Succession. It moves things along. It’s transformation. It’s progression. It’s diversity, it’s complexity. Succession moves within my teaching and the diversity and complexity of groups continues to be more and more dynamic.
My annual pilgrimage to the mountains of Slovakia followed a different route this year, no longer a full season of teaching beforehand in Portugal, rather a full summer at Treasure Lake in Kentucky, USA trying to conjure up the courage to stay there. So my landing in Europe found me exhausted once again before the course, not from teaching this time, but rather running events, chopping and dropping in the oppressive jungle like heat, running the bar and fishing lake at Treasure Lake. And trying to get back into the Cincinnati permaculture scene. With a short stint back in Lisbon and Sintra to refresh and take care of some business of life there in Portugal, my main constant over the last eight years of running TreeYo took over and I departed again for Slovakia for another PDC.
This year a group of 25 showed up, far higher number than the previous two years. Again it was international, but the depth of character in this group was astounding. And for me, a journey it was indeed again. Getting the flu the night the course started, navigating how to open myself on this continent that I love so much but was trying to shun because of my desire to do it all finally back at the lake in Kentucky. Being there for people both as a mentor, a teacher, and a friend. How to do that when your mind is telling you not to, to keep your head down, focus, don’t let any feelings of Europe enter as to not confuse myself on this decision to move back to Kentucky finally. And then, in a feedback session run by my course assistant Franzie and requested by a student, it all cracked open. Instead of keeping the tide of Europe at bay, it all came flooding in, a tsunami of confusion, joy, sadness, bewilderment, love, anxiety. And now that the course is over, I wish I had let it in sooner so it wasn’t such a massive wave. But that’s life, these waves are disturbance in succession, they help to reshape you, carve new paths, sweep you off your feet for a moment but landing somewhere, somehow, because that is the will of life. The meaning of all this, well I search the faces of the gods for the true understanding of it all. It feels like it will sort itself out, and one day I will understand this all, the pull to Europe eight years ago, the meaning of this constellation of people, the knowledge of if this is indeed my last course in Europe.
With that, the course in its basic pattern was much like others, but the details of it all shine through from the diversity within different groups, varying host sites and the culture of the place itself. It was a true cultural sharing again, with five continents represented. I am still amazed at how these courses are magnets for this diversity, maybe the thing i would miss most if this was indeed my last course in Europe or even in general.
The hands on were staples plus a very big food forest push of tree planting with anchor species, support species and a bit of guilding through plant propagation. We developed nuclei and hopefully over time they will merge just as the small-scale intensive principle evokes in its approach. We did the fermenting, hot compost, natural building with a guest instructor, and the in-depth design project. It’s again a simple pattern, add in the lectures, the interactive exercises, but its the management of myself and the group energy that is so complex.
The design project evolved again this year with bringing a bit more reality to the project as the host site of Sekier continues to evolve their vision and less wide open spaces are there. This time Arvid, one of the main stays of Sekier and farm manager, gave even more detail to the sites which made them much more thematic than the overall general ecovillage development we did in the past. It’s still ecovillage development but with more reality. And the students stepped up and delivered. This course was with one more day, 13 instead of twelve which allowed the students to go a bit deeper and to not have the so much pressure. Still there was interesting group dynamics, still I had to navigate them, still there was amazing results. The inspiration from them makes me want to do design work there at Sekier, integrating the ideas and helping to launch new developments there in the mountainous landscape of Slovakia that I always compare it to in the states of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
So in the end I am grateful to Hanna and Arvid for bringing me back once again, the support from the team there of Alex and Daniella, Eponine, and Misho and many others, for the great food, the company of this group, and yeah even the virus that had me pucking my guts out early on in the course. The bonfires and barbecues, the international group with so much to learn about life from each one. It’s apparent that consciousness is somehow reflected in these groups, that a piece of me is in each one of them and it takes you being open and humble to see the uniqueness of each one and to gain the lessons from them for why they are there. I still don’t know all the lessons yet, but with time, with space, integration of it all will come. It maybe years, but within a forest will grow from these moments of succession.