Life is good at home. We have a thriving productive garden, beautiful friends and neighbours, a magical nearby forest, daily ritual, goodly water, air, food and special country and community in our lives. But it’s time for a shake up, another really big shake up. There is so much fear encircling the world, crippling motivation and stifling spirit. We want to ride straight into that storm from this place of gentle settled sanity.
Seven years ago we rode our first big cycling adventure, and crawled up the east coast of Australia at a speed suitable and desirable for five mammals on two bicycles. Now we again have itchy pedals and a thirst for permaculture pilgrimage – to take neopeasantry to the road for a second time, to further test our resilience and embrace uncertainty, to travel in right story relationship, write a bunch of new songs, seek ways to be in service, and expand once again our foraging, fishing and hunting knowledges. This is us back then after we returned home and wrote a book about our journey:
Woody was 14 months old when we set off last time. He was 28 months old when we returned. Half his life on the back of a bike! That trip imprinted significantly on him in innumerable ways. Now he is eight. He is knowledgeable and adaptive, creative and up for anything. We adults have had timely and important bouts of pre- take off fear and anxiety, and have been busy preparing ourselves since we made the decision to journey a few months back, packing up all our various libraries at The School of Applied Neopeasantry.
So where are we going? We have no definitive plans. We are thinking we will decide on the morning we leave what direction we will travel, which will be some time in the next week. We’re going to leave on the warmest day. Yes, it is kinda crazy to be heading out in mid-winter just after solstice, which will certainly throw more than just cold water over us. We are once again ready to be slapped and trammelled, whacked and winded to feel the full force of freedom. At least we think we are…
On this trip we are taking with us many new skills and processes. Tummo or fire pranayama breathing technique for one (via Wim Hof), to help with exposure to the cold and for general disease prevention. We will also trial other breathing practices that we read about in James Nestor’s Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art, such as taping our mouths shut while riding, a hack we already use during sleep to promote nasal breathing. Hauling heavy bikes with our mouths taped is no easy thing, but we’ll give it a crack anyway.
We have had a remarkable seven years, which also brought a fair dose of familial grief. We’ve survived this time by going deep into it, by keeping our hearts open, by holding monthly fire circles in the nearby forest commons, and discovering that grief is given its full form in the company of community.
Tyson Yunkaporta recently referred to Artist as Family processes as ‘creoling’. We like this. It speaks to emergence and never arriving. Being in an ever-rearranging flow state is why we are seeking life on the road again – to intensify the processes.
At the outset of this trip we will take away with us a deeper sense of the spirit of Djaara Mother Country, and a deeper practice of being in country. Acknowledging the mothering of the worlds-of-the-world we travel in, and taking with us daily rituals to honour the land as we seek food, camping ground, water, good company and days of easy transit. A big fear is having to face the industrial food system again, so we’ve been dehydrating goat, rabbit, various vegetables, fungi and fruits to take.
All of this food from summer and autumn’s harvest has been carefully dehydrated, bottled, stored and will be packed into reclaimed ziplock bags to fill one of our ten panniers.
This really feels to us like a pilgrimage of errantry. As Jim Corbett writes, “The first decisive step into errantry is to become untamed”. We are open to the uncomfortable encounters that we will ride into, as we are open to the freedom, uncertainty and grace of the road. We will be four mammals on two bicycles this time, and each of us will have our own story to carry, along with our collective song kit.
While the last big journey focussed on extending our knowledges of food outside the locks and keys of capitalism, this one will be more about songlines, and Woody and his fiddle teacher, the talented Adam Menegazzo, worked hard to prepare a bunch of Artist as Family songs to take with us.
There has been a mountain of preparations for this journey so far, such as emptying the house of no longer required things at a garage (garden, really) sale,
taking surplus things back to the local opshops and to the tip from where many of them came,
finding, with Goathand Brad, a year-long home for our herd,
retrofitting the old tandem (Merlin) for Patrick and Woody to ride, with the expert help and generous enthusiasm of local bikesmith Eric the Red,
selling Meg’s trusty old longtail bike (farewell intrepid ten-year old friend),
to help buy herself and Zero a new freedom machine (Cosmo), which we promptly de-branded with retroreflective tape,
receiving help from legendary bicycle tourer, Mick ‘Permaculture Pedals’,
repairing old touring equipment – thanks local zip fixer, Matt,
and giving out some home-stitched, wild-shot flavour – thanks for your sewing skills Blue Wren,
lighting a fire with scratched-for dry bark tinder, wet wood and a flint and steel on a practice ride,
preparing Tree Elbow University’s house and garden for our dear friends Ruth, Tyson, Apollo and Solaris to move into, and for a French film crew to shoot an interview with us and David Holmgren at the School of Applied Neopeasantry.
So many things to put in place, handover, store, accept, cross off, reconcile, process, pull out and celebrate before we ride off in the direction of the pointy end of a feather – a feather we will fling up into the air, watch spin around and land, and then steer our rigs accordingly. Letting go like this at the very start of our journey – not being in control of the direction we will first head – will join our extensive medicine kit. This kit includes the obligatory bandages and home-made herbal salves along with singing, dancing, breathing, bicycling, cold-water plunging, rapturous-eye hunting, being together, foraging (eating origin-known food), sharing story with people we meet, and fungal medicines such as these dried-ground Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor), which were growing on cankerous wild apple wood that we pruned in the nearby common a few years back.
We recently had a hearty chat with Morag Gamble on her podcast Sense-Making in a Changing World, where we spoke about our forthcoming travels, decolonising time and re-culturing earth-positive lifeways.
We have no idea what we’re doing, where we’re going and what will happen to life in the next year. Charles Eisenstein recently spoke about the necessary naïveté required to walk the new story. Yes naïveté, and a kind of foolish trust – to throw caution at a head wind, to deliciously flow with a tail wind, and to belong in the dovetail join of grief and praise. We hope you’ll join us in this wild ride.
Artist as Family