3 March 2017

Esmeralda Burg: Confessions of a Hippy Dropout (Episode 1 - Off The Grid)

I am convinced my parents were both wasted when they decided to name me, their only child, Esmeralda. Esmeralda Burg literally means Emerald City. Of course, they assured me my name stemmed from their love of my 'beautiful green eyes', but really? Going through my formative years being referred to by my 'friends' at school as 'the little witch' (apparently Esmeralda is a witches name) is not for the faint-hearted. Still, I have always identified with that horse from the Wizard of Oz - you know the one; it changed it's colour every few minutes, like an equine Katy Perry. Though I don't change my hair colour with anywhere near the regularity of those two examples, I do have the habit of changing my mind rather too often.

I am an all or nothing type of person I suppose - try it all but accomplish nothing. Two years ago I bought a potter's wheel and kiln (I made three pots, only one of which was symmetrical and none that held water). I joined a yoga class but gave up when I caught sight of myself doing 'the cat' in the full-length mirror - the pose should have been called the pot bellied pig. I tried intermittent fasting, however, it grew to be rather more intermittent than I intended. Last year I left my job in fashion editing to join a television advertising agency, I embraced Hygge, Low Carb Dieting, Veganism (two idealisms that were hardly compatible) and I took up the guitar. This year's obsessions are the Paleo lifestyle, foraging food for free, and minimalistic living.

My husband regularly accused me of not sticking to, or finishing anything, referring to each of my latest life-changing projects as an 'Esme Fad'. He had a point, of course, but there was no need to reinforce it with such predictable regularity or with that awful expression of disdain, which is why, ironically, our marriage was ultimately destined to become just another 'Esme Fad".

So that brings us to today. The day I left the world as I know it behind me. Today I left my job, my apartment in the city, my credit cards, my phone and my husband. I packed my old rucksack with a sleeping bag, a couple of pairs of jeans, t-shirts an old sweater, my journal and a book on foraging and off the grid living, and I went off the grid.

Last month I sold my car and jewellery, added the money to the rest of my savings and bought a derelict cottage with its own small plot of arable land and two acres of woodland close to the Norfolk Cost. It fitted all of the criteria from the library book I had 'borrowed' - Foraging and Off the Grid Living for New Age Hippies. The plot is south facing, with its own water sources (a fast-running brook and an old well) and there is plenty of wood for fuel.

This morning I took the train from London to Norwich, a bus to the village of Gigglesditch and travelled the last three miles on foot, but as I sit here now on the floor of my new home, I am wondering if I have gone completely batty. My 'cottage,' constructed from wood, is little more than a log cabin if I am being honest. There are holes both in the roof and door, which is swinging on one hinge. The only indoor 'facilities' are a small rusty cast-iron woodburning stove and an old square sink with a pump (cold water only from the well). The floor is littered with leaves, twigs and animal droppings and there is no other furniture. The table, chairs, and sofabed I ordered won't be arriving until tomorrow. A door at the rear of the cabin opens into a large larder cupboard with a meat safe. Outside is a rickety outhouse containing a waterless toilet, which is basically a compost box with a hole in the top.

I tell myself that this is what I wanted, to get away from it all, ditch the rat race, live my life like a human should, a free range human living in harmony with nature, getting up with the dawn and going to bed at dusk. No endless cycles of nine to five, no boss to make me feel incompetent, no husband making me feel unworthy, just me, living my life in the moment, the way life was meant to be.

I went outside and gathered together a few branches binding them to a long straight stick with one of my hair bands, then I swept the floor of the cabin. The sun had dipped behind the trees and the light began to fade so I gathered some wood and lit the stove and then I unrolled my sleeping bag and ate my first meal in my new home - Paleo friendly, gluten free egg salad sandwiches washed down with a bottle of peach tea.

Written by Karen Wrighton

Copyright 2017 Karen Wrighton

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