Posts Tagged ‘Challenges’
ARE OVER FIFTIES THE LUMPWOOD OF SOCIETY?Jul 22 2013
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Major social insights from the world of barbeques
I’m happy to say that even now, in my sixties, I am a BBQ virgin. Barbies have never appealed to me: they remind me of the joke, ‘Why do men do barbeques?’ : ‘Because they end up burning the meat better.’
However, my wife’s family are keen on the barbeque scene, and when we decided to invite them all to our house for a weekend party to celebrate Linda’s 50th, there was probably some self-interest in their decision to give her a barbeque set as a birthday present.
My father-in-law clearly felt it was his duty to train me in doing barbeques, not a view I shared. However, it is thanks to Richard that I have a major social insight from the world of barbeques to share. He explained that you need two kinds of charcoal to get a barbecue going well: firstly, fast-acting, self-impregnating for a quick and fiery start, and then lumpwood for a steady reliable flame.
Fast-acting, self-impregnating seemed a pretty good summary for the frenetic youth of today. And whilst lumpwood may not be the most elegant name for the over fifties, there’s such a desperate lack of a good collective name for them that this could be a strong candidate.
At least the term lumpwood suggests a solid, important, dependable, and central role, with a hearts of oak quality, which I feel is very appropriate to the many invaluable roles which we over-fifties could play in society, if we start to find our voice, re-discover our purpose, and act on it all. But then, to return to the barbeque analogy, it might just be the role of the fast-acting, self-impregnating generation to light our fire…
Community, ecology, herbal tea… More lessons in life from FindhornJun 27 2012
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Why have I just spent all afternoon on my knees, weeding tiny tufts of couch grass from a flower bed? I’d never do this at home. The reasons why I’m weeding are complex, but they’re all because I’m at Findhorn.
You can’t easily sum up the Findhorn Foundation in a paragraph, but here goes. It’s a spiritual community, eco-village and education centre in a beautiful setting near the sea in North-east Scotland, founded 50 years ago, and it’s been a major source of inspiration and practical learning for me since 1990.
Findhorn people talk about work as love in action, and they walk their talk: this is one reason I’m weeding. At the start of any Findhorn work shift, there’s an attunement: the work team join hands, connect with the purpose of the task, and ask to be guided to do it well. This really helps me feel that my mundane, repetitive task is worthwhile, and I stick at it cheerfully.
Since the start, the people at Findhorn Foundation have worked in co-operation with the spirits of the land and the plants, which they call devas. You may believe it or not – I do believe in devas, and I find a sense of delight and nourishment in the gardens at Findhorn which is not unique, but rare: I feel it on other land which has been tended lovingly and consciously, such as Hazel Hill Wood or Hilfield Friary in Dorset.
If you’re interested in sustainability, Findhorn is well worth a visit. It’s the only place I know in the UK which deserves the name eco-village. They generate much of their own electricity, they have a plant-based sewage system, free minibus services, a range of eco-houses, and they grow much of their own food. Some of this is at Cullerne, where I was weeding a flower bed: here they aim to make the whole place beautiful, not functional.
The Findhorn Foundation started in the Sixties, and there’s a good number of ageing hippies living here. In fact the age profile of the community is worryingly skewed over 50. The good side of this is the way they are pioneering new ways to support people with severe ill health or infirmity.
An interesting feature of Findhorn’s Community Care programme is that it trains those needing support in how to receive it. Strong personalities can get bossy and stroppy when they are infirm, and they need to learn new approaches, such as gratitude, asking for help, admitting they can’t cope. And those giving support need new skills, like valuing what they do, and making sure they don’t burn out.
I am back here to recharge my batteries, meet old friends, and learn from this community. All of this I can do in an afternoon of weeding, if it’s at Findhorn!
How to enjoy a wet MayMay 11 2012
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Finding your inner fire when the sun won’t shine
I am writing this at Hazel Hill Wood, sitting at the foot of my favourite beech tree, with a struggling campfire. It has been raining heavily for days, now it’s merely a light drizzle pushed along by a strong South-Westerly wind. This seems to be the shape of May 2012.
Early May is my favourite time of the year, especially at Hazel Hill: the bluebells are usually abundant, the birdsong is intense, and there is new growth everywhere. As you may guess, this year it’s all pretty subdued. Many bluebells haven’t even flowered. The wood is damp and chilly like early March, and yet the Spring growth is here. The green of young beech leaves is brilliant, almost electric, even in this weather. But the lack of sun has shown me how much I, and probably most people, depend on Spring sunshine for our own sense of growth and renewal.
I know many organic farmers and gardeners who say that it’s best not to water and fertilise your plants too much. Their approach forces the plants to root deeper in order to find water and nutrients. There’s a useful parallel here for humans in a wet Spring.
The silver lining in these clouds is the chance to strengthen your will and intent, and dig deeper in yourself, in order to find the inner fire to fuel your Spring growth. It’s like cycling instead of driving a car: not so easy and convenient, but it makes you fitter, stronger, less dependent on outside support.
How to do this? Robert Osborn, who co-leads some Men Beyond 50 groups, offers this method: Find a quiet place outdoors, and sit comfortably on the earth. Now imagine you are like a tree, and that your spine extends into roots below the ground, and branches with leaves above your head. Visualise drawing deep red fire, the physical vitality of the earth, up through your roots. Then combine this with drawing white fire down through your leaves from the sky, the inspiration of spirit in whatever form you conceive it.
Nature remains one of our greatest teachers. Even in a dismally damp May, the trees’ roots are reaching into the warmer earth below ground, their leaves are finding whatever light there is, and they are growing with the season. To quote from a song by James Burgess:
By the fire that is under the earth,
By the fire that is over the earth,
By the fire in the heart of heroes…