I am living and working in a very remote part of southern Portugal–in the interior of the country where the residents of an intentional community called TAMERA have created a 100% sustainable garden out of a semi desert They use permaculture, recycle all water, have 27 ponds that comprise the water system for 150 hectares and 160 permanent residents as well as many guests–some of whom work in the kitchen or the garden or the solar village and some take courses like the Love Course and the Horse course where people learn open communication by contact with horses. .
I’m a guest worker paying 25 Euros a day that includes food and a bed in a sweet new cabin with the scent of cedar and a lovely view. We eat rice and beans, raw veggies of all kinds we harvest on the day we eat them and everyone here is into simple living in community and caring for each other and the land. It’s a lot like ZEGG in Berlin but on a much bigger scale
My garden job starts before dawn when I walk to the greenhouse for a group warm up and inspirational reading and then I go where assigned–usually a mile or more down to the South Valley to harvest tomatoes, peppers, basil, chard, potatoes. My first day out was very beautiful because the day before it had rained so every leaf, every corn tassel, every zucchini flower was covered in crystalline raindrops and dew and in the backlight many glittered in rainbows. Between the tomato rows were tall eggplants now fruiting bright red, some brilliant orange pumpkins and big fat green peppers as well. Bordering the mixed vegetable rows was corn °as high as an elephant’s thigh°–really.
Days start cold so I wear layers which get completely soaked and often full of mud as I rout around the tomato plants’ full of sweet smelling heirlooms. Afterwards I pick basil which turns up in the yummy pesto we have for dinner some nights We even have had apfel kucken for desert on rare occasions.
My favorite harvest, bar none, is potatoes. First our resident leader Jorge guides a hand plow behind a big John Deere tractor (one of the very few motor vehicles here as people mostly walk miles around the property or drive little electric carts) He turns up the rich dark earth and then we hand dig into the loosened soil feeling for potatoes Often they are in clusters of 8-10 potatoes and finding them is like finding the colored Easter Eggs my Mom used to help us dye and my Dad used to hide in the yard amidst the flowers and shrubs in my childhood home–a very sweet memory as Easter was a time when we all went to church together and I sang in the choir and the Easter Bunny brought us (my sister and I) big cellophane wrapped baskets full of candy. So here I am in Tamera living a happy memory.
I also plant vegetables which I’ve learned a good deal about. We plant cauliflower next to red cabbage with beets nestled in the middle. Each seedling goes into the earth with a blessing. I have fallen in love with cauliflower shoots–they have magenta heart shaped leaflets at the base and then sprout sage colored leaves with serrated edges and magenta veins–just glorious. And a great experience this afternoon was when four of us composted, mixed the soil with pitchforks and then planted a zigzagged row of lacy leafed fennel bordered by two kinds of lettuce and finally surrounded by fully grown rows of giant leafed brocoli-cauliflower hydrids
My crew consists of mainly young ( 20-35) people in transition:
— Michael from Brussels deeply interested in ancient stone circles and travelling around right now. He took me and an urban design student–Karl from Germany–way out to Evora where we explored the 6000 year old stone oval made of rounded granite stone about 6-7 feet high, and also went to town and saw the 1st century ruins of a Corinthian columned Roman Temple.
–Eden, a beautiful tall Israel girl who returns to her studies in psychotherapy in Tel Aviv in two weeks
–Martino, an Italian literature teacher—now an itinerant knife sharpener, and documentary filmmaker travelling around on his BMW motorbike after having left an 8 year relationship. His recent documentary will be shown at a Film Festival in Trento Italy but what he’ll do next is a mystery at the moment: He’s quite a dramatic looking man with a huge smile, a generous Roman nose and big brown eyes behind his black uber trendy eye glasses
–Dania–a Portuguese girl -19– and so poised and beautiful and loving that half the farm has fallen in love with her. She’s a former model and a beautiful mix of African and Portuguese parents and is from a farm that used to have horses and cows and sheep as well as a garden but whose father died and now the farm has only her mother and brother to care for it while she goes back to school soon
–Andre, from Lisbon, young, sweet–son of a developer interested in starting a green development-communal condominium He’ amazingly generous always lending his car and driving hordes of us to the beach or a river gorge in the afternoons when we’re free. We are very close
–Merle–a beautiful German girl with massive amounts of gorgeous blonde hair nearly to her waist. She’s been a caregiver for a number of years and is a very sweet friend to me. She’s on her way to at least a year’s adventure in Australia and has many boyfriends here at Tamera.
