Friday, 28 August 2009

Vagabond Villages & Transient Towns,


I HAVE BEEN THINKING about moving villages: Towns that assemble and disperse and then reassemble. Gatherings of people that are not always in the same one place, or indeed are not always the same collection of people.
As we travel we meet so so many different people. We visit festivals where we set up camp with many other wheeled and canvas houses, and for a week or so that field becomes our neighbourhood. We smile to meet folk we've met before and cross paths with new people who we'll meet again. Our house is admired by many and we sell pictures in between.
These weeks we spend at festivals are like colourful knots of noise and bustle, of many faces and too much hoo-haa. A hermit-like pair we are, as I have said before, though there is something we love about these gatherings too. We always find that we drive away with a nostalgia, and a bagful of lovely memories.


From our delightful perch in Dartmoor, we moved just a couple of miles to another field where farmer Will kindly welcomed us. This locality is such a warm haven of interesting and artistic people. We have met so many folk, often walking into town and being called by name. On our travels through places this is rare indeed, and it is lovely.
The walk to town is now not so steep, but takes us about half an hour through wonderful woodland and along the side of a river, where we took our tin bath and bagful of laundry the other day to wash. This is the kind of place we hope to come back to. A road life with a perfect place to return to seems like the ideal balance right now.

Anyway, we left this lovely place for a week to attend the Off Grid Festival, a new event in Somerset, dedicated to all things powered by the sun and the wind and to the idea of transition.
Transition towns are emerging all over the world, and are examples of new (in fact old) and exciting ways to look at community, and all the many things that come together to create and sustain it. These include a drive to self-sufficiency, in food, energy and money. Transition towns have begun introducing localised currencies, such as the Lewes Pound (an idea that was experimented with at the Off Grid Festival too, though with a little hesitancy amongst those new to it, us included). You can read in much more eloquent detail about the transition idea here, but it ties in with my thoughts on community, though my thinkings have been leaning rather more towards transient towns, than transition towns.

Just along from where we pitched our house-display, the day before the festival started, a whole tin village was being constructed, with a wooden structure and corrugated iron roofs and walls. In here, they held talks and films on permaculture and other things, as well as building a clay wood-fired oven for making bread and pizzas. A garden emerged out front too, complete with tiny ponds and potted pear trees. And a week later this was all gone, and the ground returned to grass.



Further off we spied another lovely Bedford TK, complete with old time coconut shy and hand made carousel. Inside the truck was a warren of a house, where Ruth and Simon lived whilst travelling, and stored their entire set up too! It was wood-stove warm and ramshackle-nooky in there and a tray of fresh baked buns emerged from the oven (held shut with an axe) before my eyes. They had painted their mini fairground my sort of old-time colours, and the hand-made childrens' carousel vehicles were protected by a barrier made from old nuns' bedposts! It is always lovely to see others doing interesing things from Bedfords!


These were not the only intriguing goings on there. One chap was operating a printing press from the back of a pink milk float. Pancakes were being cooked in tipis. Another man tried to sell us psychedelic toad poison! We met a fellow called Gary who photographed our truck before we were even parked. It seems he goes from festival to festival photographing and then drawing all manner of live-in vehicles and then printing them to sell in little booklets. We bought three editions of this unusual publication "Tax Exempt", in which our own truck house will probably feature one day. I was particularly impressed by the excellent standard of drawing. Feastival art can so often be a bit gaudy and badly done, but Gary's pen and ink drawings were detailed and expertly executed. (As an interesting aside.. if you would like to browse a comprehensive photographic museum of live-in vehicles, Traveller Homes is a great place, even we're there, in the Bedford Truck section. :)


In meeting so many different folk, I have begun to develop a distinct and worrying forgetfulness. I have always had a vagueness about me and an unusual concept of time passing, but having so many faces pass in front of my eyes seems to have done something odd to my brain. People I have met the previous day seem new and never-seen the next. Tui has to nudge me as they approach. "We've met them" he mutters through his teeth. It's embarrassing. I feel so awful when they say "Hello again" and I look at them somewhat blankly. I do try so very hard, and then get all in a fluster when meeting and greeting several people at once, and the panic must disable that memory trigger in my brain. I did once hear of a man who had lost this ability entirely so that when shopping in a supermarket with his wife, she had to wear a special red coat for him to recognise her amongst all the others.
It's not as bad as that for me, it doesn't happen with everyone, and certain folk who I have met a few times or know well have migrated to the other side of my memory bank! But let me say here to anyone who I have looked vacant at - I am dreadfully sorry! I wonder whether my shortsightedness might contribute to this, my blurry visual information of folk far-off being less comprehensive than it should be!



