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Claire Dunn joins Tahnee on the podcast today. Claire is an author, journalist, educator and barefoot explorer. Claire is dearly passionate about fostering a deep connection to the earth, the self and community. Claire's work centres around ‘rewilding’ both the inner and outer landscapes. Claire has a keen interest in the psychology of the human-nature connection and offers retreats and Vision Quest's to help guide people back to their true and wild selves.
Tahnee and Claire discuss:
- The concept of "claiming place".
- Self sufficiency vs community sufficiency.
- Claire's new book Rewilding The Urban Soul.
- The journey that led Claire to her rewilding work.
- The universality of our human connection to earth.
- Supported solitude and Claire's year without matches.
- The importance of knowing your neighbour in these isolating times.
- Moving out of patriarchal cultural conditioning into an embodied feminine space.
Who is Claire Dunn?
Claire Dunn is passionate about connection - to earth, self, and other. Claire believes that rewilding of our inner world is the key to rewilding our planet. Claire connects through her work as writer, journalist, educator and barefoot explorer. In 2010, Claire immersed herself in the Australia bush for four full seasons as a kind of self-designed initiation. She tells her story of this transformational experience in her book, My Year Without Matches. Claire also worked for many years as a campaigner for The Wilderness Society and as a freelance journalist, writing for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, while studying postgraduate psychology. Claire is a passionate advocate for “rewilding” our inner and outer landscapes, and she facilitates nature-based reconnection retreats and contemporary wilderness rites of passage. She currently lives in Melbourne where she writes, offers personal mentoring, and lovingly tends her garden.
Check Out The Transcript Below:
Hi everybody, and welcome to the SuperFeast Podcast. Today I'm here with Claire Dunn. I'm very excited to have her on the podcast. Claire is one of those amazing people that I got to meet a few years ago in Newcastle. And I've been following along with her journey ever since. And she's just this really beautiful passionate woman who is all about connection to earth and so and to each other in community and her work around rewilding, rewilding ourselves in order to be more connected to our planet, I think is really important and really powerful.
So we'll be talking about that kind of thing today. But just to introduce Claire, she works as a writer and a journalist, as well as an educator and a Barefoot Explorer. And in 2010, she spent four full seasons in the Australian bush as this initiation, which she writes about in her book My Year Without Matches. I've passed that book around to so many friends who've all had similar experiences to me with tears and joy and inspiring us to go and hike barefoot through the bush and all that kind of stuff.
But yeah, she's also done activism work, campaigning, she studied psychology and she now lives in Melbourne where she teaches rewilding skills to people in the city and outside. She does workshops and also retreats. So, pretty cool. Oh, and also personal mentoring I saw on your site as well Claire, which is really cool.
Claire Dunn: (01:23)
Thanks Tahnee for [inaudible 00:01:25] here.
Doing all good things. So tell us, is there anything I missed in that intro?
Claire Dunn: (01:31)
I think you've covered all-
Your entire life story. Yeah. I actually wanted to start there because I met you in Newy and I know you are ... Are from Newcastle? Are you definitely born there?
Claire Dunn: (01:42)
On that area. Yeah.
Okay. And were you raised there or were you ...?
Claire Dunn: (01:46)
Yeah, I was raised on a farm about 45 minutes away.
Claire Dunn: (01:51)
Oh, yeah. Nice.
Claire Dunn: (01:55)
But yeah born in Newcastle when the hospital was right on the main beach there.
I love that hospital.
Claire Dunn: (02:02)
In my blood yeah.
I can't imagine my ex partner's mum laboured through the storm while giving birth to her daughter and I ... Yeah, I thought that would have been a really powerful experience back in the day. Your whole life work is about this reconnecting to nature. But was that a theme in your childhood, or were you drawn to this a bit later on in your life? Or how did you end up where you are?
Claire Dunn: (02:26)
Well, I was unconsciously drawn to it during my childhood, just through sheer luck of growing up on a farm that happened to be bordered by a river, with siblings who wanted to be outside and not much in the way of screens to draw us inside. So I yeah, I had a natural inclination to be climbing trees and exploring along the riverbank and making witches brews of herbs and flowers from the garden and planting my own garden and my parents were both gardeners and horticulturalists. So, we were just outside a lot. Always had animals and feeding animals and caring for pets and it was ...Now I think about it, there was that ample unstructured playtime in nature which is so vital for instilling that sense of nature being a friend an ally, a resource, a teacher, and for really instilling that magical sense of connection.
