Aug 2012: 6th 2 week PDC in Terra Alta, Portugal

With the Escola da Terra project moving locations, this course took the first steps towards solidifying Terra Alta as a Permaculture Education center. But Permaculture is not just about land, in fact it is mostly about people, and the work we did before the course and during the course was about forming human connection. Yeah there was compost toilets to build and cob benches to construct, but most importantly we created a group full of inclusion, a safe haven to learn and explore permaculture and the self within a group context.

30 students emerged from different parts of the world, to camp and live a mostly outdoor life for 14 days in the cliffs and windswept hills just above the Atlantic ocean minutes away from the western most part of continental Europe. This powerful energetic land known as Terra Alta helped to nourish our journey, the marathon of learning the Principles of Permaculture, the details around plants and housing, and the process of design. It gave to us and we returned as much as we could including hands-on activities such as building mandala

Sien and others adding to the compost pile

gardens, creating social space with cob, building a herb spiral and creating a massive compost pile. The land hosted nightly gatherings, sharing of talent from poetry reading to music and the accompanied dance. It was a combination of creativity that gave us the spirit to relax and enjoy the presence of simply being. The dome was a temple, a channel of creative energy flow that hosted our nightly forays around a fire, steps away from the source, living and learning from all the elements. Our journey was partly guided by Pedro Valdju, an amazing artist of sound journeys, but this was no one man band. Instruments of all sorts and merely the presence of ones eyes gave to us an enrichment that carries no monetary value, only golden memories that forever will be etched in our consciousness. It will be a bright moment to stare back in time at the flickering flames of the dome in the summer of fun in 2012.

Like most years, the cob stomping pit was of course a big hit and again this year people even turned into worms as they connected back to the earth.  They wriggled and squealed with pure delight at being completely covered, head to toe in the seductive yet modest material that is clay. Drums were beating, hearts were pounding as cosmic energy of joy flowed through people. Meanwhile a small group of other inspired and dedicated people were also paying homage to a classic pattern, the spiral and hopefully the vortex of energy that the shape conspires to channel. Herbs filled the bed, dry mediterranean delights gracing the pinnacle while the mints and chives added flavor and contrast with their opposite patterns of growth: running and clumping. Soil was heaped, stones were rolled, horse manure was hauled, clay was sprinkled in, so much work for a feature that gives so much character to an area that once was devoid. Just as those who were making the foundation of the bench, placing the straw-bales, and applying the cob with emanating love. Transformation of the space occurred as we all transformed through this inspiring course that is a PDC.

Moreover, with past courses learning lessons deeply engrained in our new philosophy of facilitating the PDC, we decided to apply the pattern of the flower of life to the final project. Having made it a bit too large and not reinforcing what might be the most important attitudinal principle in the current context of the world, cooperation not competition, in past design projects, this time we altered it. We decided not to design the adjoining lands of Terra Alta, rather focus intently on manifesting a creative burst of energy towards envisioning a fully developed Terra Alta site with abundance and functionality integrated. By focusing on the land we were able to concentrate the energy further of the group on site rather than dispersing it. From this a cooperative spirit emerged as the six groups were all able to relate overlapping and congruent ideas amongst the group coordinators. This helped to cultivate the cooperative spirit and some really great design came from it.  Herb spirals and food forest, chicken coops and flowforms, many great ideas were channeled and their implementation has a seed of chance now.  

Finally I must say I am proud that we manifested in the schedule to go to the greatest sandbox of all for the earthworks section: Praia de Ursa was a great place and context to feel the joy that dolphins feel when swimming and diving and playing. So much laughter, faces hurting from the grins that were on our face for so long. A good session on earthworks and the rain to cleanse.

What a beautiful day. Fabulous course. Lots of love to all the participants and those who made it happen. Keep sharing as this course was the pinnacle of students sharing all of their special knowledge and talents.

2 Comments on “Aug 2012: 6th 2 week PDC in Terra Alta, Portugal

  1. Truly inspiring both the course and the great words of our great mentor!!
    Send Doug!!!!!!!!

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