“Community has become abstraction and rhetoric, and we wonder why we feel so alone” Francis Weller
Since the beginning of this year, we have been in full flight, soaring from top to tail of this incredible Isle; connecting with folk from Totness to Inverness… The summer months spent bathing in ideas and inspiration, and included interviews with Glennie Kindred, Patrick Whitefield, Alistair McIntosh, Polly Higgins, Mark Boyle, Chris Knight; along with the people of Hebridean Island Eigg, and the uncivilized peninsula of Scorraig. The golden Autumn light brought deep conversation with Martin Shaw, Simon Fairlie, and Bristol’s grassroots community permaculture projects, Shift and Feed Bristol, and so the list goes on…
It has been a year of magic, of open doors, and warm welcomes. It has been a year of gifts, rich with meaningful connections –it has been a year of magic. Pete and I have more than once found ourselves looking at one another in wide-eyed disbelief at the exquisite intimacy and depth of connection that we have experienced on meeting people as part of this project.
It feels as though we have tapped into something – the uncivilized community of this Isle – this invisible web, a somewhat frayed tapestry of threads, waiting to be woven back together. This winter, we commence the edit. We will be working the loom, stitching and weaving together the stories of our land.
But what of our immediate community? What of the place and people that hold us when we are ‘home’? There is a sweet irony in our nationwide search for ‘community’, which has essentially taken us away from this place and these people over the past 10 months. This year has felt times un-tethered, disconnected, conducted through a centrifugal force… Yet still, unconditionally, with each return, our community has welcomed us back with open arms, accepting these two uncivilized nomads in the place we call home.
We have been left questioning, what does this word ‘community’ actually mean? How can we explain this feeling of belonging? What constitutes home? Can a village exist beyond the physical boundaries of geographical place?
In the Summer Pete and I attended a week-long programme called The Art of Mentoring, which explored the idea:”What constitutes a healthy community?” Over a week, with around 200 others, we created a village, a functioning community. In essence, the foundations of this healthy community sit within the cyclical, symbiotic Nature > Culture connection.
In our current paradigm, this connection has been severed, in a distorted self-referencing culture. By cutting nature out of our culture, we cut ourselves off from an essential feedback loop that can inform all aspects of our life. By looking at the models which exist in the natural world, we are tapping into a cross cultural language.
Jon Young, who originated the programme was inspired by his childhood mentoring experience with tracker and author Tom Brown, Jr. Since then, he has pioneered a blend of indigenous mentoring techniques from around the world with the tools of modern field ecology, helping people to reconnect with their native environments. This drawing together of wisdom feeds into a process of re-indigenising, re-connecting and re-membering. It is these processes that create the foundation of the Art of Mentoring programme.
Participants are brought together in the framework of the 8-sheilds. A Medicine wheel representing the 8 directions and the 4 elements that are the blue-print for natures flow – from birth to death, Spring to Winter, North, through to South and back to North. So this cycle can be seen on a macro and micro scale from our physical cycles from morning to night, then to our community structures (infants through to elders). The goal is to create a REJENERATIVE future; to nurture a culture of regeneration, as opposed to a culture of self-consumption. Here, we experience ‘Clan life’.
In this immersive week, we experienced these cycles, we were held by our elders, we sang together daily, we danced, we cried together, we went out into nature, we were pushed up against our edge, we witnessed the rites of passage ceremony for the teenagers of the village, we joined as men, and as women both separately, and together… By the end of the week, deep connections had been forged, friendships made, and personal tools for self-regulation such as ceremony, nature connection and journaling, been provided. It was a magical week. But the question remains: how do we bring this back to our own community? How do we live like this from day to day? Is it even possible?
So what does it mean to live like a village? Do we have to wait until we have the perfect piece of land, and the perfect group of people, or is this actually something we can manifest right now?
A couple of weeks ago, we gathered with a group of folk from our community, and began a discussion…
The main things that came up were:
- Access to land
- Shared vision
- Sharing of resources
- The importance of healthy community in raising our children
Whilst the big picture vision acknowledged the need for land, and living space, along with a coherent shared vision; we also acknowledged the value of what we already had – a wealth of people with skills and resources, and a desire to live in community. The question is can we begin to weave our lives together in a way that mirrors some of the qualities of a village, even if we are living separately for the time being?
So we decided to start with a monthly village meet-up; an opportunity for everyone to gather and share food, song, skills, joy, grief, resources and ideas. It will be a place to call on our peers, our elders, our friends, a space to call for what we need, and a space to offer our gifts. A space in the real, physical world where we can meet face to face and honour the connections we have. This will be a space perhaps to sow some seeds, and support one another in this time of transition. Perhaps this will be enough for some, but for those of us who want to take this journey to the next level, this could be the beginning of something magical, and as you know, we are a community who loves a bit of magic…