Claire Dunn: (03:32)
But of course it wasn't until my adult years that I started to realise that that foundation, had really informed me and had set the scene for my passion and how my journey's unfolded.
So did you end up in Newy university? Is that-
Claire Dunn: (03:52)
No, I went to Sydney. Yeah, I started in Sydney, studied journalism and communications.
I did that too. Isn't that funny?
Claire Dunn: (03:59)
Here we are full circle.
Claire Dunn: (04:00)
I knew that I was going to have [inaudible 00:04:02] yeah might be like a lof journalist one of the major newspapers but, instead I really got my teeth stuck into environmental activism while I was at uni and that changed the direction of my life away from the career corporate orientation and really towards the ... Initially what was towards social justice and as fierce, what grew to be a fierce protection motivation for these wild places and wild creatures. And, that's when I moved back to Newcastle and started working for the Wilderness Society there and had five years.
Claire Dunn: (04:45)
Yeah, living by the beach and working on forest protection and thought that that would be the continuation of my passion, but of course things change.
That was always one of my favourite buildings in Newcastle, don't think it's there anymore. Like the building is but not the Wilderness Society. I saw while I was researching this some of your achievements in that role, which were huge, hectares of land protected, and I'm sure, lots of other accomplishments that weren't documented on the internet but, what drew into that, and then what pulled you away? Obviously you weren't there for longer than five years. So, what happened?
Claire Dunn: (05:26)
What drew me in was ... It was what people describe as an eco awakening. Where even though I'd grown up immersed in nature, I wasn't really across the political and the global state of the ecological crisis until I went to university and had a close experience with a forest that had been cut down, got involved with a group of activists. And it was really turning my attention towards not so much the beauty of nature which had been my foundation, but really the crisis that we were facing. And it was a eco awakening in terms of both feeling out my deep love of nature, but also the peril that our planet was in.
Claire Dunn: (06:21)
It really was a case of I can't just turn my face away anymore. Yeah, that became a passion for pretty much the most part of my 20s. The better part of my 20s was this environmental activism conservation work, but what started to happen was, on one hand there was just simple reality of burning out, expanding too much energy and putting all the youthful, idealistic values into way too much action and not enough stillness and rest. But there was also a deeper thread emerging which was, this growing interest in the human nature connection, and the realisation that the real threat, the underlying threat, the reason for our ecological crisis is, how our culture has become so disconnected from the more the modern human world, disconnected from our life support systems, disconnected from this sense of living in an animate sentient world.
Claire Dunn: (07:35)
And I corresponded with a pull towards knowing myself more. I realised that I just hadn't really had the opportunity or had the motivation to peel off layers of the self and see what really lay beneath. So it was this merging of this interest in the human nature connection, and also this momentum towards individuation or greater self knowledge. And they kind of combined into a passion for wilderness survival skills, shamanic practise, nature observation and awareness tracking, which I really launched myself into in my late 20s.
Claire Dunn: (08:22)
That propelled me in a whole new direction.
This is a personal question, but I personally have found there's often a bit of a crisis of health, like a bit of a crash that comes with those big shifts. Seriously, it's like every time for me. And I know you've studied Jung's work, so when I heard you say individuation, but yeah, I think there's those like Dark Nights of the Soul and then we realise that we're close to what we were wanting to do, but it was maybe the wrong shoe on our foot or something was that a sense for you?
Claire Dunn: (08:57)
Yeah, sure. Yeah, very much so in my life. I've been able to identify I guess what I would call moulting's is moulting's which happened multiple times in life.
Claire Dunn: (09:12)
And they are often catalysed by crisis in some way. Break up, loss of faith in the path, health crisis, whatever. And they catalyse this moulting. But there's also a very particular moulting, that's a much deeper moulting, which only happens once in life. And that really is that shift that initiatory period of life where one moves their centre of gravity from more of an adolescent mindset into an adult. And it has [inaudible 00:09:43] ages within it but, most Westerners actually never go through that. They never go through that initiatory stage. And, I recognised it in hindsight as that pull towards an initiatory experience to myself in my later 20s.
Because we don't have those experiences at all. Childhood to adolescence. I'm a mum.
