In mid March I took the girls to an event being hosted by the Circle of Children, an organization created by our friend Black Horse, who believes that education should be free, and that children should be free. He has held space for children at Rainbow Gatherings and various festivals for many years now, and he is a true visionary, with a positive spiritual approach to relationships and life. In 2013, the Circle of Children was gifted a large piece of land on Triangle Lake, which had been a summer camp for youth, complete with immense infrastructure. This is ironic because Black Horse much prefers life outside, and has visions for a school that is nature based, with everyone sleeping in tipis and other simple structures.
Even though there are over two hundred beds on the property, for the nature retreat we all slept in a tipi that we erected on the first day of the nature immersion camp. It was good to get more experience setting up a tipi properly, as we always did it incorrectly at Gateway Gardens. We had a beautiful sunny day, and the kids ran and played with unrestrained glee. I had good conversations with some of the other parents as we made dinner together.
At events like this, preparation of food and clean up after meals is all done by participants. Teams to accomplish daily chores have to form spontaneously, with the work being done out of the joy and gratitude of everyone's heart. This is the Rainbow Family way, and the practice of many intentional communities.
We might think of it as contributionalism. People voluntarily contribute whatever efforts of resources are needed to accomplish the things they want to be part of. We all wanted to eat, and somebody had to cook. In a situation like this, the game being played is to make sure that everyone gets a chance to take a turn. Those who are not accustomed to doing basic chores are not scolded but are gently reminded when help is needed and given the opportunity to agree to contributing.
By practicing this kind of culture around children, we are teaching them how to manage practical matters and make decisions without using force or aggression, or appealing to authority. Having known Black Horse for some time, I knew that this would be the environment of the camp, and that's why I was so interested in participating. Events like this are glimpses into the way things could look if we shifted our focus, our language, and our philosophy. This is what it looks like when everybody collaborates voluntarily to meet goals.
We were charged nothing for attending this camp; instead we were asked to bring organic, non-processed, vegan food. This is how I prefer to eat anyhow, and it made me smile to see such emphasis on health and food issues, which are critical in the struggle for freedom restoration of the planet. I don't necessarily advocate that everyone should go vegan immediately, but we should give much more thought to how we can best feed ourselves in the most ethical, ecologically balanced way.
The preference for non-processed food (as opposed to chips, crackers, cookies, canned goods, or boxed foods) is also important, because not only is this healthier, but allows us to solve another really big problem that modern society faces: garbage. So much of our landfill garbage is food packaging, and this can be changed simply by the decision to forego a steady diet of easy packaged food and spend the time preparing things from real ingredients. When you eat this way, you can feed yourself almost entirely from your own gardens or local farms.
We ate very well at the retreat. We had soups, baked vegetables, rice, potatoes, squash and beets. We had delicious salads at every meal (other than breakfast of course) and we had plenty of fruit to snack on during the day.
The days were not highly structured, though Black Horse did have a few things he wanted to accomplish. We first set up the tipi, and then we did some work in the gardens that they were getting ready for the new season. The children all helped, moving dirt and spreading it over cardboard weed barrier that was placed on top of existing beds, a method known as top dressing. You don't ever have to plow good soil; you just add organic matter to the top, as would happen naturally in a forest.
We also took a tour of the land, which was interesting for me, as I've often dreamed of projects that are educational in nature, and the main thing that's needed to be able to do big events and have an educational venue is infrastructure. And Black Horse has no shortage of that. He told me some of the things they were working on, and some of the challenges they were dealing with. The legal limitations and requirements for operating a large camp are many, and while these impediments can be overcome, it takes lots of time and money. Black Horse and his partner Megan had just finished a grueling marathon of administration work in preparation for the year to come.
In permaculture we call such factors invisible structures. Things like government regulations are not really part of the environment in the way that the precipitation, climate, and soil type are, but they can be just as limiting to your project, and they must be accounted for. Black Horse is not the type to lose too much of his energy to that process, but he clearly has a lot to manage.
But in faith, the Circle of Children continues in it's work, empowering children to be free and yet also responsible and respectful. Gathering in circle is a big part of the culture, and everyone takes turns talking and sharing how they feel. The kids were not ever pressed into work, even though they had to wash their own dishes and they were asked to help with the garden, and later with the seed ball making activity.
The kids very much enjoyed the work, seeing it as a fun activity, not as a job or chore. They all got their hands muddy, mixed in a bunch of wildflower seeds and rolled up a bunch of seed balls, which they then very much enjoyed throwing around the land.
We took a couple of trips down to the lake, where I couldn't resist jumping in. It was indeed cold, but quite refreshing. I didn't stay in the water long. The second trip down a bunch of the kids came, deciding they were going to swim. The cold gave them pause, however, after dipping in their feet, and climbing halfway down the ladder or splashing around in the shallows suited them better.
We sang songs, told stories, and ate meals around the fire in the tipi. We cooked on the fire where we could, though we also had ovens that we used in the big kitchen. The fare was simple, and yet very delicious, and nobody went hungry.
It was great meeting some new people, and I was also glad to see Ashley, a friend from Glendale. It was a small gathering, with anywhere from thirteen to sixteen people at the meals, and not everybody stayed the whole time. My girls had a blast, running around without shoes and with very little oversight for three straight days, playing wolf pack or wild horses with their new friends.
Lila, my youngest daughter, had never been away from her mother for so long, yet she did very well and had lots of fun. I went long periods of time without seeing her, which only happens when she's totally comfortable and having a good time. How we long to just settle in a village full of friends so the kids could grow up this way and live like this all the time!
Until we find that village, we can only be grateful for what glimpses we do get of the beautiful culture we could create. Thankfully people like Black Horse and Megan are making sure that there are still places on this Earth where people deep relation with land where kids can still run free.