Sunday, 25 February 2018

I Had A Dream...

Have you ever had a crazy dream that somehow somehow becomes a reality? There have been so many times over the last year or so when I have had to stop and pinch myself, hardly able to believe we have managed to do what we have managed to do. As many of you know, I and some fabulous people have spent the last few years creating something so ginormous and mad that it hardly seems possible that normal folk like us could actually do such a thing.

We made a school. Like, an actual, real school, with students. The hilarious part is that any teacher that had me in their class would pale at the thought of me of all people being involved in setting up and running a school. I did not like school and school did not like me. If I had a euro for every time I was told I was 'a square peg in a round hole'...
However, this is a school with a difference, and while there are many the world over,  it’s the first of its kind in Ireland. The difference is there is no curriculum, no classes, no teachers per se, the students decide how they want to spend their time, and for any of you not familiar with this concept, right now I am sure there are a million questions firing off in your brain, like can they still go to college? (Yes they can and do!) How do they learn? I could happily get up on my soapbox now and ‘talk for Ireland’ as they say, but you’d be much better informed if you read any of the articles linked below.

People ask what a typical day is like for our community, and there is no one answer to that. Every day is different, but you can guarantee there will definitely be cooking, games, conversation, exploring, reading, sharing, dreaming, cleaning, negotiating, building, making, drawing, wondering, creating, running, climbing, bouncing, questioning, honing, messing, contemplating, and a million other unquantifiable activities, all of which adds up to learning that is based on the individuals terms and needs, which in turn creates a vibrant, busy, active environment which is both exciting and fun, but also challenging in the best sense of the word. Phew!

Every day I am more and more convinced of what we are doing, all my apprehensions and wobbly moments of terror are a thing of the past, and I believe in this with no doubts whatsoever. Every day I am blown away by how these children and young adults, who having been given trust and freedom and responsibility, are striding forward, taking confident leaps towards their future, with such joy and determination (and challenges too, of course).

The thing is, we are self-funded, we do not receive a penny from the government, and now that we are a charity (CHY 22018) we can accept donations and we are beginning to look at fundraising. So, here is something I have never done before:
If you are so inclined, we would be delighted if you wanted to donate to our cause, (or buy us a building! We also have a growing waiting list and will need a new home sometime in the next couple of years) or even just share this with family and friends and ask them to share it on too. Our Donate page is here

Every little helps!

For some further reading you can start here:

Sir Ken Robinson on parents obsession with sending their children to college - article, and TED Talk.
Dr. Peter Gray on the importance of play - for mental health, and happiness.
Sudbury staff on education - patience and the long game, and the fear of falling behind.
More on our website here - Wicklow Sudbury School, and our Facebook page.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Where My New Story Began.

I want to tell you a story. Actually, I'm re-telling this story, because this post is four years old now, originally on my Milkmoon blog, and this project is celebrating five years, which is incredible to me. But I'm sharing again because I am so darn proud of what we have made, and how it has continued to grow and evolve and attract more and more people who want something more in their lives than neighbours they barely know to say hello to. This is genuine community, meeting our human need for social connectedness in a way most of us had forgotten.
My dream is to see this grow, to become a community of communities that support one another, that also meets our human needs for food, shelter, energy, livelihoods. I hope to share here, over the next few months, a taste of the kind of things that we are up to here in our little stretch of Irish coast.

But for now, this is where it began:

December 2013:
Sometimes Life amazes me.
Picks me up by my tail and whirls me around a bit, then deposits me somewhere unexpected and never-seen-before, and so, a bit ruffled, and maybe even somewhat bedraggled, I pick myself up and dust myself off, check for injuries, and then Proceed With Caution. It doesn't happen very often in life that there is a significant change, I mean, a really, really big one. Usually it's the slow meander along the winding little pathways, with occasional wanderings off into dead ends and loop-the-loops which bring you right back to where you started. And there are lovely woodlands along the way, with leafy green and yellow light dancing up there above you, and sometimes there are banks of the sweetest flowers nodding their heads in the balmy breeze, and sometimes there are puddles of muddy water you have to wade through in your favourite shoes, or stones that trip you up or find their way into your shoe and hurt your feet. But sometimes it turns out that the little beaten track you are on suddenly opens up into Wonder, a great grassy plain with a smooth road and the sea sparkling in the distance, and suddenly everything feels Right, and Good, and you find yourself skipping along, kicking up your heels and skirts, and warmth blooms in your heart.