Claire Dunn: (10:11)
Yeah [crosstalk 00:10:13] adults are children. Like they're still carrying those, that lack of sovereignty and responsibility I suppose that happens if you aren't initiated.
Claire Dunn: (10:25)
Yeah, lack of knowledge of what their true gift is in the world and a way to, and a vehicle to give it, that's essentially what emerges after that initiatory period.
And so you started to study these things, and did you spend some time in the States? I remember.
Claire Dunn: (10:45)
Yeah. So that was part of my wandering within the cocoon if you like, was going over to study at this place called Tracker School in America, which was a wilderness survival skills school, but it was also very much based in a Shamanic lineage and Native American lineage, and it was full of wild people and wild experiences and craziness and magic and mystery, it really was such an incredible experience to land me into that place of deep listening and is very different way of being in the world, which is really about trained awareness, a deep curiosity, a caretakership, and the literacy in the universality of tracking in nature observation, and also in ceremony and ... Yeah, it was profound couple of summers I spent over there.
There's something there for me when you said universality because, I speak to people sometimes and there's this, "Oh, well, it's cultural appropriation." And then we're bringing these traditions here and I don't belong here. But then in speaking to the elders that I've been fortunate to speak to, not to say that they're same, but they're very similar, the overlaps ... And I've studied a lot of the Vedic traditions and again, there are overlaps are there. Obviously the outside structures may look slightly different but is that the sense that you have now having worked with these things for a while, that they're quite universal, or do you still feel that maybe we need to be careful when we're talking about how we work with different cultural?
Claire Dunn: (12:41)
Yeah, no, it's a really good question. And a really poignant question for us. And for me. I always feel like it's important to acknowledge the source of anything that I'm bringing, whether it's from a particular lineage, and I've been lucky enough to be handed down the skills like I did with Vision Quest like there's a training that is directly handed down from a lineage. And I always would give acknowledgement and credit of that source. And that's important for all the skills that I learned and the ceremonies that I learned.
Claire Dunn: (13:19)
However, very few of them have had a direct lineage. Most of them have been born from direct experience from trial and error, from what one of my teachers calls dirt time, just being out there with the elements on the land. And, there is a universality. Because we're all indigenous to the earth. Every one of us, there's different types of indigeneity and some of that lineage and an ancestry in place. And another layer of indigeneity is as our very basic, irrefutable Earth from the greater mother of earth. And so through that lineage that directly lineage with Earth, there is a universality of belonging, and deep connection and practises of deep listening and fasting out on the land, of singing and telling stories around the fire of literacy with plants and animals, of having a direct connection with the landscape wherever it is, wherever we are.
Claire Dunn: (14:28)
So I emphasise that universality, because what we really need right now is for people to be able to unapologetically belong. To really belong wherever they are and to claim that, because that is part of the healing that's needed here.
I'm like goose bumping and getting teary. It's so true though, because I think one of the reasons people don't act is because they don't have that connection and they don't feel like this is mine to tend to and take care of and so it becomes another way of ... I think it's a protection mechanism in some ways because, if we accepted and acknowledged it, then we are responsible for it. But ... Yeah.
Claire Dunn: (15:16)
The people that are inspiring me at the moment, Martin Shaw, mythologist, he talks about that the era of the generation of the scatterlings, scattered across the earth and not claiming our place, not claiming our belonging.
And here we are.
Claire Dunn: (15:30)
[inaudible 00:15:30] and it's not necessarily where we're born. It's not necessarily where our heritage is from. It's like, both letting ourselves be claimed by a place and also claiming a place.
Yeah, it's really interesting. I'm obviously not from here traditionally. But I'm Celtic, but then I travelled to places like South America where I got ... Like I was like, "I've been here before." And I've had it here in Australia like in the outback, and in certain parts of the Hawkesbury and stuff where I've just been like this is my place. And it's weird because obviously, but it's like, I think if we can start to develop our sensitivity, we can realise that it's all our land. And yes, the traditions are there. And yes, there might be spirits or ... Like you're saying lineage that needs to be acknowledged and brought in, but that's part of our sensitivity and our awakening I suppose that we can become attune to that.
And then I had a really great conversation with a friend who does agnihotra which is a fire practise. And she was speaking of the people that taught her and I used to work on this farm when I was 17. It's a funny little coincidence that she had been trained by them and they are out in the Hunter Valley and they were doing this practise and they were having all these weird things happen. And anyway, turns out it was an Aboriginal burial ground and they hadn't checked in that what they were doing and what was happening there was kosher, to use another culture's word.
