The first week at Monkton Wyld Court Dorset springtime 2012 at the start of my Quest in the UK.(pictures will be added in due time)
Welcome to my journals of volunteering in the UK and Wales, my quest for nature’s truth and sustainable ways of living, building communities and finding an abundance of answers to “How to live together?”
After a sunny ride on the waves of the Channel, on the 14th of April, by ferry, a Rolls Royce awaited me for a ride to the Continental Hotel, a family hotel with “grandfather” Gordon at the head of it. Imagine a wizard white-haired bearded man, sitting behind the steering wheel of his Rolls. His hotel has gradually become a much frequented over-night lodging, through my almost 10 years of holiday-travels to England. Gordon and I enjoy our “early bird” coffee and conversation, once or twice a year.
The following Sunday proved to be a comfortable traveling day towards Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset. Sean, one of the residents, awaited me in his car at Axminster station and we drove through the beautiful countryside towards the Farm. Just in time for dinner, I was heartily welcomed by several residents, in the dining room.
The buildings of MWC are Gothic Victorian, dated 1848. They hold many rooms, corridors and stairs, great fireplaces and… windows that are very impressive, as one of the pictures shows here.
That first night we sat outside, enjoying a clear starry sky and each other’s company, warmed by the orange glow of a woodfire, near the clay bread-oven and the climbing tree with a swing. One of the volunteers, Benat, was leaving the next morning and for that reason a fire was made, so all made sure he was properly fired 🙂
The Dolphin room is given to me for my month volunteer lodging and I slept like a log, that first night. April, with its rain and sunshine, shows me I’m in need for warm clothes and good shoes. On my first Friday off, I rode on a bike on the left side of the road… ha ha… towards Lyme Regis, a city on the beach, and I found a pair of good shoes. In one of many 2-hand shops I bought myself a bright pink vest, for adding layers, due to changing temperatures outside and rooms unheated, at times. While rain and wind are persistent, we choose to eat in another room with the stove intact. There’s always a fire at night and I’m fortunate to have a heater in my room, warm bedcovers and the shower is fabulous!
On my return from Lyme Regis, flying downhill on my bike, whooping… and peddling fast, but sluggishly uphill in constant rain, I got lost and… (metaphorically speaking also: I always arrive at my destination, including making detours…) I returned at Hunter’s lodge for the second time. Grrmmph!
How happy I was, thoroughly drenched, arriving at the Courtyard and finding a warm plate with my meal and a delicious cake, on the woodstove in “The Old Kitchen”I placed a chair as near the stove as possible and enjoyed my meal, while the setting sun peeked in the kitchen window. Sun at last!
Everybody was engaged in wanting to set up a search for me and they giggled, hearing me explain my wonder at having to ride the highs and lows on the bike, finding the steering wheel turning during my ride, the brake handles positioned on top of the steering handle at the end of the day. My guardian angel, although excersising his wings to catch up with me downhill, did a good job, I think.
The next skill I learned is milking the cows, which I will continue practicing, and shoveling dung… actually enjoying the smell. I might immerse myself in a pile of dung, one day, or mud, relishing the earthiness and warmth inside, making sure there’s nobody around, but the nearness of sea, or a pond, is a must. Wriggling like a salamander or a frog in mud… hmm, nice!
Jez and Tink, one of several couples with kids, at MWC, had returned from Scotland and as the new gardener, Jez took me for working on the vegetable beds, planting dwarf peas. We had to find shelter when thunder roared along the hills and rain and hail started to hit our heads.
Saturday afternoon, Mark (a resident) and I managed to magically prepare a dinner for 20 people. Volunteers usually only assist in the kitchen and I (as an experienced cook) had the privilege and challenge… to have Mark as assistant this time. We were both uncertain and that helped 🙂
During our “cosmic conversations” we prepared a colorful meal with yellow rice, red-brown adukis, tomato-chili sauce, jacket potatoes and chard, a leaf vegetable with stems in a variety of reds and pinks. For the B&B guests I made star-shaped rice-forms, which they welcomed as a happy surprise and Mark shaped our portion of rice into a pyramid. The stem of the chard, when sliced, is shaped in the form of a star and when Mark made notice of it we organized the meal in that geometric order, somewhat.
That night I was invited to join a jive-dance in a local community hall at St. Mary’s. As if returning to the 70’s, on a camping, which doesn’t bother me the least, I noticed that everybody intended to have fun, including us (5 Monktonners) and the locals. We had a great time and applauded several talented dance-couples. At the end of the evening, returning to the parking lot, I looked in awe and wonder at the immense clear starry sky above, all sparks of light doubled by the tears in my eyes. I felt that wonderful starry sky as one of the joys I appreciate so much of the English countryside.
