Saturday 28 May – Tomorrow, the people of Europe are invited out into the public places, to call for More Democracy. Our little community here in Axladitsa-Avatakia is buzzing with it. What is possible now?
Today, I am called to be the butterfly and the bumblebee – helping where needed, witnessing where called, and writing in a quiet corner when the circumstances permit.
As I write, the women are gathered around the kitchen table making dolmadakia with Kiria Athina. The only ingredient for this dish that didn’t grow on the land was the rice. As they work, Maria speaks of her mother, who used to make the small meat-stuffed vineleaves traditional to the island of her childhood, observing how easy it is for traditions to get lost if we don’t intentionally pass them on. That is the pivotal role of Panayotis and his mother in this small ecosystem – they have opened up their vast storehouse of local craft, knowhow, custom and tradition to the ‘immigrants’ – meaning Maria, Sarah and all the intentional nomads who visit this place from all over the world.
There is a questioning being held by Maria and Sarah, about how to introduce new practices here in a way that is palatable to the local community and appropriate to the place. The current candidate is compost. Panayotis doesn’t like the practice, and it’s true that the compost heap here isn’t thriving in its current form. And yet, it is so obviously crazy to throw away organic matter that can serve to enrich the soil. Doubtless Penny’s experience will contribute to the fusion of permaculture practices and Greek tradition.
Everywhere I look, I see examples of the new pattern asking to come through: How to marry tradition and innovation? I’ve just witnessed another example in the making of the dolmadakia. We made a full pan of dolmades with a traditional filling, and a small put stuffed with the mixture of soaked, fermented (aka rescued) quinoa and the last inches of Janell’s left-over meat stock. The pattern I’m seeing there is this:
- Start by learning the traditional way – pure and unadulterated. Honour your teacher
- Then try a small innovation, but keep it separate. Don’t go for fusion from the start, take it step by step.
- Offer the innovation as a gift that honours the spirit of the traditional context while bringing in a heartfelt homage from the new
- Ask for feedback!
As it happens, the traditional dolmades were ORGASMIC, and the innovative ones were, to my taste at least, well… rather revolting!
Another thread of work that’s happening today – being led by natural-building goddess Janell Kapoor, is the beautification of the arrival space, by painting a mural on the side of the apothiki (storehouse) using a paint made from the red earth of the place. So the Mud Gang has been out harvesting dirt in the driveway, experimenting with different proportions of dirt, sand and water, to get the right mix that will stock on the breezeblock wall.
I’m acutely aware, during this time, that we are living the future we want to create. That is our practice, at its heart. Watching parea (parea is what happens when we come together in good company, good conversation, good activity) happen around the making of stuffed vineleaves and the mud painting, it is so clear that this is a critical ingredient of what will heal our communities and build trust. We find ourselves singing rounds and cannons as we work, interweaving harmony – we learn new songs from each other every day – creating a beautiful serenade also for the others working around us.
It strikes me that this is simply a rediscovery of an ancient part of our DNA that we have allowed to wither as we gradually commodify and monetise all creativity and delegate it to the ‘experts’ to do on our behalf, reducing ourselves to passive consumers and poor shadows of what we could be if we only reclaimed our own creativity. Just as I write this, a snatch of conversation drifts to me – Maria saying “we need to bring back oral storytelling – there are enough books out there already.” Indeed, it’s not the ‘product’ (the story), but the telling and the witnessing that bonds us.
My next post will focus on the role of storytelling.