Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Nature Conspires For You

Dave picked us up in Byron Bay (minus his female companion who originally was supposed to come on this research trip) and we proceeded to drop Wade (another Buddhist networker) at Ballina airport. Luckily the Chilean volcano’s ash cloud had only slighlty affected his flight departure home. After a brief local supermarket trip we hit the road in earnest; me with my busted knee and him with his 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser. I had just spent 3 full days at a computer camp at Lake Ainsworth, Lennox Heads. There had been a confluence of our Australian ‘tech brethern’ of 150 strong Ruby on Rails(RoR) programmers and assorted digital makers who had met for some serious fun, learning and collaboration (unfortunately there was a pronounced lack of ‘tech sisters’).

There was intentionally no Internet at camp and albeit I didn’t write any new code, I did make plenty of new connections and learned a helluva’ lot (including some barrista skills) all while my Ruby robot continually nudged the rest of the sangha in cyberspace. The camp was an eclectic environment which supported and welcomed ‘n00b’s (also known as newbies or anyone new to a discipline or topic) which was great as I am a huge supporter of the concept and practice of both ‘beginners mind’ and peer learning in all walks of life. This ‘shoshin’ or beginners mind would also be applied to the next part of the trip as our mission was to delve deeper in to self-sufficiency, permaculture and alternative community models. Our goal was to be achieved by doing and interacting (rather than just reading about), and the destination was a little farm just west of Bellingen, New South Wales.

It was Monday around 9pm and decidedly dark on Darkwood Road when we finally arrived at the property. Having just snuck in across Hobart’s bridge, which was only a few centimetres below water at the time, we realised we were now trapped by the Bellinger river on a 4km strip of beautiful fertile valley. It was inadvertently perfect for a technical ‘cold turkey’ and some surreptitious solitude... though not an intentional goal, neither packets nor humans were coming or going for the next few days. A research trip begun with a reminder by Nature that she was always in control seemed fitting, as did an emphasis on food and energy security. Human and machine redundancy and preparedness, it seems, is crucial (especially when not suckling from a centralised supply chain).

After 36 hours solid rainfall there was a brief respite into which we ventured forth to see the extent of the flooding. The bridge was indeed deep under a torrent of water thus we took the opportunity to call on the neighbours for an informal chat and were taken on an impromptu tour of their garlic farm and homesteading efforts. It also turned out that we were around the corner from the infamous ‘Homelands’ commune (and others such as ‘Patanga’ and ‘Khandahar’) where only recently land divisions which were previously sub-divided and designated as multiple occupancy(MO) are done so no more, and all the land has been classed as environmentally protected.

Two days in and apart from some internal cleaning and sweeping, not much outdoor activity had taken place yet... so when the sky cleared on the morning of the third day it was out with the petrol ‘whipper snipper’s, chainsaw, rakes, gloves and buggy. At the end of the fourth day we dropped tools and headed in to town as the waters had finally receeded enough to get back over the bridge and have a poke around the main street in Bellingen. It remains to be seen how to engage fully with commune and collective members other than that of fostering more connections while volunteering locally or embedding oneself for a longer period of time. Intimate and direct experience of a thing is the only way to truly know something and as only fools rush in, we will tread lightly, cultivate our karma, and continue to do our practical and theoretical homework. Big thanks to @bmatt.

A mixture of brought and local reading material kept the neurons firing during the evenings and rainy days:

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It: The Complete Back-To-Basics Guide, John Seymour : ISBN: 978-0-7894-9332-3
Building Green: A Complete How-to Guide To Alternative Building Method: Clarke Snell & Tim Callahan: ISBN 978-1-60059-534-9
Walden and Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau: ISBN 978-0-14-039044-5
Ramana Maharshi and The Path of Self-Knowledge, A biography by Arthur Osbourne: ISBN 0-87728-071-1
You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, Thich Nhat Hanh: ISBN 978-1-59030-838-7

Chrome Yellow, Aldous Huxley: ISBN 0-14-000041-0
Grace and Grit, Ken Wilbur: ISBN 0-7171-3234-X
The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse: ISBN 0-14-003438-2
Eyeless in Gaza, Aldous Huxley: ISBN 0-14-001050-5
Who is the Buddha?, Sangharakshita: ISBN 1-899579-51-6
What is the Dharma?, Sangharakshita: ISBN 1-899579-01-X
What is the Sangha?, Sangharakshita: ISBN 1-899579-31-1
Be Love Now, Ram Dass: ISBN 978-1-84604-291-1

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