Second week at MWC in Dorset
Having settled a bit, adjusting my body to physical work, like poo shoveling and pulling weeds, MWC, as a community, proves to be a lively, kind and welcoming place to me. A great sense of humor, combined with practical skills and several residents’ great potential for being able to be prepared for a life “off grid” resonates a lot with my vision of future living conditions.
The capricious winds of April threw a pine tree branch in the roof of Beech Bottom, the accomodation for volunteers. A loud “bang” woke me up at 03:00 o’clock and made me consider the end of the world might be near. Inspection of the corridor and the hall, in utter darkness, calmed me down as nothing seemed to be wrong.
The next morning, after waking up, we were startled by walking into an early X-mas decoration in front of the door out. Electricity had to be shut down and a plastic cover was spread over the hole in the roof. The comfort of warmth and light had been restored in the afternoon and this reminded us to appreciate well-being as a non-given fact, regarding the increase of unpredictable weatherpatterns. We discussed the need to foresee physical challenges leading to “off grid” living and the connection between solar activities, earthquakes and anomalies in the weather. Even emotional disturbances, like sudden mood changes and being on edge are effects of solar activity, like the full moon acting upon our emotions, which may push people “over the fence”.
This 2nd week at MWC my volunteering jobs varied from work in the home, to gardening, laundry work, ironing, picking flowers and preparing of a chocolate mousse dessert for Saturday night dinner. One of the volunteers writes poems and some of us had the privilege to listen to him, reading some. Pine Hall, the community hall for yoga, tai chi, Morris Dance and movie-nights, rang with flamboyant rhymes, inspired by the poet’s participation in poo-shoveling that day, expressed by his own voice, for my ears only.
Friday, a day off, I walked on the beach from Charmouth to Lyme Regis, halfway cushioning myself on seaweed, protected by my wax-coat, for an hour-nap, to have a rest and await the lowering of the tide, securing safe passage along the beach. I enjoyed my capricornish leaps from rock to rock and the finds I made, of white and green crystals and old pieces of crockery.
On my way to MWC, by (an every 2 hour!) bus, I mistakenly made a detour along the pine woods, across a not so dry ditch and some meadows with sheep and more lambs. I threw my bags on the other side of the ditch, before jumping over and arrived in the MWC kitchen quite eggitated, the ingredients for the dessert glued together by broken ….
I had to pretend that I wasn’t there for a while, digesting my annoyance, before sitting down at a delicious meal in joyful companionship with the Monktonners. Today I’m offered a room in the main house, with a Gothic Victorian window and duvets on 3 beds, to choose from…. if an ice-age freezes down upon us. The pine tree will be examined by a tree-surgeon, on wednesday, before safety can be assured for Lyndon’s family, living in a strawbale home and the volunteers accomodation in Beech Bottom. And when the wyld wind is no danger anymore, tearing at its branches or the tree being thrashed in half, maybe.
While making a wyld leap by living the way I choose for now, I believe we all will be offered an opportunity to step out of belief systems that limit us, let go of mind programming, including duality thinking: good and evil viewed as opposites and being acted upon accordingly … an eye for an eye… a tooth for a tooth… and let go of war, within and without in this year of change 2012.
Let go of fear, which I believe is the fear of losing identity, basically. While stepping in your truth and fulfilling your heart’s desire you may be happily surprised how life will support you in many ways. Being vulnerable is a way to open my heart and it’s a doorway to living truthful and diligent.
You may witness an increase of synchronicities and people who support and nurture you, whose paths will cross yours, or go alongside yours. Nature too will comfort you in times of sadness or sorrow. I intend to forgive, outgrow my limits and realize love, by finding the courage to step into the void, while all rules to live by, fly out of the window, allowing life to be unpredictable, conditions for living maybe even challenging.
And to create a graceful existence, for myself, with and among others and lady Gaya. In sovereignty. I believe that is our natural state and birthright. It’s been a good week, and we, at MWC, did a great job making it so 🙂
This text I found in a book called “Eurotopia” about Intentional Communities and Eco-villages in Europe, edition 2005:
10 GIFTS TO COMMUNITY
1. When I speak of others in their absence, I am aware that I may be given form to a reality which doesn’t exist.
2. I speak about myself and others in such a way that it serves me and the others in their development. Before I speak with someone about organisational matters outside of his/her field of work, I pause for a moment and ask myself if this is the right time and place.
3. I constantly view myself as part of the whole and I consider what I can do for the growth and wellbeing of the entire community.
4. I develop dreams of a new home and create that which I would like to receive from the others.
5. I do not burden the others with my bad mood, I either transform it into something constructive or discuss it openly.
6. I care for the place where I live. I spread beauty and in this way I link myself to this place. Every day I am open to others, I do not tie them down to past images and experiences. I see them in their most beautiful form.
