“The wild year – a technology-free life in the rhythm of nature”: Back to Basics

He lives without running water or electricity, following a traditional Irish diet. Without solar panels or fridge. He also has no telephone, landline or cell phone, DVD player or social media life. He doesn’t even have a watch.

None of that, but a wild desire to blend into the landscape. And much more: He doesn’t have a single bill in his name.

From there, believing that the 42-year-old lives an Irish Amish existence, shaped by seasons and manual labour, is just one step. He reports on this experience in The wild year – tech-free life in the rhythm of nature (Les Arènes), a book as radical as it is inspirational, chronicling the first four seasons of his installation in the Irish countryside.

“This book is about a journey back to our roots,” says Mark Boyle, who at his home in Knockmoyle, a small village near Galway in Northern Ireland, joined a friend who was visiting and exceptionally allowed him to use a mobile phone to use . “I think we need to get back to the things we know to be true. Become human again, move away from machines and technologies that are blurring our humanity,” he adds.

Originally from Ballyshannon, Republic of Ireland, Mark Boyle, after studying business administration, became the manager of an organic supermarket in Bristol, England, before beginning to feel out of touch with reality.

A gradual awareness that he also evoked in him The man with no money (Les Arènes, 2014) where he recounts how he lived without money for a whole year, subsisting on donations and bartering – an experience that eventually lasted for three years. And like he did for his self-sufficient farming adventure in Ireland The Wild Yearhe had reported on this procedure in the British daily newspaper The guard.

“It was 13 years ago, he continues, and I had done it for a variety of reasons – environmental, social, cultural and personal. This experience has become a kind of voyage of discovery into much broader questions and issues. I realized that the technology that we use, this whole civilization that we live in, has an impact on society, on each of us. And if I didn’t want to be a part of it, I had to get rid of all those things. »

And why stop there? thought Mark Boyle, who hadn’t had a TV in twenty years and was gradually phasing out the rest, starting with social media.

One thing led to another, he returned to Ireland and bought this one acre plot of land to settle down with his then girlfriend. In wild year, he tells of the construction of their house, his apprenticeship as a pike fisherman, his fight against snails in the vegetable garden, the self-evident mutual help that quickly prevailed in the small neighborhood community.

A desire to “give up time” and explore deeply what it means to be human. Kind of a return to basics than the original English title, The way home (The Way Home) probably reflects that better. A handwritten book, of course, sometimes in the evening by the light of homemade candles.

The complexity of simplicity

The man sees himself just as little as a writer than as a lumberjack, farmer, picker or fisherman. Or “one of the hundred other things that keep me going all year long,” he writes. But it is not free from certainties. “For the first time in my life, I undoubtedly find myself fully content without wanting anything other than what I have in front of me in that oh-so-elusive moment: the here and now. »

“I feel like I’ve ditched virtual reality and reconnected with reality, real reality,” Mark Boyle continues. Even if it’s not always pretty to look at because it involves blood and sweat, hard work and much more. But I still prefer experiencing reality to escaping it. »

For this homecoming he will draw water from the side of Great Blasket Island off the magnificent Dingle Peninsula, whose last inhabitants were evacuated by the Irish Government in 1953. Mark Boyle alternates telling his own experiences and those of these islanders, heirs to a simple and harsh way of life, exposed to the elements and now almost extinct.

In his village, as in every corner of Ireland, he sees the same slow death approaching. The villages are emptying and the pubs are closing one after the other. “Mighty forces are at work,” he admits.

But in order to stick to a “traditional Irish diet” – of which potatoes are imagined to be a big part – Mark Boyle says his relationship with living things has had to change. It must be said that the climate in Ireland, especially if one refuses to use a greenhouse, is not the most favorable for growing vegetables. His approach is now more “honest,” and he explains that he’s transitioned from vegan to “practicing carnivore” to be able to eat “local” proteins: fish, venison, and eggs.

“There’s something comforting about knowing that you can put food on the table for yourself, your neighbors, and those you care about during any crisis or disaster in the wide world. Although he still sometimes finds it “wrong” to drown snails in beer – which is perhaps the worst thing for an Irishman.

Plastic vitamin tubes, cars and cell phones, even chickpeas and tofu aren’t really vegan at all. “It all springs from an ideology that is causing the sixth mass extinction of species, destroying habitat after habitat, polluting the waterways, the land, the oceans and every breeze wherever it spreads,” writes Mark Boyle.

And contrary to what many people may think, there is nothing simple in their life. It’s actually very complicated, but it consists of a thousand simple little things. “By comparison, my life in the city was simple, but made up of a thousand complicated little things. The countless tools of industrial civilization are now so complex that they make everyday life very easy. »

“In fact, Mark Boyle clarifies, I aspire to a complex life, not a simple life at all. What I strive for is a better relationship with my immediate surroundings. That’s the direction I’m leaning. And I don’t want to go back to my old ways. Especially not to go back and lose the sense of control he now has over his own existence.

“Most of the time I get up in the morning and decide what to do during the day. I’m not saying I like every aspect of it, of course, because living in the country comes with a lot of commitments, but at least it’s a choice we’ve made. »

The wild year – tech-free life in the rhythm of nature

Mark Boyle, translated from English (Ireland) by Valérie Le Plouhinec, Les Arènes, Paris, 2021, 418 pages

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