Ever since he was a child, Geoffroy Delorme felt that his place was not in civilization, but in nature. He began to get into her through little forays into the woods he had in front of his house, a place he seemed to claim for her. Some expeditions that evolved to become his way of life for seven years, one of them completely isolated.
All this without any kind of comforts; no tents or sleeping bags. An adaptation that was not easy, since she had to learn multiple techniques in order to survive. Luckily, he crossed paths with some roe deer, with whom he befriended and replicated his way of life. An extraordinary experience that he later captured in the book El hombre corzo (Captain Swing).
Geoffroy Delorme, writer
Why, of all the animals in the forest, the ones that caught your attention the most were the roe deer? What’s so special about them?
Actually, I did not choose the roe deer. I’d rather say they chose me. When I started living in the forest, the first thing I did was create a territory where I could find food and protection and, ideally, a quiet place. Walking through that space during the day and night, marking it without proposing it while doing my natural needs, I ended up crossing paths with other animals.
Since I was not a danger to them, curiosity towards me began to prevail over fear and the roe deer ended up being the first animals that approached me. Afterwards, I decided to see if they would accept me and, why not, learn their techniques of life in the forest. Imitate those of their species but adapting them to my way of surviving.
How was that first approach?
The rapprochement began with Daguet, one of the roe deer, and then with Sipointe, Etoile, and so on. It took me a while for them to accept me, since I had to show them all my human positions, which they didn’t know. I learned that living with roe deer is like trying to put together a giant emotional puzzle. I quickly discovered that their olfactory universe was very important to them. Our thoughts condition our sense of smell, so an acid smell implies a certain aggressiveness and a sweet smell a fairly friendly behavior.
This forced me to modify the alchemy of my body to be in tune with them. So, I started with smell and then I gained confidence, which allowed me to get a little closer. The sound of footsteps became more familiar to them and so did I. As I got closer, they could better distinguish my face and the different postures of my body.
After several months, the trust was so great that some of them joined me. The final phase was when they licked me and, in this way, integrated the flavor into my skin. This is what I call absolute trust and this is when life in the woods can begin.
How did you feel when you were accepted? You say they become your family and friends.
It was an indescribable feeling, very strange. A kind of belonging to something special. It is not pride, but the feeling of being able to walk among a herd of roe deer and roe deer without them escaping is something very beautiful.
Also running after wild boars without being scared is great. But with venison it is not the same. When he stretches his front legs out in front of you and you’re just inches away from him, it’s an amazing feeling. He felt that the environment and I were one, that it was nature.
In the book, apart from the beautiful things in nature, you don’t forget about the complicated ones. Like how hard it is to survive.
In order to live in the forest, first of all, you must consider it not as a consumer good, but as a shared resource. You have to be organized, in addition to having an exact knowledge of the territory. Obviously you need a food base that will be made up of oak acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and chestnuts.
You can also store less fragile fruits like apples in natural, heat-protected cavities. The collection of wild plants becomes a vital food supplement to have vitamins and minerals such as iron, the latter very present, for example, in nettles.
Burdock leaves can be used as toilet paper and its roots as food. You must have a relational knowledge of your environment so as not to get lost in it because the worst mistake you can make would be to believe that you are the strongest. You must be humble and unobtrusive to blend in with the landscape, being aware of the need to maintain the forests rather than explore them.
You must find an autonomy in food considering that you depend on nature. The animals consume plants that I collected myself and it is important to find that right balance in the intensity of shared harvests. It is, therefore, a tireless work to modify the organism itself and adapt it instead of constraining it.
Regarding your question, living in the forest forced me to change all my routines. Like having ten to twelve meals every twenty-four hours so as not to overload the stomach, since wild plants are difficult to digest; transform sleep cycles into short times and preferably during the day to avoid hypothermia.
It was also necessary to prepare dry wood in all parts of the forest, wood that is on the ground obviously, and to maintain constructions such as wooden shelters or drying sheds. A life in autonomy in nature cannot be improvised from one day to the next because it is necessary to permeate everything that surrounds you to finally be part of it.
What did you experience when you lived the roe deer hunts, experiences that were very painful for you?