–Marcos–a tanned and handsome professional kick-boxer and bus driver with amazing tatooes that cover both his arms. He’s kind of a wild man always laughing and ready for a party
–Yuri– a serious Israeli who brought the Tamera message of love to a gathering with Palestinians.
And this is just some of my garden-ecology work crew–there is a kitchen crew, a crew doing vegetable canning and drying for the winter; and a whole group of professional experts in alternative energies who work in the Solar Village…And then there are lots of people attending courses like an Art course, another communicating with horses and a Love course ( a 10 day intensive for 900 Euros room and board wherein people are learning to love each other unconditionally). It feels like Living Love Center and so many California programs all rolled into one jolly program with vegan food and a landscape that is being healed as well as the people
They call Tamera a “Peace Biotope” and there’s inspirational concepts all over the place in words, in billboards, and in daily discussions…It all feels very California to me so I feel right at home.Even the weather has been lovely– cool nights warm days, brilliantly clear cobalt blue skies with cumulus clouds and a sparse dry shrubby landscape that resembles Sonoma– filled with tangled cork oak trees amidst gentle golden hills, canyon riverine streams and and a delicious marsh with deep red violet reeds and apple green and lemon yellow daisy-like flowers
We work for 4-5 hours a day and have communal sharing at many times Today for instance after 2 hours in the field we had the most beautiful rainbow of vegetables laid out for our mid morning breakfast beets, squash, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce…as well as watermelon oranges apples and pears plus fresh bread and olive oil We sat in a circle under some trees and said thanks in our many languages before eating There were people from Israel, Portugal, Brussels, England, Spain, Italy, Germany I was the only American. The we shared what we’d like to learn–from water management, to living in community, to trying to articulate what Tamera is all about in a brief way. Then we ate a long and peaceful breakfast in the cool morning sunshine.
My life here is so close to the earth and so basic that I wonder how I can return to the cities of Europe. Right now life here seems perfect, and peaceful, and a model of good living..
Admittedly I came here with no particular project in mind…I thought I’d find a world I didn’t know and was determined to mine it. So this is what I’ve done:
–WALKED around exploring the Boroughs–first Shoreditch, now Hoxton, my neighborhoods, then every day I push out from my bubble–today discovering ANGEL with its winding pedestrian street full of curated shops, gourmet gelato, hand-made leather bags, cozy brick buildings and of course s flower-filled park nearby–london’s amazing this way every few blocks and there’ll be a little garden nestled amidst old Georgian flats or right next to some glass and steel behemoth–there’s simply always a spot of green nearby.
Next I walked all of the “Square Mile” or the actual and original City of London where the Romans first settled after taking the native’s land, where the Lord Mayor resides and from where he or she runs the town. The City has its heraldic image on all borders–rampant griffins drooling with ferocity and holding up a coat of arms asking God’s direction. Here I went to a beautifully sung Choral Eucharist at St Stephen Walbroke, a lovely circular church designed by Sir Christopher Wren whose designs rebuilt London after its devastating fire of 1666. The church stands on the former banks of the river Walbroke that flowed through ancient London and where the cult Temple of the Persian God Mithras held his “mystery” rituals including slaughtering a bull and sharing a communal meal. Mithras was said to have been born from a rock and his cult rivaled Christianity mightily. I was privileged to share a communal meal at the church–synchronicity in action.