But yes, anyway, they got an elder and they had a chat and they did some chatting to the spirits and everyone worked out that they were all coming from the same place. And it's been fine ever since. And I thought that was such a great example of how these two indigenous traditions can coexist as long as everyone's conscious and in communication and open so.
Claire Dunn: (17:32)
Yeah, well, we certainly are not escaping the fact that it's a global melting pot of cultures overlapping and intertwining and to resist that fact is really resisting reality. So how to walk through with deep respect for the indigenous traditions of the land, and also have the wisdom to be able to bring in these other influences that we're privileged to be learning and to be carrying and to bring them together with gentleness and wisdom and insight.
And so you're really doing that in Melbourne. I know you're doing a lot of just worked obviously pre COVID. But you were doing workshops and just what helping people in the cities reconnect to what's available to them in terms of their experience of wildness, or can you tell us a bit about what you do?
Claire Dunn: (18:32)
Yeah, well, it's ever evolving, but it's certainly on a bigger picture. It's certainly cultivating and exploring this idea of wildness, and at its core, its soul centric nature based human work because, soul is in essence, wild. It's our wildest self. It's that unconditioned core essence of ourself that can really only be touched through deep exploration and one of those pathways is through nature. So, yeah, I offer a range of things and some of it is is really hands on and physical. So I have a program called Rewild Friday's, and every Friday, we gather in different park lands of the inner north in Melbourne.
Claire Dunn: (19:27)
And we learn and reclaim these old skills of making fire by rubbing sticks together and the wild edibles and wild medicinals. We make water filters, we weave baskets, learn how to make string and work with fibres, learn tracking and ecological literacy and all the ... hide tanning and all these ancient skills and bringing them into an urban setting, which was edgy and fun, but what it really showed me was, I spent this incredible year in the bush but these people are turning up just for six and a half hours on a Friday, every Friday.
Claire Dunn: (20:07)
But the same process of the pull towards deeper initiation, was happening for them, even though it was nested within an urban environment, even though it was this finite amount of time each week, it was enough of an anchor, in that that stripped back raw, direct connection with Earth and self and other, that it started to work on them in a really powerful way. And a lot of them started to need to go deeper into that inquiry and spend time alone in nature and much more wandering and really opening up the sensory body. So it was a great experiment for me to see that it doesn't take a year in the push to really spark that innate desire the human to connect, and to initiate.
But there are two things I really wanted to talk to you about with that. Like first of all, how does one end up doing a year without matches? Because that's ... I know, for a lot of people, I gave it to a friend who grew up in Melbourne and is a bit of a city girl, and she was like, "How does someone even end up there?" That it made me laugh, but yeah, and then also the idea of solitude because, I don't know if it's a getting older thing or ... though I find the more sensitive I get I suppose, the more I just don't want to be around people and you're living in Melbourne now. So I'm curious as to how you go from really being quite fierce about your solitude in the matches book, to being now in an urban environment.
So, if you could tell us about those two things.
Claire Dunn: (21:51)
So how I ended up living without matches for a year and my relationship relationship with solitude? Well, the how, it's quite simply It was like I had one end of the thread that I was following, and I had fiercely following that thread that it took me to America that, took me to different teachers and mentors. And it became clear to me that I really wanted and needed a period of deep immersion in this whole inquiry of shamanic practices and nature connection. And the only programmes I could find were in America. And my friends and teachers at the time, were considering starting a year long program and I just said, "Sign me up, and I'm there. I'm your number one student, and I'm ready."
Claire Dunn: (22:48)
I'm ready. And yeah, it was this spontaneous decision to run Australia's first independent wilderness studies program and cobble together another five people, they bought a block of land which backed onto national park on the north coast of New South Wales, and I began to ready myself for this experience. And it was a very, very loose program. It certainly wasn't a school. And it was probably looser than I needed in a way. But, what it did provide me, was a lot of solitude. Because after the first few months of working out the group dynamics, and once my shelter was built, then all I wanted to do was disappear into the woods.
