The evening air hung thick and warm. Summer was in full swing at Elkhorn. During the daylight hours the shade of ancient trees offered some respite from the sting of summer sunlight. When the sun fell from view and fireflies danced in the still air, it was the lake that sang to me. In the cover of darkness we swam, lazy and slow. Floating with bodies parts poking out of the wetness. Our faces looked into the night sky, mesmerised by the moment. The lake was surprisingly warm, it was also full of lake weed that tickled feet as we wriggled about. It was a refreshing momentary break from the draining heat of a Wisconsin summer. Our bodies where confused as we'd just travelled from a cold winter back home, I'm sure they experienced some sort of shock from the extreme contrast in weather. Only a few weeks ago I was standing in snow, now I was on the other side of the planet, sweating it out in summer.
I'd made my way to Camp Wandawega to run my first American workshop in 'practiculture'. The idea was to share my skills with whoever wanted to learn them. From skinning a rabbit to making sourdough bread and everything in between. I don't have much these days, be it money or possessions, but I do have a handful of learned skills that I'm keen to share. That's my commodity.
That was the idea of this workshop. To share skills. That did happen, and people seemed pretty happy walking away with techniques like how to smoke pork loin or how to butterfly a trout. But something happened to me at this workshop that I did not envisage.
I've come away asking myself a lot of questions. About my purpose. About what I want to achieve.
When I was a kid, Mum used to call me an idealist. She spotted it early on, and she was dead right. I am an idealist. Ideally I'd like to see more people embrace a certain way of living. I'd like to see people source food that's not going to make them sick or make the environment worse off. But the reality is this just isn't going to happen. I don't have the reach, I don't have the media presence and I definitely don't have the money to make that happen.
I've now travelled the world trying to peddle the idea of 'sustainable' living. I get on stages all over the place and share my story and talk about how making certain changes in ones life can in turn provide massive positive benefits for the individual, their family and our environment. I've spoken to thousands of people on this topic but I know that I'm not even scratching the surface.
When I sit in a plane, on that slow approach to land on a runway, I look down at the massive cities. The network of roads, buildings, the built human environment. These places are massive machines. The are too big to be altered. The massive companies that are manufacturing the shit food have budgets, of endless supplies of money to keep the machine going.
The 'people' don't want to hear the news that the cheap food they eat will make them sick. The people don't want to hear that man made chemicals have negative impact in all areas from our health to the health of the natural world. There are just too many distractions that divert peoples attention form the reality. The sad part is that a lot of our modern world woes are cause and effect i.e. If we stopped eating bad food our hospitals would be quieter.
Ideally I'd love to see little changes made that can reduce our impact on environment. I shouldn't have to spell out exactly what those changes are, it's up to the individual to figure that out. We don't need to be hand fed anymore. We're adults. Let's figure things out for ourselves. See there's me being idealistic again.
The workshop went well by all accounts. It was a stunning venue at Camp Wandawega. That place is something special. The people there where amazing, the students where amazing and the sharing of ideas and skills was a productive two way street. It's just that I've come away asking myself so many questions that, at the moment I just don't have the answers for.
People keep telling me that I'm doing this or that the wrong way. That I'm not putting enough science behind my message or that I'm wearing the wrong hat. I'm realising now, after being on this path for a few years now that it's easy to become a target. I know now that if you put out a message your going to get shot down at times. Acceptance is part of the role.
I have one conclusion from this experience. And I've turned to my outlaw country hero Willie Nelson for my answer. See, he did his time in Nashville in the 1960's trying to become a country music star. He tried to play the industry game, was clean shaven and well dressed and tried to write clean songs. But it wasn't the real Willie. Then he started to do things his own way. He was more honest and became real Willie. Branded an outlaw from the Nashvillie scene, because he ideally wanted to be himself because thats something he could believe in.
Now I know I'm not Willie, I'm not comparing myself to Willie, but it's the metaphor that lies within the story that I'm interested in. I can't walk the streets of the worlds great cities telling everybody that they're living it all wrong. No one will want to be told, and who the hell do I think I am saying that the modern world is slowly but surely killing the health of the natural world and us humans. I can however be myself. I can live my way and record it here, on this old blog. Here I can be the real Rohan. I can continue my journey of discovering real food, and living a more mindful and purpose driven existence. This is not an idealistic notion. This is practical and achievable.
Big thanks to everyone that helped out to make the Camp Wandawega workshop a success. David and Tereasa for all you're help getting the event off the ground. Thanks to Max Wastler, Kate Berry, Dillion, Dale, Jacky, Joe, LL Bean, Sweet Paul, Karen and Bob, Ruby Roasters, Underground Porky Jonny and all the students that came, learnt and swam in the lake with me.