The City as the Square Mile is called hosts the financial world of London and any time of day you can be virtually driven to the ground by the hordes of grim faced business men in three piece suits and high polished designer shoes streaming fast and furiously around the Bank tube station right at the core of the City.
Having moved from Shoreditch to Hoxton I’ve got a new walking route –along the St Regents Canal– very lovely narrow stream with riverboats and 19th century hand operated locks along the way. It’s my daily walking site and I love it.
I’ve gone out of town too–to the Orkney islands (see a post below). And to Greenwich to put my legs on both sides of the meridian and to watch the ball of the hour drop. And to Hampstead Heath where I saw some art and rambled in fields overlooking the city.
Took a wonderful vacation from my vacation going to Paris to visit my sweet musician/actor friend Wingy and her boyfriend. I saw a brilliant Bonnard show at the D’Orsay and a fascinating Corbusier show at the Pompidou but in Paris I mainly relaxed, walked around various parts of the city and took a lot of coffees with Wingy.
I also have spent time with one of my oldest friends–Annie whom I’ve known since before my children were born!!! She still lives in the loveliest fairy tale English cottage that I’ve ever seen–rose arbored, many gardens in her large yard–lavender, poppies, calendula, stock and many beds of vegetables her daughter Jen tends to. Inside is filled with paintings, drawings sculpture set in with coral colored walls and a blue and white kitchen full of antique crockery. There’s not a cozier home on the planet and Annie doubles the pleasure by preparing food for the goddesses!!
I walked and walked and walked to the other side of London to the City of Westminster where the Queen lives, and Parliament sits, where the wealthy cavort and the West End plays are performed. Visited Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s as well to hear Vespers sung and, on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, I saw Prince Charles and Camilla coming to services, after which I watched a wild-eyed thespian in period dress act out the Battle’s many events by means of a pile of vegetables–the English enacted by carrots, the French, by onions–all presented in Wellington’s actual home–the Apsley House– on the edge of Hyde Park.
Steeping myself further in history and heritage, I attended two plays about failed kings whose lives ended brutally: Shakespeare’s “Richard II” and Marlowe’s “Edward II” both presented in an 11th century Gothic church–unbelievably impressive with actors declaiming and dying just inches away from the audience! For more culture I bounced back to Ancient Greece for a modern passionate version of Aeschylus ‘ “Orestiae” and attended two glorious choral works–Mozart’s “Requiem” and Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers” presented in St John’s College Chapel in Cambridge…a lovely mythical town full of 23 colleges and a willow and flower banked river wherein I went “punting,” that is, sitting on a boat pushed downstream by a handsome young punter.
Oh of course I’ve been good and gone to the many great museums here especially loving the ancient sculptures in the British Museum and the splendid Shoe exhibit at the Victoria and Albert. I’m looking forward to a night viewing of the McQueen “Savage Beauty” and to seeing the choreographed version of “Carmen” called “The Car Men” and said to be the best show on London by the New York Times !!
Of course I’ve had to party a bit too so I’ve been dancing to house music at the East End Village Underground and at the Bangface Boat Party held on the Thames one hot clear night!! I saw Patti Smith at a Victoria Park concert and attended a fabulous Fashion Forum (see my post about it).
Have taken a class on drawing into sculpture–so inspiring and one on Screenwriting and another on Wood Carving. Next week I’ll be trying out an Abstract Painting class and I’m back to life drawing and loving it
So this is my answer…just what are you doing here, people ask, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’m not working, am just walking and following the scent of anything that might be interesting..and it’s worked out more than well!!