Sometimes Life amazes me.
And I find myself doing something I could never have dreamt of, only a few months ago. And the phrase, In My Element, suddenly has meaning. 
A few months before we moved to this town we began meeting weekly with a bunch of rather splendid folks who had a rather splendid idea about what this town needs, and so, we have spent almost a year now, talking talking talking about just what that might be, and slowly something began to take shape, and then it began to grow, and to our collective amazement we are now in the midst of Something Splendid that is now fluttering out there, above our heads, stretching it's gossamer wings and testing the air. 
We have no idea where it will take us, or what it will bring, but it is exciting and inspiring, and speaking in a voice that, it turns out, many people can, and want to, hear.

We are part of a growing community co-operative that is still finding that voice, but that is strong and clear and determined. We started out as a wholefood buying club, and then we put on an event, a vegetarian feast with music and dancing and singing, and we started to tell people about what we were doing, and all around us these little lights began to go on, in people's eyes and hearts, as they listened to what we were saying, and they began to add their voices too, and now we find ourselves here, with a gathering crowd of good intentioned, hopeful folks who know that this is the way forward. Sharing our resources, our skills, our experience, sharing those tender seedling ideas that we carry around in our hearts, sometimes for years, not knowing what to do to help it grow, because some things need more than one person to develop and grow into that wondrous something that has untold potential. But then, when we gather together, and begin to talk, magic happens, things do begin to grow, and faster than you could have imagined. And we all realise that it is possible to do things differently than we are told. It is possible to do business another way, that things don't always have to involve money, or multinational companies, or foreign businesses, that we have everything we need right here on our doorstep. We have the community we need, right here in our town. And you know what? So do you!

The most exciting thing we have discovered is that as soon as you begin to speak, to ask for what you need, you find it's right there, down the street from you, in your community, and it has been all along. There is a network of amazing people all around you who want the same things for themselves and their families that you do, and all you need is a place to come together to talk. A Common Ground to talk about the common ground you share, the back to basics, real, stuff, like how to feed your family, how to provide a real and rich experience for your children of what the world really is, and how people really do want to help one another, because it benefits us all, in the end. And in doing so, we discover how to pare away the unnecessary, stifling, consumer mentality we are all infected with, and to get real again, connect with people in a heartfelt way that brings untold riches of the kind we haven't felt since childhood. 

Last Saturday evening we hosted another event, this time a pop-up restaurant, a seated, four course, vegetarian meal for 30 folks, in a studio in what was once a factory that made the rather famous Beverley Bags in the 50's and 60's, and I found myself In My Element. Seeing all these people, many of them strangers to one another, gathered together and talking talking talking, connecting, sharing food and drink and laughter, stories and ideas and intentions, well, I thought my heart would burst with happiness.

It's all true, you know, what we know in our hearts; that we all want the same thing in the end. A safe place, with love and support, a community that lifts us all up, collectively nurturing and sustaining us, and that carries us forward into a hopeful future where we are doing things the way we want to.

Local friends, and anyone interested, you can find us,
And online on our website here. 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Awakening Thoughts on Imbolc ~ Lá Fhéile Bríde.

Things have been quiet around here ~ we bedded down, hibernating, dozing, dreaming in our winter snuggery. We watched as storm after storm whirled around us, (Brian, Caroline, Dylan, Eleanor, Fionn ~ some we were more intimate with than others) wind and snow and rain, though not as much of the white stuff as we'd have liked. The children lamented as they saw every other part of the country slip into Narnia~esque dreamscapes, while we languished on the edge of our temperate, rainswept grey eastern coast, the glistening snow visible right there on the mountains, just within reach.

Winter Solstice fire on the beach.

Winter walks.

Languishing, quiet. Until now.