7. When I do not like something, I examine it to see if I cannot use it to make a suggestion for the good of everyone else.
8. For “the superior man, if he sees good, he imitates it, if he has faults he rids himself of them” (I Ging).
9. I use energy, water, warmth and food consciously. I only take what I really need.
10. I do not take myself too seriously – but that which needs to be done”
Third week at MWC in Dorset
May-day, Beltane sunrise, we rose at 4:30 and watched a performance of Morris Dancers at dawn, on a hill, with a view on Golden Cap. Jez, Tink and Catherine played their music instruments and Michael, Jez and Tink’s son, took part in a dance too, once the group was performing in front of the Five Bells, a pub in Whitchurch. We enjoyed a welcome breakfast…. bacon, sausages, eggs and beans and arrived in MWC at about 8 o’clock.
Domestic duties, like ironing and making beds, tidying the linen-room, were offered me for the remains of that day. Although the weather doesn’t invite us to work outside, the jobs that need to be done aren’t postponed. We all gather in the new library at 8:30 as usual, to share our being “gruntled” as Sean mentioned once, about how he felt. Or “disgruntled” as the case may be. Whatever needs to be dealt with is discussed and the tasks are being distributed among residents and volunteers. So, Jez asked me to weed the flowerbed near the cherry tree and, later on, those in front of the main house. I had my hands full on groundalder.
The next day we left by car to a forest, in overalls and wellies. Last winter, rhododendrons were removed by the Monktonners, and in exchange for their labor, the forester offered them quite an amount of wood, now waiting in piles, all through a quite misty-rious forest, the grayhound of the forester playfully biting the ends of the logs we carried. This dog is fast, running along the car, downhill.
One evening, Simon and I have been each other’s hairdressers, outside, with a bird’s concert and a view on the hills, in many tones and shades of green, while shades of grey fell off my head. Now my hair’s a very short rug, quite practical for traveling in rural areas and not at all displeasing to look at, if I may say so myself. Catherine told me that she witnessed a coaltit (koolmeesje) picking up some of my hair, the next morning, probably building its nest.
On my day off, I drove by bus to Axminster and visited the quarry of Beer, in cold and damp conditions, appreciating springtime greens and warmer temperatures, once outside again, after a rather awkward tour with a guide who had seemed to have swallowed a taperecorder and set her portly self on “play” once the group was complete. How to maintain natural and spontaneous, when daily tours in the quarry become routine for you? By asking questions I managed to break this “on automatic routine” somewhat. Many in the group broke eyecontact with the guide quite soon.
A walk downhill, to the coast, brought me on the beach with fisherboats and lobster-cages. Beer is a former smuggler-village, as a result of lime-stone quarrying, which left a system of underground tunnels and hide aways. Imagine the laborers at work, most of the time all work done by hand, with the light of candles only. Boys at the age of 8 were sent down to begin a lifelong quarry job, which didn’t pay too well. Lace, a craft excersized at home by women, and rum, from overseas, favored by men on sea and land, were hidden and smuggled in and through the quarry.
As the story goes, geese were filled with lace and delivered at the door of wealthy families. Needless to say, the goose was sent to the kitchen, after being emptied. I must confess, those practices aren’t entirely unwelcome to me, in times of need they seem quite appealing to me, regarding the neglect of laborers working conditions and their meager loan, by their superiors. Biding the law isn’t my first choice, in this light, as long as no one is hurt or disgraced.
Saturday, the 5th of May, was an “off grid” day at MWC, meaning no use of electricity, mobile phone and computer. Preferably using mechanical clocks and torches, cooking of food and water on fire, baking of pizza’s in the clay-breadoven
A central fire outside, was the focus point for most of us, at the end of the afternoon and at night, with a good glass of wine or beer, toasting with an occasional neighbour, children on the swing and Simon and Jill jiving, on the music of a mechanical wind-up grammophone, in twilight. What pleasing sights and sounds, reminders of days gone by!
A gipsy camp, created as the outcome of an “off grid” day. Candlelights in rows on the field, dogs sleeping close to the fire and Flint, the wriggling ferret of Michael. To me, this “off grid” day was a day of breaking routine, unusual creativity and wealth. Just my idea of living in simplicity, including wellbeing.
That afternoon, while preparing the evening meal with Laurie, one of the gems of MWC, she decided to make a cole-slaw. To soften the rather salty green slivers, she gave me some carrots to grate. While entering The Old Kitchen, she asked “How’s the grating going?” and I replied “I’m very grateful”
The 4th week at MWC:
Sunday the 6th of May, I went out to walk to Whitchurch, to see the shrine in that church, then write my diary at The Five Bells, a pub that closes at 15:00 pm, which surprised me. Are pub visits declining in England? Fortunately, I continued sitting on the terrace, observed by some rabbits in cages and the pub-dog, with the sound of playing children in the background. The weather was fine, sunny and breezy.
