It does, you know, it really does, more than pounds in the bank, more than a pile of bricks and mortar, more than mythical stocks and shares, or a dragon’s hoard of gold.
Earlier this month I was privileged enough to be asked to do the Transition slot in Starhawk’s EarthActivist’s Permaculture Design Course held at Landmatters Permaculture Community just a few short miles outside of Totnes.
It seemed a fitting thing to do; Landmatters were the hosts for the very last night of my walk around England last year, and didn’t get to hear my tales, as so many of them were away at the time. They said I must come back though, one day, to tell my tales…
And so I set off one Friday morning to retrace my steps backwards along my walk route, to find that I hadn’t lost the knack, not at all, and though I had left in poor spirits by the time I had waded through thick mud in the middle of the green lane that is the best way to get to Landmatters from the intentional community where I live just outside of Totnes, I had recalled both the challenges and the joy of that 6 month walk and by the time I was sitting on a grassy knoll just outside the low impact community, I was, what can only be described as blissed out. With warm sun on my back, soft grass under my skirts, blue, blue sky on the horizon, and a seaside settlement just visible in the distance; a sense of freedom was palpable in the air.
And so it was that WynnAlice came again to the place where Land matters. Greeted by folk in boots, asked if flip flops were a preferable option, and led into a large yurt full of exciting designs and lovingly hung flip chart sheets full of good wisdom, she sat herself down in a circle of people and the tale telling commenced. The tales they emerged, tumbling from her lips as if they had been waiting for such a time for an opportunity to be told again, eagerly vying with one another for the chance to be the one that brought tears to the eyes this time, the one that brought a smile to a serious face, or laughter to be shared around the room.
Magical though they were, they could not compete, not then, with the new tales that were shared that day, in all their freshness, their wonder at being celebrated, and their excitement of knowing they would travel far and wide across the land and across the oceans too.
Tales they came from Blaenau Festignog, where the Transitioners had gone to the local rugby club to tell the men about Transition and watched in delight as the ones who had once sat outside the club house in the cold, smoking, with the doors wide open to feel some of the warm air on their skin as it rushed out to meet the wild outdoor air, built themselves a smoking porch, protecting themselves from the cold and rain, and insulating the club house with the same action.
Came too tales from Hebden Bridge where the young people of the town had been asked to help design their own skate park, and from Kinsale, where Transition was first born in the heart of Rob of the Great Renown, where the folk were greatly involved with all manner of activity from seed swopping to community gatherings.
Starhawk told of the beginnings of transition times way back at the turn of the century in California, in the apple growing town of Sebastopol, when folk thought civilisation as we know it would collapse from computers’ inability to compute 2000, and how a small group of people got together to vision the future they wanted to see. They brought earth in by the truck load and covered the streets to make permaculture gardens and when the chosen streets had had their makeover and there was still earth left in the trucks they called in on householders and offered to make over their yards too.
It was, however, the Grovey Fro-ers that really stole the show. Tales a-many of the people who turned a potential site for a new runway abound in transition circles, but here, were some of those very Transition Heathrow folk in the flesh, and speaking cockney rhyming slang no less!
Tales were told of the beginnings, the now, and the prequel too.
From one who had been amongst the band of merry folk that had first entered the site with wire cutters, came tales of spades in hand, and digging, and cleaning, and transforming decrepit polytunnels. Stories of the local people were welcomed over tea and cakes and gardening together, of the two old men who had lived nearby all their lives and never met and how at Grovey Fro they sat down together and struck up the friendship of a lifetime. Tales to bring tears to the eyes; tales of how it is the beauty of human relationship that makes life worth living.
Then another friend of Grovey Fro took over and told of how the idyll had met its first challenge; when the police had raided them, looking for weapons a terrorist would be proud of, and were offered only spades, axes, empty bottles, and other such tools of a permaculture site and went off empty handed, chased off…by the local people.
Chipped in here one who could tell of how this all came about, of the Climate Camp group that had first come to the area and been feared; what would these outlandish hippies do to their conservative hometown, and how they had been gradually won over by their ways, the consensus decision making discussions they had where all were honoured and how conflicts were dealt with skilfully, till it came about then when the Police came to raid, it was the townsfolk that stood en masse in their way, to support their new friends, whose ways they respected, and looked askance at the men in uniforms that threatened their paradise of community living with their clumsy aggressive manners.
Grovey Fro exists still, having so far come through the challenge of the runway that wasn’t to be to the challenge of squatting land that they hadn’t bought only to have the matter thrown out of court when the owner turned out to be absent if not completely fictitious.
WynnAlice felt the deep honour of having the tale of Grovey Fro in her storyteller’s bag, and left feeling as if a gift had been bestowed up on her, at this very fitting place where the Climate Camp had first conceived of their idea, here in the softly rolling hills of the South Devon landscape where Land Matters.