Today is my first day of storytelling. It starts with a workshop I run in the morning. It is a very small group of 4 plus me; I am curious to see how the interactive community game The Quest to 2030 works out with the smallest group so far. It was designed for groups of 30, and has been played with up to 60 participants.
It is of no great surprise to notice our inter reliance on others – very soon we want to trade, but there is no one to trade with; a fitting reminder for us all that total self sufficiency is not what we are aiming for, the group had been really wise in their choice of available resources, and even so as challenges hit, they discovered the desire to exchange with others.
Fortunately the next challenge is how to respond to refugees that come to the community. At least now there are new skills to share! This challenge gets the group into discussing policy; we move from rejecting all, to accepting some, to giving everyone a trial period; we discover what governments face, and what smaller groups; intentional communities face too, how to decide how many people the available land can support, its carrying capacity, what skills we need, and which we have a surplus of, and how we choose one person, or family group over another. It is impossible to take everything into account when you have never met the people concerned. Taprisha talks about her experience of having lived in Camp Hill communities (Steiner school residential centres for those with special needs which incidentally have nothing to do with camping, this just happened to be the name of the first community location) and how they learnt that you cannot know a person and if they are right for your community without living with them for at least a month.
Later in the game the discussions return to policy making again; this time it is around decision making; is a benign dictatorship or consensus the better system. We learn about a very effective way to prevent consensus decision making from being the painfully long drawn out process it so often is. At a Camp Hill community in the States a system was developed that worked every time. It was a three tier process.
At the first meeting everyone brainstorms every possible idea and scenario, everyone is given the chance to speak as much as they need to. Everyone sleeps on it. Next day everyone speaks about the emotional response they have to any of the ideas or scenarios. Everyone is encouraged to speak, not just the usual suspects who have an opinion on everything! Once more everyone sleeps on it. At the final meeting the actions are decided, no one is allowed to put in any new ideas or respond emotionally at this point. Decisions are then quick and effective.
We finish our game with a keen desire to have a celebration; I have been fascinated through every game played how all groups, age irrelevant, have wanted to celebrate at the end of their explorations into community making.
Home baked pizza calls us for lunch! Neil Hill, part of Transition tNew Forest, traditional North American oven maker extraordinaire, has fired up the pizza oven in the garden. They are the best pizzas I have ever eaten, and are served with fresh salad from the garden. We learn how to make a pizza oven. More people join us.
They are created over a dome of sand on a framework of stones, built around in a circular fashion filled in with bottles all of which help retain heat once the oven is in use. Over the heap of sand the first layer of clay and sand is fashioned, by laying bricks of the malleable clay and sand mix side by side and building up to covert the dome. This is allowed to harden and then a doorway is cut out and the sand removed from the inside. When the first layer is completely hard a second layer is created. This is the insulation layer, and made of clay and sawdust .When this layer is hard, a final layer of clay and sand bricks are built up around the oven. This layer is left open to the elements so that it doesn’t crack too much when heated. In heavy rain however it is good to cover the oven. For more advice and if you want one built for you contact Neil Hill (neil63hill at yahoo.co .uk)
After lunch we have another storytelling workshop this time with Taprisha and her colleague Pete. They work on Australian Aboriginal & Native American stories respectively. Later on, in the evening, we go into the earth house for evening storytelling.
The earth house too is built in traditional fashion, mud baked floor and walls, wattle and daub style, and thatched roof. It has a fire pit in the centre and is a very good space for storytelling, as the night draws in our faces can just be picked out in the darkness if they are at our side of the fire, and those at the far side are invisible. Our voices reach out into the central space and we share our stories.
Taprisha tells the Ethiopian tale of the tomorrow man. This is very fitting; the story of a man, a traveller to a town where evryone can take whatever they need from the daily market as long as it is only what they need for that day. He starts out with a beautiful wife, and everthing he could ever want from the market for free; and ends up by being drummed out of town for trying to take from the market for tomorrow as well as for today. I tell the story of the town that was not too big and not too small and the coming of Rob of the great renown, and the coming of the solar panels for 10% of all roofs, from the perspective of 2030. We have fun pretending to be children of those times asking questions such as “What were schools?” “Why did everyone ride around in metal boxes?” and from there we move into hearing the stories of the Transition New Forest group – there are about 20 of us in the earth house.
Transition New Forest have a hub group as well as an initiative in each town. They are all concerned with growing local food as their first big project. They are a positive vibrant group and one of the sub groups they have created, which came out of their recent transition training course, held at Minstead Study Centre, with Ann Lamot and Mike Payne, is the Celebration Group. They are very excited about this and their first event will be at Midsummer, at Minstead. Jonathan, Patrick , Neil and Jane have already started to plan the event. They plan to have three a year to start off with, coinciding with changes in the seasons.
As we leave the earth house Patrick explains the best route for me to take as I walk down through the forest to Lymington the next day. The way he describes takes me past the allotments, and past the church where the vicar of Brockenhurst has given over part of the church grounds to transition for a community garden.
Community gardens; if I were to sum up the one major success story of Devon, Dorset & Hampshire this Spring it would be this. We are on our way!