By walking on the road to Whitchurch, I had to step aside now and then, to allow cars safe passage, while reflecting on the week gone by, at MWC: the confirmation I feel about my choice to be in England this year. How great to learn new insights on connecting to nature: the wind, the water, the fire and the earth…. and step into the simplicity of it, just because it is present all around….all the time..
Being in the elements, to me, is immensely grounding for my physical body, as it is in itself an expression of those same elements, present inside: MY BODY IS THE EARTH….WATER..WIND.. FIRE. The beans in the MWC meals help me to be aware of the wind…. ahem. Stormy weather….and wild circumstances……. storm is always part of change, in a way.
That Sunday offered me a wonderful 4 hrs. walk to and fro Whitchurch and some beautiful views of Dorset’s hills and trees. The next morning Mariana gave me a wonderful warm hug and at breakfast, while I placed a bowl with apples on the table, Jez turned towards me and said “Thank you for your ability to make things nice for us, it doesn’t go unnoticed, you see? And it’s much appreciated”.
This kind remark, not often received, moved me to tears and Tink, Jez’s wife, hugged me by saying “It is much appreciated… you silly sausage!” This was a beautiful start of the day and it continued being just that, passing by in great conversations with some of the Monktonners. To me, this community is a bunch of phantastic persons, dedicated to their work and to offer companionship, while sharing their skills, the beauty of nature and a wealth of good meals, made of ingredients produced by the community itself… meaning the hens, the cows and the garden…. prepared by the members with the help of volunteers, like me.
The next day I worked with Mark, the gardener, in the Victorian garden, uncovering Dahlia tubers after their wintersleep. Also I cut Comfrey leaves and filled a large container with water, added the leaves and pressed them with bricks. After some fermenting, that tonic will be valuable for watering the plants in the home, improving their mineral content. Jez had his birthday that Monday and Rowenna, his daughter, made him a great birthday cake.
We all enjoyed a delicious piece of it, after lunch, singing “happy birthday”. Catherine prepared a delicious dinner, which we all enjoyed heartily. The weather is quite changeable and we became immersed in clouds, the following days. As MWC expected visitors for an event at Tempest: Bodger’s Ball, a gathering of woodworkers in a forest with a view of the sea, Catherine asked me to help her prepare the rooms for them.
By cleaning rooms and making the beds, I became familiar with the place and we worked on the upper floor in the morning. Catherine asked me “While you do Oak, I will be here….” and I answered “Oakidoki” unintentionally, which made us laugh. Friday, my day off, I drove by bus to Honiton and Ottery St. Mary, exploring the site of a cob-building, which is mentioned in the documentary “First Earth”
Just outside of the village, I found a building-site with several new built cob-houses, some of them under construction. I talked to the designer and told him of my interest in cob building. He allowed me to make some pictures, from outside on the road and informed me on the existence of 100’s of cob-houses in the South of England. That meant convincing proof of it’s sustainable value, to me.
The possibility of freedom in form, with cob- as well as straw-bale building interests me, besides its flexibility and firmness, combined. The last day of this week, Saturday, Catherine and I worked in “The Old Kitchen” making rhubarb- and apple-crumble.
That afternoon, I cycled with a small group of Monktonners to Bodger’s Ball and found some interesting (tools for) woodwork and forgery to observe. The smoke of a fire caught my attention and I walked towards it, finding some kids poking the fire with sticks, walking around with them while aflame. I didn’t feel at ease with that and asked a lady, who felt the same, to find a parent to watch the kids playing with fire. I couldn’t help being a Nanny…. for a while.
The next day I worked with Mark, the gardener, in the Victorian garden again and while the Sun was warm, I chose to wash my clothes as a preparation for my leave, next week. I told Mark about my plan and he replied “Yes, the wind is picking up and it’s coming from North-West, this should dry your washing in no time”.
I realized my ignorance of the wind and in an effort to distract myself from that city-brain of mine, I chose to wash my clothes by hand in the Courtyard, surprised by little Noah, who chose to pick up my tiniest underwear….. from the tub, watched by his father. “Oh… ahem.. uh.. well…. that’s what life in a community means, I guess!” I said. Slightly embarassed.
Later, that afternoon, while walking with Catherine through the garden, after our weeding job, I observed my clothes on the line, moving in the wind, and I said “Isn’t that glorious to see, those fresh and clean clothes?” And Catherine replied “We’re probably the only 2 women in the whole world, who can look at that as a work of art”
To be continued…..