting fires is one of those things that, once you learn it, and with regular practice, stays with you for life. Once it ‘clicks’ and you understand the principles of fire lighting, you can have warmth and light always. It’s a proper skill for the apocalypse. And it is a diverse subject.
I’m planning a series of blog posts on fire lighting, looking at different materials, etc, so watch this space, but the interesting thing about it (for me, anyway) is that it slightly shifts your view of the natural world.
You know that bit in The Matrix where Neo has his epiphany and suddenly sees the world in code? A few years of bushcraft and your perspective on your surroundings shifts (okay, perhaps not in such a dramatic way, but certainly in a PROFOUND way).
Being able to recognise plants & trees as you walk – knowing their culinary, practical or medicinal uses – reinforces the BOND between you and the plant. It is that familiarity that is the catalyst for your matrix epiphany. And the best part is that the effect is cumulative – the more time you spend outdoors, the more powerful and deep your experience is. It never gets old.
Now, when I walk around the countryside I see trees, animals, stones, just like everyone. But I also see fuel, tools, food, natural dyes, craft materials and more. I always harp on about seasonal living, but what I mean when I say this is more than just eating sprouts in the winter and strawberries in summer.
Right now, it’s late September. Even here, sitting at my desk, I know that outside, the last of the blackberries are just about harvestable; thistle heads are dry enough to be collected as tinder; sloes are ready for harvest (but we haven’t had a frost yet, so they will need to go in the freezer overnight before use); autumn fungi will be coming soon…
The world is breathing out.
This is the time of year when I yearn to be outside more than any other. An hour in the woods is a precious thing, and often an hour or two is all most people can manage from their ‘real life’ responsibilities (I know how lucky I am!) and it’s important to connect with nature as much as you can, even if that is very little. So if you get chance this weekend – pack up the kids and get out to your nearest woodland for an hour. Breathe in the autumn air, look out for turning leaves and swelling berries. Notice as nature rings in the changes.