Living outdoors with animals reveals another way of existence and thought. Hunting is often associated with death and no longer with a form of subsistence. Today it is often a leisure activity, although other times it is still a way of eating. I don’t like to judge other cultures different from mine. I wouldn’t understand being banned from picking plants that feed me for the simple reason that it’s not moral. I’m not a hunter, I’m a collector and I think there are ways to complement each other.
There was a time when food did not fall from the sky, when everyone was happy if there was hare to eat with vegetables. Today, this no longer exists, and hunting has become a murderous activity whose sole purpose is to regulate the populations of animals that we have never controlled and never will control. Game should be reserved for eating only. It is also a less and less accepted practice because minds evolve well fortunately.
However, we must not go to extremes. I have been caught in raids several times with the risk of being killed, but for me life is the same as that of a roe deer or other animal.
My thoughts about life and death changed profoundly when I lost my friend Etoile, a beautiful roe deer. He died before my eyes during a hunt and I grieved the loss of him greatly. But later living with the other roe deer helped me see death as a symbiosis with the living. Death is not an accident of life or a punishment. And less an enemy of life.
We all feed on the death of another. When an owl makes a nest in the hollow of an old dead tree, we enjoy the life of these little chicks and are not saddened by the death of the old tree. I have no particular relationship with the hunters, we live in two totally different universes, united by landscapes, but not by culture.
What did you learn after seven years?
This experience mainly taught me who I was. When you live in the forest surrounded by wild animals you are not facing nature, but yourself. The roe deer are not medicine against the human disease of life and the forest is not a therapy to treat the madness of civilizations.
The difficulties I encountered in the forest were specific to my species, but I discovered that I had much in common with other animals. That is why the roe deer were for me the reflection of my soul. In these seven years I have learned to live without needs or cravings for consumption. Today everyone is running after purchasing power, that is, after the power to consume more, but this logic is destructive.
To be able to live in the forest, first of all, you must consider it not as a consumer good, but as a shared resource.
I think that people in general have too commercial a relationship with nature. They treat it like a consumer good reserved for leisure. As something material and not nutritious for your eyes.
Some time ago no one would have returned from a walk in the woods without bringing something to eat or collecting dead wood. A relationship that also occurs with mountains or the sea. Everything is related to tourism or the economy. Few are those who keep in harmony with nature.
Do you think that this abuse that we inflict on nature comes from our estrangement from it?
Of course, because we have forgotten where we come from! And that’s where our mistreatment of her begins. We have created a civilization independent of the wild world based on the exploitation of resources. A civilization of conquerors. When living in the wild world is the exact opposite. Humans should relearn to live in interdependence with other living beings.
We all defend freedom, but this is only a human concept; rather we should focus on autonomy, be it food, energy or on another scale. Is my town autonomous? How many farms are in it? Can I get my milk, eggs, or garden produce directly from a farm near my home? In short, we should redefine what the human scale is.
Biodiversity loss will stop when we do not treat nature as a resource. The forest is a gigantic community of animals and plants, all autonomous and interdependent, and we humans are also part of it.
What did you feel when you left the forest?
Returning to society was more difficult than going to live in the forest. It was more shocking because the values and laws of nature are opposed to those of our civilization. I do not seek to transform the world, but to awaken it. I want to share my knowledge and feelings to show the greatest number of people the joys of a simple and happy life, which can be in total harmony with the comfort provided by technology.
I come from a world where camaraderie reigns to find myself in a society where competition wreaks havoc. Something that is learned in school at an early age. I live without being blinded, I see the big picture, but I appreciate things for their beauty and not for their value.
The industry puts immense pressure on nature that I feel directly on me. In the end, the return to society was revealing. I am simply trying to show that there is another way to exist.
Will you go back to the forest?
In a way I still live in the forest. It is within me, as firmly united as the members of my body. Wherever I go, I feel at home. I transform and adapt to the forest I am visiting.
At the moment I have no plans to return because I already found what I was looking for. If it happens again, it will be naturally and not imposed or voluntary. Sometimes I miss the contact with the roe deer but I don’t want to live with them for a selfish pleasure.
The union must have a mutual meaning and at this moment in my life I am trying to show people a different vision of things, not to do the same thing again. I think there is time to live the stories and time to tell them. My moment now is to share my experience and maybe, one day, soon, another story will begin with other elements, other landscapes and, why not, with other animals.