Until the persistent piping of our neighbour, a little Great Tit who makes their home each year in a nearby Silverbirch tree, breaks through the sloth and torpor that we have sunk into these last couple of months. Like a clarion call, it pierces our Winter atrophy, rouses us, stirring something deep within us, some recognition of unfathomable, subterranean Knowing that is all around us ~ Nature just getting on with it regardless what we humans get up to. At the same time my body relaxes its cold weather holding tension, there is a quickening in my blood.

Winter walks.

And I am reassured.

And so, we loosen our scarves just a little, sniff the cold air, breathing in that delicate hint of something moving in the air, our extrasensory ears divining the first trickle of sap rising beneath our feet.

Winter walks.

It is time for new beginnings, for dusting down and shaking out our hibernating nests, for waking what is sleeping in us. Like Mole, we suddenly long to scrabble our way up to the sunlight and roll in a warm meadow. And as the evenings stretch themselves, reaching their fingers towards that first glimmer of extra light, the warm meadows of summer beckon us and we too leap forwards in the simple joy of living and the delight of spring.

So here's to Imbolc, officially the first day of Spring here ~ Happy Brighid's Day to you all!

Tig an gheimhreadh dian dubh
Gearradh lena ghéire
Ach ar Lá ‘le Bríde
Gar dúinn Earrach Éireann.

The house of winter is very dark
Cutting with its sharpness
But on Brigid’s Day
Spring is near to Ireland.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Stealing Stitches ~ A Samhain Interlude.

After a weeks break for Samhain (Halloween), we are back at school. Outside the window, there is a tree who is clinging to the last of its leaves, just on that bit that hangs over the garden. Rust, orange, yellow, green, fluttering merrily in the wind, and each day when I leave to go home, my car is festooned with them and it makes me immensely happy. The day before Ophelia I rushed to the woods, sure the trees would lose their splendid autumnal frippery in the following winds, but miraculously they didn't, and I have spent the last few weeks eyes skyward at every turn, filling them, drinking in that yellow and rust and orange, saving it for those dark winters evenings when the world rests in greys and browns, and I can close my eyes and find it there, that warmth. We are blessed to live in a place that is made up of winding roads lined with beautiful broadleaf trees both old and new.

Daily I wrestle with time, feeling as though it does not belong to me yet demanding that it does, stealing stitches, one at a time, pushing the needle determinedly in and out, making, creating new things where before there was only thread and fabric and vague notions wisping around my head or somewhere over my shoulder, there behind me where I cannot quite see them except perhaps out of the corner of my eye. (You know the way some things you cannot look directly at, instead approach gently, sideways. Innocently.) But eventually, those individual stitches begin to add up, become something, and take on a life of their own.
And they begin to tell a story...

So many things in my life can be added up like this, things created a stitch at a time, things big and small, things that felt frustratingly slow or simply not any-thing until the whole cloth is revealed. Whether it's one of my stitcherys like this one that took me forever, or a big project like our school that seems impossible until suddenly, look! we've done it.

Samhain brings many things for me, my favourite time of year. As soon as the clocks go back it's as though we slip in to a different world, under cover of the growing dark, shadows and hidden things become more present in our days, and we find the time to sit with whatever awaits us once the distracting summer sparkle drifts away.

Outside the window in the fading light, the children bounce in the leaves on the trampolines, barefoot, hooded, their voices high and excited, glad to be back, bringing the cold air in with them and their pink cheeks when they've had enough.
We are past Mabon, the equinox, now, speeding towards the shortest day.

And so we begin to slow down, savouring the darkening days as we slip comfortably into our slippers and light the fire, snuggle up together on the couch, and, as though pulling out photographs of our summer past, I mull over and examine all the threads that have been weaving together throughout the busy Doing months, pulling them together where needed, revealing the picture of what is being formed, thinking about what comes next for us.

There is work to be done over the winter months, for we have what is perhaps our biggest pot on the boil, to date. Bigger even, in some ways, than starting an alternative school ~ that is, creating a magical place to live with a bunch of kindred folks who share the same dream as we do.

There is a mountain looming ahead of us, but what lies beyond it is just too enticing to not at least try.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Swimming In The Deep.