Claire Dunn: (23:36)
And to really enter into that cocoon and peel off the layers of self in this very elementally supported way. And that's what I did especially coming into winter, I really went into an intentional hibernation where I didn't see the others every now and then, but rarely shared, not only shared experiences because I wanted to, and did turn my attention quite fully to the more than human world. And spent most of my time after I'd looked after my survival needs like fire and shelter and water and so forth, I just wandered. I wandered the land and as I talk about now, I just have such a feeling in my body of, "Oh how, what an amazing opportunity to be able to get up in the morning and have that freedom to walk until I didn't feel like walking anymore."
Claire Dunn: (24:37)
To sit, to watch, to listen, to observe, to befriend, to converse with the more than human world. And I ... Gosh, I miss that so much. But it was a kind of solitude that was only possible because the others were there. If I was really truly alone, it would have been quite a stark reality. So I call it supported solitude. Because it's a very particular kind of solitude which is very sweet. Because it's a choice, it's a day to day choice. It's not something that's impinged on. So, they're the type of experiences that I love to be able to provide for others, this sense I'm alone and I'm choosing to be alone and I know my community's got my back.
Claire Dunn: (25:33)
There's gifts in the in the really alone. But they're harsh and I've experienced those as well. But it was such a privilege to have that time that six month period really where I went into my cocoon and I rummaged around and I peeled and we had moulting after moulting and just like the caterpillar turned to mush-
Cicada, I keep thinking about?
Claire Dunn: (26:04)
Yeah Cicada is another great Australian [crosstalk 00:26:07].
...leaving little bits of you over the forest.
Claire Dunn: (26:10)
Yeah. Yeah, turn to mush caterpillars do in cocoons. Having no idea what would be on the other side of that. Yeah, and went into quite a deep introspective period which changed everything.
Had you done Vision Quest at that point or?
Claire Dunn: (26:36)
I had definitely apprenticed myself to the dark and to time alone in nature. Which wasn't necessary preparation really, it would have been quite a different experience. Because I used to have a raging fear of the dark, like a terrifying, trembling, shaking fear of the dark. Absolutely. The first time that I was asked to go and find somewhere to sit in the dark in the bush alone, even literally 200 metres from everyone. I was terrified. And it also showed up for me the real fear, which was the shadows within myself. You only feel what you don't know. So fear of the dark was a really powerful teacher actually, over the years.
Yeah, it's funny there's things that terrify us often hold of that of wisdom for us. Even ... Yeah, if we can get through them. I remember reading it. I think it was at the end of the book, and you talked about Women Who Run with the Wolves and you had this piece about your womanhood and the book's at work unfortunately, because I lent it to someone but I was just thinking about that today because ... Yeah, I think that it's interesting how that really helped you find your strength as a woman in your own solitude.
I think so many, I guess women don't have that experience of that opportunity. So could you tell us a little bit about that transformation?
Claire Dunn: (28:14)
Yes, I also just lent out my Women Who Run with the Wolves. It's definitely one of my ... Like, it's a Bible really, that's very close to me. Anytime I need to be reminded of why I feel the way I do about my solitude and my wandering time in nature, just read the introduction. It's a very powerful piece of writing. But yeah, it was one of those key influences but not the only one that showed me, and reflected to me that one of the main tasks of that year was, reforming my motivational system and really my whole compass bearing, which had been trained in a patriarchal culture.
Claire Dunn: (29:02)
I grew up with brothers and in a family that was very patriarchal, in a culture and a schooling system that was very patriarchal. Which held the traditional masculine values of goal orientation and productivity and momentum and movement and decisiveness and rational linear decision making as the pinnacle of human being [crosstalk 00:29:34].
... the world.
Claire Dunn: (29:37)
And I didn't [inaudible 00:29:38] yeah, I wasn't really at all aware of how I'd internalised that. So, I quickly came to realise that my main task that year was to undo that conditioning, and to welcome in the more instinctive, intuitive, deeply feeling, wholehearted fluid, responsive, restful, sensual way of being in the world which can can be equated to the archetypal feminine which was a really really difficult transition.
Yeah, because I remember reading you saying you didn't use your hammock for months. I think I read that in an Australian geographic article [crosstalk 00:30:29].
Claire Dunn: (30:28)
Yeah, I was really driven. I was really driven even out there, driven to weave the basket right or to-
Make a beautiful house? Yeah.
