One of my favourite solo adventures was a spontaneous overnight camp not that far from home late last year: It was November, probably equidistant from the winter solstice as we are now.
Darkness at 5pm meant that only a few humans still out, once I had put my tent up.
I had spent the day facilitating a WanderWomen fire-making experience with a group of brave women, first learning how to make fire with flint and steel, including the life lessons that learning brought – patience, determination, constantly reviewing a situation, protecting what you create, knowing when to feed the flames, and accepting that there are moments when you need to step back to give fire space to grow. All by itself. It was one of those November days that started off with thick fog, but once the sun burned through it, it was actually surprisingly warm. Some of us were in T shirts only – in Scotland, in November. Needless to say that because we were at the beach we jumped into the North Sea, too. From fire and heat into the cold water: Being with the elements, finding our own individual edges, finding healing in nature.
I spent the rest of the day walking, enjoying the warming sunshine, enjoying solitude, sitting on my favourite rocks, watching the sea and staring into the clouds. I was ready to get wintering, seeking calm, craving the soothing darkness of the night, cosy jumpers, woolly socks, hibernation was just around the corner and I felt elated that I had a last chance to go out and spend the night under canvas.
I lost a few things that day…one of my favourite willow hoop earrings. The sole of my walking boot. I meditated about how and why this happened and what the meaning was for my life at that moment. Did I lose a part of myself in 2020? Maybe I had lost a little of my mojo, I was tired after the year we have had. I needed time to myself to re-consider priorities, to re-think my Self, to re-establish a way to move forward, stay authentic and true to my values.
Nevertheless, I didn’t just lose things, I gathered, too, that day:
I picked bags full of seabuckthorn, the orange superfood that grows all along the Scottish east coast. I enjoy popping the cheery tangy berries into smoothies, and like making jam with them, too. They are best picked with the whole branches, and put into the freezer, so the berries come off easily the next day! Compared to other foraging, this bush cannot be over harvested, it’s classified an invasive species (it was introduced to fortify the dunes).
I also got myself a little selection of various seaweed – to spice up my soup at the fire that night, but also to make a facemask the next day. I will share the recipe another time!
Watching the sun go down that night, I felt incredibly calm, listening to the nearby crows saying goodnight.
Don’t I get scared in the dark – that’s what a few of you asked when I returned. It’s a good question. Being out there on my own definitely let’s me sharpen my senses, I am on alert, but it also teaches me to trust myself. I know nature is there to hold me, and I felt held: I had put up my tent under a tree, that hugged, protected and sheltered me from the view of passersby. My bed was a beautifully soft cradle of pine needles and the sandy ground that signified the nearby seaside. I hoped for fog again to make me invisible – if there was anything I was scared of out, it’s other humans. The kind that is in nature irresponsibly: Numbing their senses, disrespecting the beauty around them. But I was safe of them. Because it was late in the year, it was dark and not warm anymore at night.
So I made my own little fire, and enjoyed my foraged soup, but soon huddling into two of my cosy sleeping bags: writing and reading by torchlight, enjoying the peaceful silence. Way before my usual bedtime, I dropped into the best sleep in a long time.
Waking to the birdsong before the first light, I felt so rested, and restored. I took a walk to the nearby beach, waking my senses with a skinny dip in the playful waves, breathing in the sunrise and walking back through the misty field.
This is my kind of self care. And I can’t wait to go camping again.
Self care to me if self awareness. It’s a mindset.
Sharpening my senses, being at one with nature.
Enjoying my own company.
Food. Warmth, a book, pen and notebook.
What is selfcare to you?
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