Cultivating Kindess and Potatoes!
As I began to write this email yesterday, we would have been hosting the April Fools Day (1st April) Annual General Meeting of the White Stone Association, the legal entity of Mount of Oaks. By now we would have been finished with the formal part and about to prepare a fire, getting the instruments out, sharing some food and ‘craic’ with our local supporters and friends…..Alas along with many other beautiful cultural/social events, gatherings and classes, our meeting has been postponed until further notice. We are considering a virtual meeting….we have been considering serval virtual options, and even making little videos of what we are up to. But more about that in another message later..
This morning, while ‘welcoming the day’, our daily practice of liturgy, silence and space for circle sharing (most days we sing/chant but not this morning), I read a passage from “The Book of Joy” a conversation between the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu, and we considered how much JOY plays a part in our every day. We are practicing to notice and become more aware of when joy rises, what sparks joy, or when we feel it fading from us.
We are 5 living here at the present – we were 7, then 8, and now we have been a core of 5 for nearly 2 weeks. These beings living with us are not prepared to go back to Italy, Israel or Ireland – even if they wanted to, they have been advised to stay put here for the foreseeable future. So here we are – getting on with life as best we can. Sharing highs and lows, deepening our connection to ourselves, and to the nature and wildlife all around us. The connection to ‘home’, our families/loved ones has been continually tested and also strengthened. The gentle rhythm of the day helps, being active with the body and doing meaningful work in the garden – making the trenches for the potatoes; chopping and splitting the wood to heat water for the shower and to keep the common space cozy; foraging for flowers and leaves; COOKING – well we are utterly blessed to have a Middle Eastern, Italian, and veggie/vegan Irish playing with the fresh herbs and spices and being creative with what we have and don’t have!! A shift in our reality, such as this, has brought out so much creativity not just in the kitchen, but with how we apply ourselves to our time management. We have trippled the time that we give to communal prayer/meditation and each of us have felt the benefit of the community disciplines. We have fasted together, cried, laughed and supported ourselves through various states of separation. This molecule has proved to adapt to the current circumstances.
Yes, we are blessed to be living outside, so close to nature, off-grid and able to cocoon ourselves ‘ n’ on the farm – leaving to collect fresh spring water and the occasional bag of coffee or some bananas from a shop in the village – while taking all the necessary precautions. We have also been going to buy fresh veggies from a local farmer for us and our neighbours who don’t yet speak Portuguese and also one have an auto-immune disease, so needs to be particular and careful. We are being even more careful and taking necessary precautions for his sake this last month. We had Isik and Eva arrive to prepare for the Yoruk retreat early March – just as we were all trying to get a handle on the situation that has been unfolding. It took a few days to realise we would have to cancel the gathering, and all the efforts of Eva, Isik and ourselves to prepare the land and ourselves for hosting was to be put on hold. The ladies stayed and were in great quandaries if they ought to continue to stay here on ’the island’ – for that is what we have felt that MoO has become – a little island of peace, and freedom of movement within the land and lanes, and a sanctuary from which we can hold many others in our prayers.
Our elderly neighbours are STILL coming to feed their animals on their farms that border MoO. We speak at a respectable distance, over the fence and exchange ‘laments’… Tia Adelina’s son is in France and has fragile health at the best of times. She cries, talks about the operations she had the previous years- all of which we saw her bounce back from – knee and hip – she is made of strong matter. At 84 years of age, she considers herself healthy and worries for her less robust village neighbours..The same woman demanded that I pass a hoe over the fence and allow her to show me how to sow potatoes and beans ‘properly’. Yes, we have mentioned the humble potato a lot in these last weeks here. Tia Adelina gave us a bunch to plant and we bought more – considering while we have good land to sow it and we can share whatever surplus to folks around here in a few months.
And life continues on the farm, spring rumbles on – cherry blossom has passed, so has the almond. Oranges and tangerines are in full aroma and we are harvesting the flower to dry and add to a relaxing tea mix. We are harvesting wild lavender, camomile and wild calendula. There are so many edible greens all over the place – chickweed, plantain, nettles, venus’ navel, various sorrels, cleavers, wild rocket, dandelion…and much more. The chickens are well. There is one who wants to sit, so we have gathered an uneven number of eggs and we will put them under her tomorrow when her ’nursery’ is complete. Ba was outside arranging new accommodation for her, so we can easily feed her, give her water and so she can be in seclusion and protected until the chicks hatch. One year, we remember that it was on Easter Sunday we discovered chicks – it definitely won’t be the case this year!