Claire Dunn: (30:34)
Make the beautiful house [inaudible 00:30:37] all done at a certain period of time and oh my goodness, I've only got six months left, I better get tracking or whatever it was. And it really took a breaking in way of those old patterns, and a slow building of the faith in this, slower, more receptive, radically receptive way of being and there were certain practises that helped that so, really asking myself every day, "What do I feel like doing?" Not what's on the list or what I want to achieve, but what do I feel like doing? And then listening to that and responding to that.
Claire Dunn: (31:21)
So if that was lying in the hammock, then that was lying in the hammock. If that was hiking up the mountain overnight, then that was hiking up the mountain overnight. Like all the parts of me need expression, the adventurer, and the cat curled by the fire. But there had been too much emphasis on the high achieving perfectionist. So I'm definitely a recovering perfectionist.
Same. I'm curious how that's translated to Laugh in the City because, I think I've read again somewhere ... Sorry, I didn't take great notes on my research but that you said, you have to keep one foot in or else you can forget really easily into that wildness and, we have this thriving business and I've found myself in the last few years, really leaning back into things that I've chosen to steer myself away from. Because of circumstances that's so easy to get caught back into that to-do list, at the detriment to our sanity. Certainly for me anyway.
Yeah, I'm just curious if you have any ... I don't know ... How are you going over there?
Claire Dunn: (32:36)
It's a very poignant day that you should ask me because I actually chatted to my old mentor, who was mentoring me through that year actually, Malcolm, his name is. And I was talking to him about exactly this difficulty or struggle between the wonderful work that I do in the world that I love, the workshops, the people I get to meet, the deep stories I get to hear in the one-on-one sessions, the Vision Quest, but that's a full time job. With all these hidden demands on my time which keep me inside way more than I would and he asked me the really striking question, "Do you want to get to the end of your life and say, wow, I really helped a lot of people. Or do you want to get to the end of your life and say, wow, I really lived my ecstasy. I really lived my passion. I really thrived?"
Claire Dunn: (33:40)
And I know that the answer is not one or the other. But it is way too easy to just keep saying yes to the doing and the building and the creating. And there needs to be for me, and I imagine for many other people, many more no's for the greater yes. In service of the greater yes. And for me, that might mean for instance, one week a month, completely blocking out any work related activity. Of course work and personal life are very intertwined for me but, giving myself that time to just wander, to sit in my sweat lodge, to do whatever I feel like doing.
To check in with your feelings every day. Yeah, it's funny I spoke to a woman called Lara Owen who is based down in Melbourne. Unfortunately we lost the interview, but we spoke about that. She said she had this period of her life where she did that over ... I think it was quite a long time, like several years and she said it was amazing. She did it with her cycle, but so she took basically her luteal phase to her menstrual phase as far off as possible and she said it was so interesting how different her experiences were from month to month. Sometimes she was really excited and wanted to be out of the world and really creative and other times she just was like, no go into a cave, don't want to see anybody and I thought about how it's so ... Like our cycles are so ignored obviously, in this culture and even the seasonal cycles.
Like, we mean, it's we're in Byron environments, barely even winter and we've been going to bed at like, 7:30 because it just feels right to sleep. Because it's that more Yin dark, quiet time. And if this was normal times and wasn't a pandemic, I think we'd be struggling to honour that and it's a curiosity to me that we're all happy to live this way. I've just resigned in my role this hopefully go live after that's made public. That visitors ... I'm the general manager of the company and it's like, that's not in service to my role as a mother in this stage of my life, which needs to be more free, some days I need to be more present with my daughter than others.
And I don't have that freedom and flexibility right now. But yeah, I think what he says that ... And the ecstasy changes, right? Like for me ecstasy at the moment is being with my daughter, but I know that when she's older, it won't be that. So.
Claire Dunn: (36:24)
Yeah. There's a sense that, we've all been sent to our rooms with COVID.
Claire Dunn: (36:27)
Like feeling what our ecstacy is right now. Like, are we on track? Are we doing what we really want to do? It's like go to your rooms until you've worked out what a passionate life really is for you.
Yeah. Definitely. So given that you're down there, I know you're working on another book is that around this idea of how we can be existing in these opposing roles, like the city in the wild?
