On Saturday 14 August our land saw the first community effort. Taco turned up with his super-nifty mini chainsaw and took down the unwanted grey willow and elder trees from the orchard, the elder by the ‘mestput’, the unloved juniper bush blocking the kitchen garden path, the little Christmas tree and the sycamore behind the concrete outhouse with the bread oven, and the laurel bushes at the front of the house.
To support Taco’s prodigious ‘productivity’ (destructiveness?), Tom, Katrin, Wiebke, Chrisje and I dragged away and processed the debris (That will be the subject of another post), while Ria prepared a bed in the kitchen garden to receive strawberry shoots brought over from our Brussels garden.
We were lucky with the weather, and although rain had been forecast all week, not a drop fell on Saturday. I had spent much of Friday in the kitchen, preparing healthy and nutritious food to feed our volunteers. I found it particularly satisfying to be able to include ingredients from our garden in Brussels – rhubarb chard in the quiche, mint and parsley in the potato salad, and beet tops and 9-star broccoli leaves (and the remnants of an aborted pumpkin) in the stock for the onion soup – not to mention the cucumber and the salad… and the homemade bread – but that still needs some practice (Taco’s chainsaw would have helped)! We sat in a companionable circle in the yard and ate with our plates on our laps.
Julie turned up just after lunch, and after being shown around the house and land, ventured off to find the local store, on an urgent hunt for washing-up liquid – and chocolate! By the time I registered her return, she had already done the dishes! Therefore do I love community!
When Julie arrived, she found a collared dove resting on the ground outside the front door, as if waiting for admittance. It was clearly not in a good state and would not live long. Ria brought it through to the garden and laid it under the japonica bush. From then on, I was always aware of that intense, still presence in our midst, as the bird sat quiet but alert, waiting for its life to pass on. This was another form of hosting, to me – although it was unclear who was hosting whom. I was holding space for the bird’s dying, and the bird had somehow come to bear witness to the human life returning to this place, so long abandoned. By the time I returned next day, it was dead.
Mid-afternoon, Taco took his leave to return to the bosom of his family. Some time later, Tom and Katrin changed into their party gear and headed off to a barbeque in Erps-Kwerps. Chrisje went back to the King’s Mill to work, and Wiebke and I drove back to Brussels at around 18.30, tired, dirty, sweaty and satisfied. Ria stayed on the land, preferring to spend the night in the tent in the meadow.
The strongest impressions that have stayed with me from this day were the joy and generosity with which our volunteers arrived, and the enthusiasm with which they greeted this project. Also, the simplicity of engaging with natural tasks, in a natural setting, self-organising in humility and friendship around whatever needed doing when it needed doing. My heartfelt thanks to Taco, Wiebke, Tom, Katrin and Julie for making this day in Dorpsstraat so special!