We landed back into the mother land with a bit of a thump. Our plans had yet to fully take shape as to how we would be spending our 3 weeks back in England and I was now sick and on a rough emotional sea. With a week before our experience weekend at an educational model in Devon we decided to make our way north to my home town.
It was extremely nourishing to be back in such deep familiarity and to take our children to places I loved as a child, something I don’t have the opportunity to do in Australia. Seeing Basil and Wren wrapped up in the arms of the magical people of my childhood also brought a new clarity to time and its progression. Being back also amplified my awareness to the progression of change in myself, I saw and I understood further why I am on the journey that I am on.
After a few nostalgia filled days it was time to make our way to Devon. We met our friendly bus driver and Embercombe resident Sam at the train station in Exeter and began the half an hour drive to Embercombe. We had booked in the experience weekend weeks earlier and with all the more urgent day to day planning and logistics, I hadn’t checked back in with the program. It felt great to arrive with no expectations and no real preconceived idea about what the place had to offer.
We arrived in time for dinner and eased into the very child friendly space. We were one of 6 families with a total of 50 people all here for the weekend. Basil began navigating his way with 6 or 7 other young children who for the first time in about 2 months, were all speaking his language. The change in Basil during the weekend from being loud and nervous to a leading member of a little group, who through experience developed mutual respect for each other, was heart warming.
The ‘experience’ of the experience weekend is to get stuck into work, a bit like a giant working bee with soul. There was no pressure to perform and connection to others encouraged. We might have picked as many berries as Basil ate and I had a full morning in the kitchen. Others worked in housekeeping, bramble trimming, food preparation and harvesting. Another group was just finishing a week long immersion called the Catalyst Programme. These were 18-25 year olds on a week of discovery trying to work out what they want to do with their one precious life. The energy among them was electric and their bond was very clear.
We did need to see this place, not so much see it but be in it and hear it. I believe it provided a necessary piece in the puzzle that we’re trying to assemble, somewhat blind. It shared a story, a story of transformational change, of nature, sharing and connection. It showed what is possible when you return a group of people to the land and offer a space to share stories, to work and connect. The childrens fire represented by a candle was lit in honour of the intention that no children be harmed now or for 7 generations to come, an indigenous tradition adopted and being honoured at the heart of Embercombe’s values.
I was able to participate in a walking tour with Mac, the founder of Embercombe, on our final afternoon. He told stories of how it all came into being, stories of a surprising and unique path, and of his extraordinary life journey from the dark to the light. Every beings right to claiming their indigenous nature was key in Mac’s stories, and Embercombe’s role as very simply being a story, a place to inspire, to get your hands in the dirt and to share tea in warm company. Embercombe beyond this core is an educational facility offering personal development courses, education programs for school age children and business and corporate training.
A video was shown on the Saturday evening that Tom went along to see. It was a recording of a talk given by an American anthropologist called Jon Young who as a twenty something student found himself being mentored by a native american elder. He has gone on to share with the modern world, what he has learnt about ancient traditions and their dependence on connection, connection with each other and the natural world. See it here.
One woman in particular enchanted us. She met us all as we arrived and was a backbone to all that we experienced that weekend. Fiona is a mature woman, a single parent to her 10 year old daughter and volunteer at Embercombe for 4 years. I wished for many more conversations than our limited time enabled. Fiona shared information about the homeschool programs that runs at Embercome and her experience in unschooling practise.
We shared in circles twice a day and both experienced and witnessed the power of sharing and connection. Basil shared his feelings and beliefs and life aspirations during the circle and many commented on their sense of gratitude towards him for his joy and humour. Each morning circle, one person took on the role of Dreamer for the day and their job was to put in writing their dreams, and share with everyone in the afternoon what they had divined for themselves and the universe. The record of Dreamers logs were kept in a book for all to see.
With most participants on a very welcome break from their city lives it was heart warming to hear how impacted they had been by the weekend. The weekend presented opportunities to make choices, to do things that most there wouldn’t usually do. I observed and related to the challenge that this can sometimes present to those who are used to the defined ‘rules’ or ‘norms’ of life on the outside. I couldn’t help but relate this back to the school system where, from the very beginning we as children in conventional education were taught to listen and obey, to do what we are told not to think for ourselves. There was no pressure from anyone on the Embercombe team to do things ‘well’ but the space the weekend created to be self directed exposed in many, the discomfort and fear of such freedom.