Most people have seen an amazing sunset. People who awake early enough would have witnessed the empowering sunrise (not usually me!). I had only experienced Dartmoor during the day, when the features of land are the primary focus. Spending a night wild camping on the moor was like discovering the secrets after everyone has gone home. The sky took centre stage.
I once considered wild camping on the moor as something I was not equipped or brave enough to do. There was a great deal of fear around what I would encounter. The strange noises. The thought of being in complete darkness. How I would be able to cope with all the unknown possibilities – alone?
Through good fortune and planning, the weather was calm both times I camped, easing me into the experience. This Allowed my perception to sense the subtle cooling air. As I attuned to this familiar land in its novel state. I could hear the distance waters flow, the animal noises. I watched the shadows fall and creep across the resting land. The darkness was not as I imagined. I thought without artificial light, it would be pitch black, but it was surprising how well our eyes adapt, I could make out my surrounding well enough. Needing my lamp only to pour boiling water into my coffee cup!
Alone and distant from civilisation, there is seemingly endless space and time. I was consumed by an all-encompassing peace, I felt welcomed by all things around me. I felt safe.
The glory of dusk and dawn brings stunning scenes of far off objects patrolling the sky. A sensation of aliveness ripples through my every atom, seemingly confirming my existence as one with this inspiring presence. I was totally awestruck! My heart felt sure of miracles, as I surrendered to the humble privilege of simply being. There is more to life than I can ever hope to understand.
I have now spent two nights wild camping on Dartmoor. Both times notions of our ancient ancestors have swirled in my mind. Their understanding, with honour, kinship, and celebration natures marvellous ways. It seemed unnameably obvious why they built huge stone monuments that in some way represents the source that underpins all of existence. The changes of forms and the flows of energy that we belong to. The interaction that provides our very life support. Yet we have become so detached from this, we barely notice unless our status quo is shaken. We take for granted the cardinal influence of the natural world and by lack of acknowledgement we also diminish ourselves.
The sunset on my first night camping was the most dramatic. I was pitched in a fairly high, sheltered spot, feeling more than a little buzzed that I was actually doing it. I was horizontal to the almost setting sun and needed to take cover behind my tent as the light was intense enough to burn my eyeballs through the back of my skull. In contrast, it cast a soft magical golden glow onto every aspect of the land that it touched.
Unbeknown to me, it was the night before a full moon. As the sun sank the moon rose simultaneous from behind the opposite hill. Being so perfectly situated in the middle of the seemingly miraculous phenomena, was calmly overwhelming. As one celestial force past dominance to the other. Not unlike a character in a sci-fi movie observing the skies of a far-off fictional planet, there was a sudden recognition of the reality of living on this planet situated in a vast primordial Universe. I stayed up waiting for the night to swallow the landscape but gave up close to midnight, as the light from the moon never wavered, so I retired to the warmth of my sleeping bag.
My second wild camp, the cloud rather obscured the splendour of the setting sun, which appear much more distance from this chosen spot. I knew the moon was waning, so hoped to see the array of stars, previously masked by the reflection from the almost fullness. I tried unsuccessfully to capture an image that portrayed the plethora of stars. As I settled into accepting that I lacked the equipment to record their beauty. I began to consider bunking down, this resigning motion was interrupted…
It was the stirring of the air that first caught my attention, then the land suddenly lightened. Much like the reverse of the setting sun, the moon began to appear from behind the hill opposite, cloaked in a red glow. Its power symbolized by the sudden breeze that shifted the clouds from its path. The magnificent presence of the goddess evoked attention.
As the moon rose, it became the silvery sphere appearing more familiar yet distant. The land again darkened allowing the stars to reappear. The air once more stilled signalling a time for sleep. This incredible moment now passed.
I had missed the sunrise on my first-time camping. I was not going to do this again. The alarm alerted my already stirring body to the time. Opening my tent to daylight was disappointing as I once again thought I had missed the happening. The sight of the morning mist moving along the valley was a comfort.
From seemingly the same spot the moon had appeared hours before, the low clouds adopted a golden hue. I paused and watched as the day established itself. The sun gently spread its glowing blessing across the waking land, returning its colour. Even the sheep seemed to turn in its direction to witness this beginning. The dew sparkles back in celebration at the dawning day.
I sensed the coming rain in time to pack up and reach the car on my second outing. I lingered too long and got caught in the rain the first time – lessons learnt! I headed back to my car via the long route past the ancient stone rows. I gave thanks to the ancient ancestors who I felt had joined me in my experience the previous night. I felt I had learnt something profound even if I could not identify with my mind what that was. Perhaps simply a connection to our roots and a sign to remember the significance in all things around us. A faith that the most fundamental occurrences in life happen without our control and with a wisdom, precision, and purpose we can only marvel at. A reminder that we are not separate from, but rather, a part of the natural world. Intricately woven into the fabric of existence, connected to all things.
Human advancements mean we no longer rely on natural light for our activities. Whilst this gives us certain freedoms it also creates a greater demand to be ‘doing’. This time of year, in the UK, we notice the longer nights and shorter days. We complain that our energy levels do not match our demands. We naturally want to slow down and feel angst at a need to keep pace with our human reality regardless of the messages from within. It puts us at odds with something we should be embracing.
We have perhaps fallen out of rhythm with the true sense of being. It seems a time where there are direct messages from Source to wake up to this. To see our error with a respectful requirement to work in partnership and union with the natural world. We live on a magnificent planet. When we recognise our great fortune, we begin to see the incredible qualities mirrored in our own lifeform.