Archive for the ‘Hermitdom’ Category


Oak tree sprouting from acorn

SIN…Seasonal Introversion Normality.
Not like SAD, because it’s not a disorder (I suspect many of you have just stopped reading…”How disappointing! I thought this was going to be x-rated!”)

I am an introvert. According to those online survey things, I fall off the end of the introvert/extrovert  bell curve. This is NOT a bad thing, despite what society as a whole seems to believe.

We live in a world where extroversion is encouraged and rewarded. The child who prefers to sit and read alone rather than ‘joining in’ is labelled as odd and bullied, often overtly by peers, but also more subtly by adults. Those phrases like “living in a dream world”, “away with the fairies”, whilst on the surface innocuous enough, are said so often with an undercurrent of criticism. Why aren’t you out there joining clubs, making friends, pushing yourself forward? Because if you don’t, you will never ‘get anywhere’ in life.

And on one level , this is true. Who are the people held up as successful? Actors, performers, politicians, business leaders… people who push themselves forward, people with loud voices.  Our world is run by extroverts.  They control  politics, the media, religion (you don’t become arch-bishop by being a shy, retiring introvert), the economy, the armed forces , the arts (think of all that networking and mutual back scratching).  Loud mouths get funding, pushy people get promotions, the thicker the skin the higher you fly.
I wonder what the world would be like if they stopped shouting and listened to what the introverts have to say, if decisions were made based on considered thinking, and not because they sounded good and would make you more popular with your friends…

Another frequent criticism of introverts, is that we are so wrapped up in our “own little worlds”, that we don’t care about anyone else.  In my experience, it’s more often quite the opposite. Extreme extroverts (like many politicians) spend their  time projecting themselves out, thrusting themselves and their opinions on to the world at large. Extroversion is defined as “the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self”.
If you never look inwards, never explore your own inner world, how can you connect with the inner world of other people? How can you truly empathise?

Imagine if introversion was respected in childhood. Imagine if instead of constantly trying to get introverts to ‘come out of themselves’, extroverts were encouraged to ‘go into themselves’. Imagine if some of those political and business leaders could understand and empathise with the inner worlds of other people…

Which brings me back to SIN.

One of the biggest problems I have with socialising and going into places filled with people is that I feel utterly drained and exhausted by the experience. Not surprising really… According to numerous sources, extroverts tend to be energised when around other people, whilst introverts are “easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement,”. There is a theory that extroverts take energy from others, whereas introverts give it.

Fortunately, I live in a forest in the deepest countryside. No people, no traffic, just Nature. I don’t have to don my protective socialising armour. I’m sure an extrovert would be bored stiff within a day or two here. No parties, no concerts, no pub, no shops, no chit-chat. Would they notice the new buds on a tree, sit and listen to the birdsong, wander in the woods with no ‘goal’, just feeling utter, blissful content at being there?
Most people feel happier when it’s sunny. But many also live in an artificial man-made world. Electric lights, constant central heating or air conditioning mean people don’t live their lives to the rhythm of Nature. And life doesn’t change so very much from winter to summer. The inside of a supermarket or an office or a hospital remains the same.

But in the country, it’s different. Winter is cruel, bleak, hard. Beautiful too, in it’s own way, but it’s a time when Mother Earth draws inwards…It’s her introverted time; her time to look inwards, to nurture her inner Earth and the seeds lying sleeping beneath the surface, that will burst into new life in spring.

When you live within Nature, Nature lives within you. And as without, so within.
Every winter, Persephone is in the Underworld, and I draw in to my inner world. This isn’t depression. There’s no misery, no unhappiness, just  natural ‘Seasonal Introversion Normality’. It’s not a time of gloomy navel gazing, but a time to nurture the inner seeds.
Unsurprisingly, in a world ruled by extroverts, people champion ‘EXperience’. How many times have you seen those lists of ‘things I want to do (experience) before I die’, heard people say what they have learnt from experience? It’s all about DOING and experiencing, and getting ‘out there’.
I think there should be a new word. ‘Inperience’. A word that recognises the value of inner journeys, of dreaming, of imagination; a word that describes the worlds to which the reader of a good book is transported.
Our world needs introverts and inperiences just as much as extroverts and experiences, in the same way that it needs winter as much as it needs summer.

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You may have noticed something missing from this blog so far…The clue lies in my description of myself as a hermit.

Yes. No humans!

There is a very old book in French which describes the area in which I live thus: « Ce pays des plus escarpés, des plus boisés…le Désert, n’était pas sans attirer des ermites, désireux de beaux paysages, de solitude…une région paienne ou était tenace la croyance aux fées… » Roughly translated, this land is a wilderness of forests and steep, rocky places, which attracts hermits looking for beautiful countryside and solitude…a pagan land which clings on to the belief in fairies.

My nearest human neighbour lives in a house called ‘L’ermitage’, the hermitage. (My nearest actual neighbour is not human, but a Fairy Queen called Quasnon who lives in a palace of rock. You will meet her in future blogs.)

I don’t really need to encounter humans very often. I grow my own veggies and fruit, make cider, pommeau and calvados, have hens for eggs, meadows for hay, a well for water, goats for fleece (the latest in neolithic fashion!). And then there’s barter. I swap the hay that I don’t need for firewood and grain (poultry feed and bread making) and give board and lodging to some rather beautiful cows in exchange for their milk and cheese. Honey comes from an old man in the forest who keeps his own bees (bee hives…next on my list of ‘things to do’) and in addition to the forest’s own bounty, mysterious gifts of mushrooms appear from time to time left outside my door first thing in the morning…

Even the internet flies magically in all on its own!

Little need to venture into Humanland…except…COFFEE. And pens…and loo rolls.

As for humans venturing into the forest… My nearest village is an interesting place. Isolated, surrounded by forest on 3 sides, and straddling lands which were once the border between France and England, a priory was built here in the C13th, because it held on stubbornly to pagan beliefs long after everywhere around had converted to Christianity. The priory is now largely ruins, except the part that is now my house…

I don’t know what people’s idea of French peasants is in general, but my experience has been one of surprising open mindedness. After seeing the broomstick outside my door one day, a neighbouring farmer, who refers to people from the next village as étrangers (foreigners), turned the conversation to les sorciers/sorcières.

« It’s fine », he said. « I know you’re one of the good ones. » He took another appreciative slug of my calvados. «A previous owner of this house was a ‘circler’. He could heal a wild animal just by circling them. He was a good one»

« Are there many bad ones? » I asked curiously.

He shook his head. « They don’t last long. Bad things happen to them. »

So…back to humans. No one comes here because they’re ‘just passing by’. I live at the end of a tiny road to nowhere, which branches off a tiny road to almost nowhere, which forks off from a slightly less tiny road to maybe somewhere eventually.

No one, that is, except Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I am prepared.

A car arrives at my gate. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
JW1: (sees sign) « Dragons? »

Me: « Yes »

Pause. JW1 laughs nervously « Is that a dragon? » Points at golden retriever.

Me: « No. A dog. »

Another pause. JW1: « Do you believe in the garden of Eden? Myth or fact? »

Me: « In my world myth and fact are the same thing. »

Blank expressions.
Me: « The garden of Eden is all around me…as are the dragons. »

JWs beat hasty retreat.

Humans. Bizarre.

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