Summer is slipping away,
into the fading green that is softening towards sepia toned senescence,
the vigor and vim and zest that sang off the trees since May now toned down, flagging,
like a bedraggled party that went on a day or two too long.
Outside my window the autumn mists roll over the hill, over our rooftops, down into the town and out to sea.

The first yellow leaves pop, rain-bright against the grey,
and the gardens around town have lost the puff of voluptuousness that makes them so alluring all summer; among them the air is one of satiated contentment as they wither slowly,
rain heavy,
decaying happily towards winter.

All hurrying towards some Otherness we cannot know.

Our summer was a mixed one.
July busy, bright, beach days galore, while August sneaked by,
suspended in a waiting game for the sun to return, things to begin, things to finish,
and in the end we woke up and it was suddenly September.
Suddenly there are no more beach days. Not the summer kind.
And even though Autumn is my favourite time of year, I somehow don't feel quite ready this year.

Somewhere in August, in the midst of it all I got lost. Fell into a big lacuna. Looking at the world around me was like lying in a dark sea looking up at impossible stars, being overwhelmed by their presence and extraordinariness, but not knowing whether it was a terrible beauty, or just Terrible. I want to believe the former, but secretly believe it is the latter. Given all that is going on in the world, the craziness, the breaking apart of the way things were, events and people that stop us in our tracks in horror, norms that are now taboo and taboos that are becoming mainstream, this coming apart at the seams, this deconstruction of the old story, some parts of it are exciting but most is very scary, and how exactly is that we are all still standing and functioning and carrying on? Human spirit and all that, right? Is that what it is? Or is that just denial?

I didn't write then. I couldn't. I was too cowardly. And I was in too deep. People don't want their faces pushed into it, I know that, (even though all you really have to do is open your Facebook or Twitter feed to get a whammy of a face full) and in some ways I'm not sure what good it does, writing about it - people come to it when they are ready (or their backs are to the wall). But I can no longer not talk about it - my body is talking about it, singing it, a lament of epic proportions, which is hard to ignore.
However, if you find yourself unwilling to engage with this, that's okay, I understand, but some days we just want to know we are not the only one who sees the world the way it really is, as I said before the one that is beneath the market driven consumer enchantment.

But thankfully there is human spirit, or whatever you want to call it. And we all find our causes and our means to continue, because it's what we do. But I truly would love a conversation about this. A healthy, honest, and balanced conversation. I balk at the notion of becoming a catastrophist, really and truly, but talking about this stuff to people who do not want to talk about it can be isolating, and if left to ones own thoughts I can see how it might be a slippery slope.

So we carry on, and some days feel too full of daunting change, others just the right level of excitement overriding that, but in the midst of it all, stuff is getting done. Exciting stuff that makes me feel like we are powerful after all, and we can make a difference.
Yesterday the school we made opened it's new doors to sixteen students, and being there at Wicklow Sudbury School with all those eager, happy students (seriously - kids and teenagers happy to be going back to school?) and parents was a truly exciting thing to be part of, and with a growing waiting list, hope is in the mix there too.

Our active, vibrant community Common Ground  is gearing up for a busy autumn, with a lot of truly great stuff happening, for example we have The Dargle Exchange, which is a 'skills, services and goods trading scheme' which includes our own currency, Cogs. We also have a food savers scheme which is redistributing food which would otherwise be dumped. And these among the many classes and workshops and groups that happen on an ongoing basis.

And we are also busy beavering away trying to get a housing co-operative off the ground, and my, what a brilliant bunch of people we have landed ourselves - after nearly three years fumbling around in the dark we now have folk who can drive the way we drove our school project, and it no longer feels exhausting and overwhelming but exciting and hopeful (those words again!).

So summer slips away from me and much as I love the huddle and nesting of winter, I am loathe to take shelter indoors just yet, my sea fever not yet content, the wild ways of the woodland still with stories to tell before I retreat in to the fireside to distill and extract the fragrant essence of Summer, of whatever our bones and skin and minds have absorbed these last few resting months. I will delve, winnow, and weigh, ponder all of this as I gaze into winter's fire, and somewhere in there will be the nugget, the means for what is next, and my words will find their conduits, and break out into the world, for I've been writing like a mad woman, and I've a great big story to tell.