DAZED Fashion Forum–East London
Imagine a 46,000 square foot warehouse–cobblestone entry across from the gardens of the Geffrye Museum–Inside, Roman arched ceilings of brick going the cavernous length of an old factory but lightened with white construction sacks filled with cascading exotic jungle plants, gargantuan white spheres, each glowing magically from within, and white duct tape–a dance of line zigzagging wildly up walls, around light fixtures, across the floors –Fill the space with young designers, stylists, make-up artists, photographers, fashion students from Central St Martin’s, University of the Arts, London College of Fashion…add an amazing generosity of spirit and eager enthusiasm of the staff… And you’ve arrived at Amazon Studios, host of the tres chic, tres avant-garde British fashion magazine DAZED’s first ever Fashion Forum.
A twelve hour extravaganza, the Forum had its serious space where major fashion stars presented panels and interviews all the while with huge magazine spreads projected on the screen backdrop–Diesel Art Director Nicopanda’s Lady Gaga shoots and self-branding logo development, strange make up shots by Isamaya Ffrench –models with taped faces, Lego clustered eyes, childrens’ doodling a on a spread to prevent bullying, runway videos of course, all the while learning live from the masters.
Simultaneously there was a smashingly fun smorgasbord of workshops:
–Claire Barlow, luxe hand-painted leather. designer, painted portraits on the spot, from which came a t-shirt gift for anyone who posed
–Gary Card orchestrated the construction of 7 foot high face masks and hands in cardboard
–Richard Malone led us through creating a formal dress pattern from random biomorphic shapes
–Ryan Lo brought in his opulent tule candy silk knitted and crocheted fabric then led us in a knitting bee
Best best best of all was Rankin’s photo shoots–brilliant lights, a bank of make up stylists, racks of clothes for us–the models of the day– to flaunt on camera. Everyone was welcome to prowl through the studio, to become a face on the cover of DAZED–I was thrilled; my friend was astonished at his transformation in the hands of the amazing photographer Rankin–even people like me, just attendees, were given a shot at a shoot
And then wham its 5 pm, champagne is poured and ready for us all–an endless supply just as espresso and cocoanut water were this morning and afternoon
At last the Talk Stage became a disco–lasers, djs, open bar and digital video spots where scrambled selfies could be sent home–
It was not just the 15£ guests who benefited from so much expertise, from hands-on participation in open workshops and free gifts; but proceeds from the entire event went to Hackney Community College–What an amazing example of fashion giving back, fashion for the people fashion for the Dazed and Confused……
MORE ENGLISH PLACE NAMES and WORDS
It seems like every street, neighborhood or town has a long Wiki entry because England is all about its history in every part of its fabric.
So here are a few places I’ve been:
STOKE NEWINGTON–. New town by the wood (Saxon for woods)
TOTTENHAM HALE from a thousand plus year old name of Tota’s hamlet, Tottenham’s Hale (place of hauling pulling ( goods ) off boats on the river Lea, 15 miles or so north of. London
WALTHAMSTOW–place of welcome/ holy place
STANSTED. MOUNTFICHET–Stony place owned in medieval times by Norman baron Mountfichet
HACKNEY–island of dry land amidst a marsh where the Viking Hakon claimed land
Here are a few wild words I’ve just encountered wandering Wikiworld
And in the process of looking up all these wild place names I came upon a whole new batch of words I’d never heard of. So I looked em up and am sharing some Medieval verbiage with you:
SOCAGE– a tenure of land pay rent yearly
serjeanty tenure as soldier
DEMESNE (pronounced dee main ) from Old French–land of manor
SUENTOEFFLED– part of the manor that’s been sublet.
SUBINFEUDATION–process of subletting a part of the manor
GLEBE–strip of land owned or used by the by the parish church in the Middle Ages
CARUCATE– noun–a unit of land. equal to the amount of land tillable by a team of eight eight in a season =8 oxgangs or 4 virgates
VILLEIN –peasant tenant farmer villain serf
DOOMSDAY. BOOK properly Domesday Book 1086 when William the Conqueror counted all the men and lands in his realm to assure taxation– not really doom or disaster but taxes to some certainly are a doom….