Guest blog by Rick Cross as part of the Cultural Emergence storytellings
A Story of Reconnection with the values of Self Reliance through learning from our ancestors and listening to our grandchildren
It is the season of abundance and Poppy and Ben are up early with me on a beautiful sunny day. We listen to the birdsong and watch the young swallows spiralling around the house. Three year old Ben is in a rush to get to pick today’s tomatoes , juice dribbling from his smiling face as he bites into his favourite bright orange variety. Poppy arrives laden with fresh eggs from our Marsh Daisy chickens. Her eyes twinkle with wonder and excitement as she unveils her plan to make pancakes this morning , before we get on with the job of digging up this years potatoes.
It brings a lump to my throat . How blessed we are to share these special times across the generations! I remember how my Dad would pick and store the apples from the trees in the garden , just as he had with his own father and now I look forward to future harvests from the apple and damson trees I have been planting.
In my teenage years the contrast between growing up in an industrial town and my deepening connection to nature was difficult to make sense of. Seeing my childhood secret haunts disappear underneath a car park was a profound shock that was hard to make sense of. The rapid growth of consumerism and exploitation of natural resources in the 70’s and 80’s left me with big questions. Every positive initiative I took seemed dwarfed by the march of “progress” and ” growth” which seemed to be valued above all else by everyone around me. I felt very lonely and anxious about where this infatuation with mass consumption was propelling our world and ruminated over a question that I am only now beginning to answer. How do we heal the Earth and live a happy and fruitful life , without destroying the beauty and diversity of Nature?
My Grandad had found an answer to this in his own recovery from two world wars and I am now deeply grateful for those moments we shared watching deer in woodland glades , listening for the ‘plop’ of the water vole as it heard our approach and the simple childhood wonder of digging up potatoes . His encouragement to learn about wildlife, grow vegetables and plant trees was my inspiration. He was a trusted elder and mentor as I set out in life , who was modelling a new way of life; living in the woods, growing his own food and sourcing water from his own well.
My journey unfolded into a career in Landscape Architecture and land reclamation in Manchester , with a vision to heal the dereliction at the heart of the industrial revolution. Marriage and family followed on and I was able to share my passion for growing plants and gardening with my daughter who attended a Saturday gardening club run by a lovely retired couple.
Then it was a chance win of a free air fare to North America in a charity draw , which took me on a month’s trek in British Columbia , that helped me find the next signs on my trail. It was a life defining pattern disruption that reconnected me to the wonder of the Wilderness. That winning ticket changed the course of my life! Trekking into the Rocky Mountain wilderness, I rediscovered my wonder and passion for the natural world and seeing the self reliant life of the Homesteaders on the West Coast fed my dream for making a life on the land . On returning to Manchester I knew I needed to live a life closer to the natural world. I found a job working on community environmental projects in the Cumbrian coastal towns, we bought a Canadian canoe to explore the lakes and rivers of Cumbria and settled in the Market Town of Cockermouth .
For many years my passion for growing was kept alive producing veg on an allotment, but 5 years ago the chance to purchase a few acres of land nearby and build a new home has finally allowed my long held dream to blossom. So now I am sharing the potato harvest with my daughter Sarah and grandchildren Poppy and Ben and watching the wide eyed wonder of one year old Edward (Bear) as he sits in the meadow amongst the butterflies!
At Danaway Permaculture Homestead I am finally realising my dream and creating a demonstration site that is a bridge for people searching for a path between our industrial consumer society and a new way of living more lightly and simply. I have been able to rent some grassland nearby and have started to keep sheep; reconnecting to my Yorkshire farming ancestors and sharing the magic of lambing with my grandchildren.
Most of my life I have been swimming against the tide of global exploitation and consumerism , but today I am connecting with more and more people who are seeking a different way of life outside the oppression they feel from centralised government and corporate power. The tide is turning in the hearts of millions of people across the globe and there is a growing realisation that by taking practical action in our lives we build hope and foster a better future.
Today I can see how what I can give my grandchildren and visitors to Danaway will resonate through the generations, projecting the gifts of my grandfather into the unfolding cultural transition to shape our family culture in the future. So today is starting with pancakes and will end with baked potatoes fresh from our land , sustaining and growing a family culture of practical self reliance and thanksgiving. Together in this way we are modelling the values of self responsibility and evolution as we co create new family rituals around food that link back to the experiences I shared with my Grandfather and deeper still to our Irish and Yorkshire farming roots. Self Responsibility is a Core Routine in the Cultural Emergence Programme being developed and shared through our European wide CELT network .
In Spring 2017 I will be offering a 2 day Cultural Emergence Programme in Cumbria to share the learning and wisdom brought together through the vision of Looby , Jon and our emerging movement for cultural transformation.
Despite the shocking realities and confusion that the world faces , each one of us can take personal responsibility for our family, community and wider world by working together to forge a different future by fostering an ecologically literate and responsible society.
Do let me know if you would like to hear about Cultural Emergence Events in Cumbria or if you are curious get in touch to arrange to drop in.
You can find out more about Danaway Parmaculture Homestead at www.danaway.co.uk
Danaway Permaculture Homestead