I am swimming in the deep, still, treading water. But alongside an intrepid ship that I am hitched to, come rain or shine, and there is something about having a ship that is skippered by many.

  The Return by Geneen Marie Haugen

"Some day, if you are lucky,
    you’ll return from a thunderous journey
    trailing snake scales, wing fragments
    and the musk of Earth and moon.

    Eyes will examine you for signs
    of damage, or change
    and you, too, will wonder
    if your skin shows traces

    of fur, or leaves,
    if thrushes have built a nest
    of your hair, if Andromeda
    burns from your eyes.

    Do not be surprised by prickly questions
    from those who barely inhabit
    their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
    their own possibility, who barely dream.

    If your hands are empty, treasureless,
    if your toes have not grown claws,
    if your obedient voice has not
    become a wild cry, a howl,

    you will reassure them. We warned you,
    they might declare, there is nothing else,
    no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
    just this frantic waiting to die.

    And yet, they tremble, mute,
    afraid you’ve returned without sweet
    elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
    a fluent dance or holy language

    to teach them, without a compass
    bearing to a forgotten border where
    no one crosses without weeping
    for the terrible beauty of galaxies

    and granite and bone. They tremble,
    hoping your lips hold a secret,
    that the song your body now sings
    will redeem them, yet they fear

    your secret is dangerous, shattering,
    and once it flies from your astonished
    mouth, they–like you–must disintegrate
    before unfolding tremulous wings."


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Mapping; finding. Our Mother Map.

“This we need to know: how to participate creatively in the wildness of the world about us. For it is in the wild depths of the universe and our own being that the greater visions must come.”
Thomas Berry

Today the rains came. I mean really came ~ buckets and buckets of it, the air almost white with it  at times. Just when we thought summer had arrived, the blue sky and balmy breeze of the last few days has been swept away as a covering of torrential rain clouds is drawn up over our heads from the southern seas, (though it's still balmy enough to have the windows wide open which gives the whole thing quite a tropical, monsoon~y feeling, which I love).
But you know I love the rain, any time of year. Its like a pause button. There's something reflective about it, turning our thoughts inward, giving space to dwell and mull and ruminate, and all those other analogous words.

Clare Island
April 2017
Ten years ago, when I started writing at Milkmoon, I was deeply immersed in mother-land, swimming in the milky waves of life with small ones aboard, and completely in my element. To this day I am slightly baffled and bemused when I hear Jay talk about how life~changingly terrifying and bewildering it was for him becoming a father. For me it was like slipping into a warm sea and discovering I was, in fact, a Selkie. Those years were a dream, not without their difficulties, of course, but the parenting part I was comfortable figuring out as we went along.

I have maintained my mother~sense. It leads. Always. But I know we don't always trust ourselves, do we? We are bombarded on a daily basis with other people's opinion and advice, on absolutely everything, unsolicited or not, and sometimes it's actually bloody hard to know when it is actually our own voice speaking and not some (occasionally) well meaning 'latest research'. Sometimes I long for the quiet space between words, thoughts, experiences, that our ancestors had. The time to listen to our gut, to know and trust what we know.

Clare Island
April 2017
In a podcast by Charles Eisenstein that I recently listened to, he spoke about how we have lost our animal instinct around food, we no longer know what our bodies are telling us and so we eat things our brain tells us we want but that our bodies would not if we were to ask them. Isn't this really just a good example that can be applied to any aspect of modern living? How many articles have you read about how we have become detached from the natural world we live in? How many people have written about this topic, lamenting it's loss, or simply stating it as a fact? We no longer know the world we actually, physically live in. The one that is beneath the enchantment that is our consumer focused idea of what the world is. (The truth is, take away one or two key man made elements (electricity, the internet) and the illusion disappears, and what then?)

And we are suffering for it. Our children are suffering for it. Our planet is suffering for it.

Clare Island
April 2017
Carol Black has written about one aspect of this, an aspect that is close to my heart, explained in simple yet powerfully clear words just what it is we are doing.