We have said many many times over the 14 years since the first beings nomadically lived at the Mount of Oaks, WE (whoever the ‘we’ is at any given moment) will be here and stewarding this land, nurturing soil, life and a refuge, praying and planting hope and healthy food, giving space for difficult conversations and facing ourselves in the bare of nature, we will continue to be here – foraging food, transforming and fermenting, chopping down and building as naturally as possible….. we will continue in the ways of simplicity and we will continue to try and need less and love more, we will join with you our brothers and sisters in urban areas, cities and other farms, those of you near and far, we join and we seek to remain with our hearts open and practices humble – we have no idea what is coming next, but we will continue to resist by giving space for diversity and noticing when joy rises and falls……
What is happening in our planet right now does urge us to reach for something greater than ourselves, something of the mystery and the divine. That we cannot see the destination forces us further into stillness and silence, and to pay attention to the current that calls attention to our hearts. We have been praying with and for the vulnerable, using our own words and some of those below. We have been inspired by the words of Wendell Berry, as offered by Parker Palmer, captures why walking into solitude, despite its discomforts, is the basis for cultivating our connection with the world. “Always in big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into,” he writes. “You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of our essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.”
These last weeks have been so intense and we have been nourished by various streams, chants, old school worship songs from Taize and cell groups, poems, letters, now daily links from the corrymeela community, all sorts of liturgy and a line from a piece written by Isik and Eva, ‘This is where I stand as a sacred channel between earth and sky’ has been offered many times over the last weeks. Our heart pouring out for the displaced, poor and those without the ability to social distance or cocoon at home with a stock of food. We are not disconnected from the world at this time, but we feel extremely grateful to work with soil and continue to propagate organic life, fragility of little seedlings and harvest the abundance of ‘weeds’ to keep us healthy.
On behalf of all the animals, plants, trees and beings living here at Mount of Oaks we thank you for supporting us with your prayers and economic support – by becoming members of the White Stone Association – or those of you who have given support to either Barbara and I over the years. We thank you with all our hearts. We have no idea with we will be able to open our doors again run courses, host retreats or go to the markets with our produce – so your kindness has and will continue to be welcome. If you have not renewed your annual subscription to the White Stone, and are in a position to do so, please follow this link – with that 25€ we can do A LOT!
In peace, Emma, Barbara, Monty, Noam, Michael and all the animals, plants and trees.
As a final question – we wondered if we are going to start a session of wee videos – are there things that you would like us to report on? Teach? Share? Have chats about?
God of pan-demos, God of all-people,how odd that it takes a global diseaseto show us that we are all one:one species, one familyone genomic form,one people dependent on you.There are some among usacutely at riskto an invisible, indiscriminate foe.We join in prayer for them and us, that in our shared vulnerabilityyou would cure us of this sickness.And the other one,the one that divides us,so that in healing we might become whole. Amen.
31 March 2020 Alex from Corrymeela.
For all that is good in life, thank you,
For the love of family and friends, thank you,
For the kindness of good neighbour and Samaritan stranger, thank you.
May those who are vulnerable, hungry or homeless, experience support,
May those who are sick, know healing,
May those who are anxious or bereaved, sense comfort.
Bless and guide political leaders and decision-makers, with wisdom,
Bless and guide health workers and key workers, with strength and well-being, Bless and guide each one of us, as we adapt to a new way of living.
And may the light shining from our windows,
across road and wynd, glen and ben, kyle and isle,
be reflected in our hearts and hands and hopes.https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/churches-join-together-in-call-for-national-day-of-prayer
LockdownYes there is fear.Yes there is isolation.Yes there is panic buying.Yes there is sickness.Yes there is even death.But,They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noiseYou can hear the birds again.They say that after just a few weeks of quietThe sky is no longer thick with fumesBut blue and grey and clear.They say that in the streets of AssisiPeople are singing to each otheracross the empty squares,keeping their windows openso that those who are alonemay hear the sounds of family around them.They say that a hotel in the West of IrelandIs offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.Today a young woman I knowis busy spreading fliers with her numberthrough the neighbourhoodSo that the elders may have someone to call on.Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Templesare preparing to welcomeand shelter the homeless, the sick, the wearyAll over the world people are slowing down and reflectingAll over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new wayAll over the world people are waking up to a new realityTo how big we really are.To how little control we really have.To what really matters.To Love.So we pray and we remember thatYes there is fear.But there does not have to be hate.Yes there is isolation.But there does not have to be loneliness.Yes there is panic buying.But there does not have to be meanness.Yes there is sickness.But there does not have to be disease of the soulYes there is even death.But there can always be a rebirth of love.Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.Today, breathe.Listen, behind the factory noises of your panicThe birds are singing againThe sky is clearing,Spring is coming,And we are always encompassed by Love.Open the windows of your soulAnd though you may not be ableto touch across the empty square,Sing.– Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM March 13th 2020