Claire Dunn: (36:56)
Definitely is. Rewilding The Urban Soul is its current working title, and it's due in a couple of months so I'm pretty ... Yep, head down. But it is absolutely that, how can we access this presence of the wild, this wild mind while in urban suburban settings? What adventures can be had? What nurtures and cultivates that sense of the wild, and what connects us and what disconnects us? What are the opportunities and what are the dangers? How can we experience more aliveness and more passion in a wild body, wild mind, wild spirit? So it's hopefully going to offer some possibilities for that and some stories that might serve-
Become the new Bible maybe ... For us, ladies out here trying to work it all out. But yeah, because that was something I'm reading your Dumbo for the article about, you had the gathering and really the last bit where you had the key points I guess you said, "Know your neighbours, know your place, get skills, grieve, create, celebrate." I thought that was such a powerful statement because, it's really simple but it's really like ... The way in which ... and I'm not trying to be this person that bashes our modern world because we've all co created it but it seems to be difficult for people in cities especially to know who they live next door to and to connect in that way and I visit my partner's mother in Sydney and if I smile at someone in the elevator, they literally walk away from ... Lean away from me like, "Who are you?"
I'm like, "Okay, cool." But yeah. If people are in cities are they getting together? Is it finding communities seeking out people that are doing what you're doing or, what's the solution there, I know you don't-
Claire Dunn: (39:05)
I most necessarily think that this COVID time has brought it to our attention, that even though yes, we live in a global village actually, we live in the particular house that we live in. We live with these people. We live in this street, we live in this neighbourhood. And that's who we're going to rely on. And that is who our primary sphere of influence is. So I've met more neighbours in the last two months than I have in the last three years of being in this street. And it's been really wonderful. Because it's through vulnerability, and shared circumstance that we connect.
Claire Dunn: (39:49)
We often have fires down here in the backyard and one of the neighbours has started wondering, "Oh." Because he's partner's stuck in England and he's lonely. So it's [inaudible 00:39:58] these relationships are forged but, I think there's a growing awareness that our city lives especially are missing that sense of connected community like sense of village, where multiple people each day, want to hear your story. Like what's your story of the day? How's your day really been? What have you been up to? What's your passion? We need multiple people each day who actually catch that story. And so there yeah, there is all sorts of incredible opportunities to tap into that in the city, especially because we live so close together.
Claire Dunn: (40:41)
So, getting together for instance seasonal celebrations, so we're actually linking our community structures in with the natural cycles, because that's when it starts really humming along. When our connection is overlaid with self and Earth and other, so let's get together and celebrate when the Kingfisher returns from its migrational roots. Or when the dandelions start flowering whatever it is. But taking the opportunities to share food together, cook together, share stories together just really simply. Last week I embarked on a challenge with a friend of mine to only eat what we grew or had preserved from grown food or foraged, or bartered from friends who've done similar.
Claire Dunn: (41:36)
And it has absolutely nothing to do with self sufficiency. It was all about community sufficiency. And that is what creates these really strong bonds of connection is through necessity, through food sharing, through supporting each other in this close geographical way through being immersed in nature cycles. That's where we really come home. It's such a joy for me personally, it was just such a joy to be out there with this direct connection with my food and my community.
Yeah. I certainly have noticed, we're fortunate here because it's a culture of food being local at least to some degree. There's a big strong emphasis on farmers markets and community gardens. But even during the pandemic, suddenly you couldn't get spelt flour, which was partly the drought and partly the pandemic but it was like, wow we are really dependent on this supply chain and we don't even realise it because we go into the bulk store and it's all very good. That it didn't make me think we've got an older friend who is in her 60s and she lives to maybe an hour and a half up in the hills and so she rarely comes down to town and when you're out there with her or you eat eggs from the chickweed from the garden and like, random these like African yam things that she grows and I eat that for every meal because that's what [inaudible 00:43:04].
But it made me like living with him [inaudible 00:43:07] for about a year. And I was like, "This variety we have and there's options to eat Thai food today and Mexican food later." And it's great, but it's a massive privilege. And we haven't had a great depression. We haven't had ourselves really drastically removed from our generations at least and, yeah I think if anything this awakening through COVID could be a really powerful one like they sold out of chickens in the Byron regions.
Claire Dunn: (43:42)
I pretty much got the chickens I could find in the Melbourne region too.
Yeah. This is the thing. And so I know even when you did the year without much as you were still dependent on the supply chain, you had to get stuff from town and things I remember, but I also remember some of the most powerful moments being when you created your own meal. I remember the pippies and the ... Was it the bird that you ate on the beach? But I can imagine. I can only imagine how empowering that was and how deeply transformational I'm sure that was but, we often try and encourage people who aren't maybe that confident with wild foraging or hunting or anything like that to try and just learn some easily identifiable species.