"When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. "Don’t worry," the nice teacher says sweetly, "As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust." And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds (never mind that studies show that children don’t grow as well in fluorescent light as they do in sunlight; did we really need to be told that?) Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”) But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning." 
~ Carol Black
 Read her wonderful full article here.

Clare Island
April 2017
Most parents I know have pretty good instincts when it comes to their children. After all, it is already mapped out for us, in our bones and gut, there for us like a safety net when we need it. It's there even when we can't see it. It's a map that was drawn by our mother's mothers and their mothers before them. Each line carefully added as experience drew their hand, in beautiful curves that echo a sleeping child's cheek, and sharp, painful angles that hurt but are overcome, and without knowing it we are adding to it day by day for our children. Some lines reinforcing what is already there, some finding new inlets, islands, mountains, valleys, and places that cannot be seen or found other than by closing your eyes and looking into your heart. But all of it tracing the outline of something that is deeply inherent in us, that is deeply rooted in our ancestral culture, in our place on this planet, wherever that may be. And if we know how to listen, those whispers tell us the truth we already know.

Clare Island
April 2017
From the time I was a child, I was always a little outside things, always in the edges, never the centre. I was defiantly different, even though this was often a difficult and lonely place to be, but I had no choice, for I had a very loud internal voice that had no problem overriding those other questioning voices when it really mattered.
But when I became a parent, for the first time in my life I was aware of that inner voice, aware my instinct was louder than those other voices. It was like suddenly being released and being able to turn my head to see who it was that had been there beside me all those years, that voice in my ear; and it was me. But my voice was not just one voice, but generations of my mothers, the voices that many of them most likely never had in life.

May 2017
But lets be honest. Sometimes those other voices, call them cultural, societal, whatever you want, they drown out that other inner instinct that knows what is best for our children, and without questioning it we step in (to the straight) line and put our heads down.
We consume, we buy, we don't think about the cost to the planet, to humanity of every single thing we use because we would go mad with guilt and grief. We just carry on.

We send our children to school even when they cry because we don't know what else to do. For if we don't know that a question needs to be asked, how will we know to ask it? 
And do we know where to find answers we can trust?
But ask the why, and the why and the further why, and the neverending why, until you get to the heart of it and find either the true-for-you answer, or you find there is nothing there after all.
You'd be surprised just how often there is simply nothing there - no substance to a cultural belief you've always held as true.

May 2017
Outside my window, seagulls are crying in the rain like emergency sirens, echoing around the hillside, the alarm in their voices has my ancestral antenna twitching. I cannot ignore it.

It's time to listen to ourselves again, my friends. Listen to your children, to the wildness in them that still knows themselves and what they and the world needs, that still speaks the language of Anima mundi.

Every day we tell ourselves a story and we believe it. Every word.
So what is it you want to believe? That you can be true to yourself and live a life that is authentically yours? It's not easy taking that first step, but that's the hardest one. After that it gets easier. Tell your story to whoever will listen, and miracles will happen. You will find others who feel the same, and that's when magic happens.

We create the world we want to live in. Every day.

And here's something to ponder : you are already doing it, so what is that world going to be?

May 2017

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thursday, 11 May 2017

All That Is Good And Beautiful.

‘...fairytales are true.’ He describes a way of looking, seeing right through reality to the truths beyond. He is one of the beyonders, those wise enough and willing enough to yearn to dwell tenderly in the metaphoric world.
~ Jay Griffiths on Italo Calvino.

Storytelling has long been a theme in my life, but it’s only in recent years that I have come to fully understand the importance and significance of stories in our lives. We tell our stories to one another, and on some deep level we understand things more profoundly, it’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we are changing the world. It has become more and more clear to me just how powerful it can be. In sharing our stories with one another, in the act of Telling, we gain insights into our own understanding of the world, and so does the listener. It helps to dismantle the old story, making room for the new one.