Since you last heard from me, our house has changed a little more too. We sawed our back door in half! And now we can lean over the top like contemplative horses, another 'window' added to our vista. It makes such an excellent difference. There's a brand new cup shelf too, just by the sofa, made by Tui from a lovely slice of wood. He has been transforming the new stable door with latches and ledges and hooks and escutcheons and he's made a wonderful new bench from found wood for sitting outside, the legs have toes. There's even a bracket above the back window on which a lantern dangles. And I sat there admiring it from the hammock we strung between truck and magnificent tree. These trees are our neighbours now. We are back in farmer Will's field, admiring the view and sharing the grass with the sheep (who have taken to sleeping under the truck at night!), the trees towering above us.















We are part of a new village now. Our neighbours were neighbours before, were not for a while and now are neighbours again. The village we made part of in Somerset has dispersed. Our friends Hannah and Daniel and the twins were parked by us there again. They have headed off east to join another gathering. We'll see them again somewhere sooner or later. We'll see others too, familiar and unfamiliar. It's a strange experience of life, crossing paths with others, a unique experience for each person, and yet shared in some aspects. It is the net that links us all, the strands are gossamer-thin and steel-strong, and each path-crossing vibrates them.
No wonder I'm so overwhelmed!

We'll spend a while under these trees, getting on with our works painterly and musical, and I leave you for now with a quote from Rumi that I found and liked in a lovely clothes shop Haruka whilst treating myself to garments after successful festival picture sales.


Let the beauty that you love be what you do.

There are many ways to kneel and kiss the earth.


37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rima,

I'm with you on the not-remembering-faces problem. I work in a museum shop and see many people a day. Sometimes they visit the shop in the morning and come back in the afternoon, and I don't remember that I've seen them already! They'll make familiar with me, and I feel all blank and think, "They must have been here before--are they regular customers?" It gets confusing when so many faces pass by each day. The problem has been worse since admissions and the store have been merged and I work both. Too many people! But it's really great to meet new people, many local and many from around the world.

Thanks so much, Rima, for sharing your wonderful journeys with us! Your life and artwork are so inspiring! Visiting with you has been like visiting a quiet stream in a dark and haunting wood, far away from the chaos in my life.

pRiyA said...

Lovely post on yet another wonderful journey Rima.

Heather said...

Another fascinating post Rima. I expect you enjoy meeting up with others because you and Tui are so often on your own. Both states are a great contrast enabling you to get the best out of each. I think when you travel so much and meet so many different people in many different places, it must be harder to remember them all. I have lived in this place for 27 years and still have trouble remembering some people! That is a beautiful quote from Rumi and I love the alterations Tui has made to your little house - it is enchanting. Glad you have had a good summer and been able to treat yourself.

Sarah said...

Hi Rima,
I love reading about your and Tui's life-it always fascinates me and sounds so romantic. I always think that it must be hard too but the rewards must far outweigh the difficult things. I like the sound of Tui's woodwork. My brother is a great woodcarver and also has made furniture and I am in awe of those skills. I bought a woodplane yesterday to take a sliver off my front door which is sticking and cannot even work out how to put the blades in!
I am not surprised you forget faces sometimes you must see so many. My problem is names often-and information that people have given me. This happens to me at family parties where guests reappear from year to year who I have only ever met at these parties and I cannot remember any details of our conversations.
Oh-and lucky you having a stable door too!

Belinda said...

A beautiful post, Rima and I'm so glad to hear that you are in such a good place.

I must have a brain a little like yours. A few years ago, I wandered into a shop and a lovely lady immediately came up to me, greeted me warmly and hugged me. I had no idea who this person was, looked at her blankly, at which point she lost some of her bounce and quietly reminded me that she had been my best friend in school for many years. I still feel terrible about that to this day.
On the flip side to this, stick me in any given woodland and I can remember every tree and camber in the paths. I never feel lost in trees, society on the other hand...!

The Fairy Shoemaker said...

I read your blog and I want to run from the house, down to the woods and build a shelter of leaves and sky and stay there forever! The reality is that I would miss everyone too much and my knitting would get damp, and who would make the fairy shoes???? Big sigh! You have a special way with words as well as with your brush, and I enjoy seeing both ever so much, so this is me saying THANK YOU xxx from the fairy shoemaker

About me said...

Look after each other, take care, you are beautiful artistic people that not everyone understands.
Were you in Colchester a few weeks ago having coffee oposite Boots, I nearly said hello, but got a little shy, thought you might think that I was intruding.
With love to you both,

Erynn said...