So to start to get into that, are there any other ways you found for city dwellers to get that sense of empowerment that you found in actually feeding yourself from the land and being connected in that way?
Claire Dunn: (44:41)
Yeah, forging is really such an accessible and powerful, connective activity. It's about being outside, it's identifying plants that are edible or medicinal. It's that direct relationship with them. It's having that confidence that ... You have confidence in his food. You know where it's come from, you've picked it, you're preparing it. And the city's actually awesome for forging. It's better for foraging than being out in the bush, because there's all these micro environments and micro climates and different niches and crossovers between indigenous and non indigenous.
Claire Dunn: (45:25)
The amount of food that I collected last week just from street trees or edible weeds in the gardens and ... It's quite incredible. There's seaweeds in the bay and mushrooms just down the road here, edible mushrooms growing. Yeah, it's quite something. So, forging is an awesome doorway into that wild mind for city dwellers. Just be as simple as picking some dandelion leaves from the backyard. And another way is just letting yourself be a bit uncomfortable, like physically uncomfortable sometimes, a bit cold, going out walking in the rain, going out walking after to dark like mixing it up a bit.
Claire Dunn: (46:15)
So there's just not this sense of this rush that we get into of, we go inside at night and we do these things but, "Can I actually put myself in positions where I'm a little bit moved and stirred by the weather, by the environment around me? How could I look up and see what I haven't noticed?" Climb a tree, get low, start to-
Claire Dunn: (46:38)
Change perspective. Yeah.
We cook on the fire a lot because you don't have to clean up, so that's a great option. We're really lazy. But seriously, I'm always like, no dishes. My daughters loves it because they're outside for three hours in the afternoon and it's the best. So I think those are such simple ... Fire is illegal in urban backyards in general aren't they, yeah?
Claire Dunn: (47:04)
Actually if you're cooking.
Yeah, great. Okay, awesome. Well, I don't want to take up too much of your time on these chilli nuts, but I wanted to let people know where they could find you. So you're on naturesapprentice.com.au, that's your personal website. And also on ... you're on social media, I found a Facebook page.
Claire Dunn: (47:25)
Yeah, there's a Facebook page, Nature's Apprentice.
Claire Dunn: (47:29)
That's probably a good way to connect with me. I haven't quite got up to the Instagram.
Don't do it to yourself it's just another thing-
Claire Dunn: (47:37)
I can't do another medium, but yeah, I'd love to hear from people about their own adventures and interests and appetites in this work.
Yeah, I know. We have a lot of people who are really drawn to these transformational rites of passage and things because, we hear from people a lot, just from the experiences we've shared, which have been more ... Mine obviously more from the yogic tradition, and then we've both done some work with plant medicines and that kind of thing. But yeah, I'd really love to Vision Quests. I've done my own, being alone in the bush things, it wasn't very structured. But yeah, just that idea, I think that people could connect to you and be guided, I think would be really powerful. So yeah, and Claire does mentoring and things as well.
So if you're resonating with anything you're hearing, get in touch with her. Make sure it's on one of the weeks that she's offline. Just teasing, but anything else, when's the book due to be published?
Claire Dunn: (48:36)
[inaudible 00:48:36] at least 12 months.
Okay. Yeah. You're still in production stage?
Claire Dunn: (48:41)
Production stage. Yes.
Okay, great. But people can get My Year Without Matches still. I've seen it in stores locally.
Claire Dunn: (48:48)
And online, for sure. Yeah.
Anything else you wanted to share with people? Workshops way back on when the world-
Claire Dunn: (48:54)
I am running a Vision Quest and also a week long rewilding camp in November, that's assuming we're able to gather outside by November, so they're on my website ready to go and also an online course starting in June.
Claire Dunn: (49:10)
We connect just over four Monday nights.
Oh, that sounds awesome. Okay, well, we can actually put links to those in the podcast page. Yeah. So that'll go straight to those if anyone wants to find those, especially the online one at this time will be awesome for people.So, yeah. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time Claire.
Claire Dunn: (49:27)
Thanks Tahnee, thanks for [crosstalk 00:49:28].
I really appreciated talking to you.
Claire Dunn: (49:29)