Springtime in Wicklow.
A couple of  weeks ago I found myself thinking a great deal about that big theme in our stories, Love. I was thinking about just how essential it is in our roles as adults, how important it is as a ground zero for any and all things we may ever share with our children. The power it has to give meaning to something is not to be overlooked. I understand, of course, that it is a very fundamental need in us as humans, to need a meaning for things, and children know this and trust this instinct because it comes from themselves. And when they trust themselves, their instinct is almost always Love.
We were lucky enough recently to spend a weekend in the company of Rob Greenfield who was in Ireland to start his European tour, which he kicked off with a talk in our lovely community here in Bray, Common Ground. I feel so grateful that my children have opportunities like this to meet and talk to people like Rob and see the difference one person can make, how our choices every day have an impact, and we have the power to choose, every day. It’s far more powerful than coming from mum or dad! Hearing about his adventures, and the challenges he has set himself, was so inspiring for them. They were amazed that it was as simple as me reaching out to him when I heard he would be in Ireland, and the next thing he is sitting at our table, breaking bread with us, and speaking with such honesty and authenticity about his life and his ideas. I know the 13 year old and his friend were particularly inspired, and came away with new eyes for the world.

Rob Greenfield talking at Common Ground.

Rob spoke about the world as it is today, he spoke about how we all have choices, every day, and the impact those choices have. He told stories of just how far he discovered we need to go in order to truly address the brokenness of what we are living with. But he told all of these stories with such love and warmth, and without judgement, that we were left feeling inspired rather than guilty and overwhelmed.  As Rob spoke to the room that Sunday in Common Ground, I couldn’t help but be aware of the love and openness his message was both given and received with. Everyone was there to be inspired, and honestly, it’s the biggest attendance we have had for an event to date. From start to finish, the generosity that was shown was incredible and heartening. From members getting stuck in to our annual spring clean Meitheil work party (nothing like an incentive to put a date on it!) on the Friday and Saturday, to those who helped organise the room on the day, the dishwashers, the techie people, the food bringers, and those who donated to Rob’s non-profit charity fund, and of course to Rob himself in so many ways.

Chatting with Rob in our lovely reclaimed forest garden at Common Ground,

We had a community pot luck dinner after, and as always there was enough food to feed everyone, and a chance for people to meet one another, to have conversations, to share ideas and information about different things that are happening in their area, because that is what it is all about - sharing - an expression of love and openness and authenticity - something that can be hard to find in so many walks of life, but often for teenagers and young adults in particular.

Early morning in the mountains.

And there is the kernel of my thoughts and mullings and ruminations these last couple of days: now more than ever, the importance of those three things, love, openness and authenticity in how we communicate with our children, and by ‘our’ I mean the children of our time, whether they belong to us or not. It’s a scary time we live in, especially for those who are coming of age right now, and we need to instill a sense of hope and power in them. This might seem obvious to most of us, but are we actually expressing that to them on a daily basis?
And what about the idea of connectivity? When it comes to ‘the world today’, and the endless list of imminent crisis’ that always seem to be inescapably looming,  it’s too easy to go down the road of 'us and them', to feel overwhelmed, and to ignore the simple Truth that we are all part of the same organism.

Team work!

There’s an important distinction between fighting for the sake of the fight (our own), and fighting for something bigger than ourselves. One is reactive, the other proactive. And  in both we have a responsibility.
It was so good to see love, openness and authenticity in action in Common Ground on that day. Everyone listening, rapt, drinking it in - the bigger ‘fight’ that does not need to be a fight, but Doing! Here is someone Doing, and we can all Do, we Do every day, but doing it with awareness and intention is what is important. There was a very clear coming together in the room that day, everyone there already Doing in their own way, and even though I am used to this because that is the very essence of Common Ground, it draws in people already there or looking for it, through my experience of the other hat I wear, the school one, I am reminded daily of the need to create a space for our younger folk to talk about these issues, to discover what they already know but cannot name.


Throughout the journey away from traditional schooling that we’ve been on these last few years, I have become so aware of the challenge facing today's children, and their parents, and just how important it is that they are supported and listened to, and not given up on. It’s not enough to wait until they grow up and ‘cop on`. We owe ourselves the honour of being the best guides and mentors we can be, the Elders they so deserve, in order to ensure that when the time comes they can take the reigns with confidence and surety, and bring this new story to the next chapter.

They are the Beyonders, willing to dwell in the metaphoric world, to learn from the stories, from our mistakes.

They just need us to trust them so they learn to trust themselves.