You always make such beautiful posts and have such wonderful photos. On one level, I envy the life you have a bit but I know that I'm not really cut out for such. I have a library that would drown your wee movable castle and would be very hard-pressed to leave it behind. I get my dose of mobility when I go camping or backpacking a few times a year, which is an entirely different thing but still gives a little of the flavor.

I sympathize with your difficulties remembering folks. I have this same problem, even with people I've met several times, unless they have done or said something that really stands out in my memory or they have a particularly noteworthy appearance. Even then, I can be hard-pressed to connect a name with the face. It's embarrassing, but I find that most people understand if I note my difficulties with it and they don't feel insulted.

I have often wished I lived over on your side of the Atlantic. Reading about your life only makes me wish that more often, because I would so love to meet you someday.

herhimnbryn said...

Faces I rememeber, names I do not. It gets worse as I get older.

You wheely home looks even cosier with it's new additions. How grand to have sheep taking shelter under your home!

Snippety Giblets said...

:0) I'm another blank starer ! I can't see 2 feet in front of me and have astigmatism that makes me peer myopically even when I'm right in front of something. The endless "mother & baby" groups I went to with Tally were a nightmare of half remembered people. One woman who I had apparently met at a breastfeeding group accosted me in the supermarket and demanded I tell her how to make her constipated newborn poop !!
Glad you are in such a lovely place and well and happy xxxx

Ember said...

Fab post Rima - the transition town network is a most excellent thing.

I too love that quotation from Rumi; I have it at the bottom of my blog, and also at one time on a beautiful tile, in soft-blue calligraphy.

The pictures of your home and the places you've been to visit are so lovely! Tomorrow I am going with my family to the mediaeval fair at Herstmonceux in Sussex - I'd wondered if you might find your way there because I think you might like it - but I see you're in the west country right now.

Lunaea said...

Sweet quiet contentment to you, Rima! As your words always bring to me...

strugglingwriter said...

I look at this blog at least twice a day, just to see if you have posted.

I am very envious of your free life, able to live on the road in such beautiful places.

Thank you for posting.

Kari Lønning said...

The "net that links us" is indeed gossamer-thin and steel-strong though sometimes it's hard to have faith that the net is there. I was somehow extra touched to hear that the sheep were bedding down under your home. Thought of you two as I walked in the mountains of Norway a few weeks ago....

dellamarinis said...

It's not so unusual to forget a face when you are filled with ideas. Lovely thoughts and photographs.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Thanks for the update on your doings! I guess you will have to greet everybody as if you know them, to be on the safe side :~)

John Labovitz said...

I was among the Humboldt redwoods in Northern California this week, and happened upon a little private campground alongside a quiet river. Walking around the lanes, I was struck that this place would make, to use your lovely term, a comfortable "transient town." There was a bit of minimal infrastructure -- paths, electricity, plumbing, septic -- but it largely existed as the potential of its temporary residents.

But why is it that existing campgrounds do not fit the bill for being a temporary town? Rima, you described it well in your post: the town that existed for a week did so with the help of the folks who were living there; the place was constructed and deconstructed by its residents, which makes all the difference.

Much to ponder.

jamjar said...

such beautiful photos and words as always, and the quote at the end of your post is so very special.

The Clever Pup said...

Rima,

What a lovely life style. It reminds me of gypsies named Rollo and their fortune-telling Grandmothers.

I attended an English school fete when I was just five and I remember most of it. The bran tub, the coconut shy,the tombola. I wish we could go back to that innocent type of fair again.

The Clever Pup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carrie said...

Hi Rima,
I've followed your wonderful blog for a while now, I love your images and your deep words. Your way of life always evokes a yearning of the spirit for a green wilderness and the freedom to wander it!
Somerset is my neck of the woods, I shall have to keep my eyes peeled for your wonderful home on wheels!I would love to see your work in the flesh one day - I am building my portfolio (very slowly)to approach the world of children's illustration, hopefully at least by the time my youngest, Elswyth starts school...
Thankyou for sharing your journeys and your inspiring work...
Best wishes to you both
Carrie...

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Such a lovely quote and another beautiful post. xx

Ciara said...

Rima, you paint such a vivid picture with your wonderful words. I recognise so well your view of the world through your wee door.
*sighs*

Thank you for the reminder of another life of sorts.

C x

Kitty said...

I love the idea of Transitioning - so pleased to find out that there are some groups nearby that I can join!

I visited the Haruka shop when I was passing through Glastonbury earlier in the year! I must have spent about an hour there - their clothes are so beautifully made.

I have difficulty remembering peoples' names - it's quite embarassing talking to someone, hoping I won't have to say their name to them encase it's the wrong one. I find my memory goes down hill when I'm tired.

JOY said...

I think you live in a mystical world somewhere far away and a lot of us on this side wish we were there too!

That last picture - you play the accordian? Fabulous - even a mini-piano-like traveling instrument! Would love to hear more about that.

Care to you and Tui, traveling mercies!

Evangelina Prieto said...

Thanks for take me to a wonderful journey, your site is magic.
I'll be back to find more dreams...
My Bear hug to you
(sorry for my bad English)
http://elpuestuflora.blogspot.com/

Karen said...

Thanks for giving the little peeps into your beautiful home Rima :)
My memory is awful and I too am hopeless at remembering people and often stare blankly and seem vague with people.It can be abit embarassing. Maybe its just our minds are thinking about ideas and plans for creative work and our brains don't absorb the information as well as they should when meeting new faces sometimes? I'm also short sighted and many a time I've been walking down the street and people have waved out in the distance. I wave back but often can't see who they are!
Happy Autumn to you both! x

BT said...

What a beautiful post Rima, I did enjoy reading it. Tui's new bits and pieces and additions to the truck are great, as is the stable door, what a splendid idea. I'm so glad you have found somewhere peaceful to stay and rest awhile, away from the crowds. Don't worry about forgetfulness, I am the worlds worst name rememberer!

I love your description of transient villages. I suppose it happens on caravan sites too, you know, the commercial ones. It's fun to join up with people for a while, but even better to go on your way again. Your photos of inside the truck are so atmospheric. You might like my latest blog of photos taken in the Irish mist, little glass droplets clinging to everything.

Graceful Moments said...

Browsing through the comments, I see that I am not the only one who has a bit of envy for your wandering life. I know at my age and with such creaking bones, it is not for me. But one can still dream and your delightful posts push that dream along. Thank you for sharing your very interesting and lovely journey with us.

Melanie said...

Lovely to catch up with you Rima. It is a special part of the world down there.

shabby*girl said...

Hello, Rima!
I stumbled upon your blog just about a month ago and now read it faithfully so I was thrilled to see a new blog entry! I too am an artist, and...somewhat of a "free spirit". I absolutely love the lifestyle in which you and Tui are living! I realize that it must be very difficult at times and that you are faced with challenges that others could never even imagine. I admire you so. Your creativity and art mean so much to you and it shows. You are willing to go to any lengths to sell your art and keep it visable in the public eye. You are now, my greatest source of inspiration! I do wish that you would travel to the East Coast (Maryland), and park your lovely home in my neighborhood for awhile! Best of luck in all of your travels. You are truly living LIFE. If you need anything, please contact me. Sincerely, Missy

Martyn & Jill said...

Hi, I came accross your site via other sites (as you do), I have to say you have a great page, I've not read it all yet, but what I have read has been throughly enjoyable.

Martyn

Kat_RN said...

Yours is one of my favorite blogs. Thank you for sharing.
Kat

Alex D M said...

I'm a good friend of Amal and Jess, directed here by 'mal, and so glad she did. There's so much in this post that clicks with the way I'm starting to think about my life, about travel and home. This idea -- "Towns that assemble and disperse and then reassemble. Gatherings of people that are not always in the same one place, or indeed are not always the same collection of people." -- appeals to me so much. I recently left my office job to travel around the world, and spent 3 weeks recently in Greece and Turkey, travelling alone, seeing a new place every few days, meeting a few other travellers who I hope to encounter again; now I'm in Australia, in a friend's house, being much more sedentary, and I miss movement. While there's certainly a convenience to a home -- somewhere to store my ever-expanding book collection! -- I love the idea of combining home and movement, forming towns and villages here and there.

Pom Pom said...

Have you seen the Mary Jane's Farm web site? I think you'd like it. She lives in Idaho (USA) and she is a advocate of outdoor living and self sufficiency.

The Wild Old Lady From Florida said...

Your blog is inspirational. Now you have me wondering if I could live like that. My husband would sell our house to live in a motor home in a New York Minute! I wondered if I would have room to create my art... Your creations are prolific and you seem to be so free! Oh my, you really have me thinking!

Jonny Buffalo said...

Wondeful wondeful blog.

I run an alternative arts collective in Colchester called the Buffalo Tank and have been trying to get into contact with Ruth and Simon urgently about a green sustainable kids area...Would you have a contact mail by any chance.
Many Thanks

Jonny

zabanikopek@gmail.com