By Cathy Holt
Solstice Ceremony in the Bioparque
Just a few weeks ago, a new ceremonial site was created in the area of the Bioparque where fires had been set by an arsonist back in April. Paúl, Juanita, Joe, and a few others had created a stone fire pit and a cactus-lined walkway leading up to it. On the day of the Solstice, Paúl brought a dozen short lengths of log to sit upon, and candles to place in the fire pit. Juanita brought one large pot of cooked corn gruel and another pot of sweetened cacao beverage. While Macaya and Lucero kept a rhythm with their drums, Marilu led the group in singing our names one by one. Off to the side, children and dogs played. Juanita gave thanks for the traditional foods of corn and cacao and spoke a blessing for the seeds to be planted, with gratitude to the Mother Earth. It was a small circle and I felt privileged to be there. Language Interchange Afterwards, a few of us went to Babá, a small restaurant/cafe where a gathering of Spanish-speakers wanting to practice English and English-speakers seeking to practice Spanish had been organized by Jakob, the young volunteer from Germany. This was really fun! Tannia and Cecy, the couple from Mexico City who are key players in bringing the Syntropic Agroforestry classes here, added their lively presence. Jacob, Tannia and I chatted in Spanish about how well the plants in the Bioparque are growing, with all the recent rain. I met Leonor, from Colombia, a native Spanish speaker who also speaks good French but wants to improve her English. And Jaz, short for Jasmina, a local artist who is practicing her English. This gathering happens twice a week. Life at the Casa Bosque is always changing. Some guests only stay a week or two; some are volunteers with Earth Regenerators, some are friends of other Earth Regenerators who are not part of the network but come to volunteer a little, like Hannah Eckberg (a friend of Alpha’s). She has a nonprofit, Abundant Earth, and had just come from Guatemala where she was visiting a syntropic agroforestry project funded in part by her nonprofit. Jakob is a wonderful presence at the house. He is gentle, friendly, open, likes to cook and share vegan meals; he is also young enough to be a techy whiz and helps me with many challenges. He loves to organize social gatherings including the language interchange and a trip to Curiti, and takes meticulous notes at meetings. Even though they are just up the street, I miss seeing Rafa and Margarita.
My daily rhythm often includes grocery shopping or doing laundry in the morning, catching up on emails, sharing a lunch (cooking for others once a week), taking walks around town, working in the Bioparque for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and keeping up with the zoom meetings involved in Joe’s latest Learning Journey, for which I’m a member of the host team. At the Bioparque, we continue to plant trees and dig up invasive grass, and add mulch to the Syntropic Agroforestry plantings. With Chad and Penny, I’m on the “welcoming committee” for visitors to Barichara: keeping track of who arrives when, where they’ll stay, orienting people, giving tours, etc. Of course, there is plenty of time for just hanging out with other volunteers. Most weeks we are eating a couple of meals in restaurants.
On Monday mornings, all the volunteers meet here at Casa Bosque, and we take turns co-facilitating. This meeting generally lasts two and a half hours; we ground and center, check in, announce group activities and projects, share progress reports, look for ways to support one another, and each week a different person leads an activity around one of the Prosocial Core Design Principles. After that, most of us go out to lunch at the Selvarium, a tiny vegan restaurant run by a sweet couple, Laura and Jose. It’s a fixed menu, and the food is really excellent. For about $5 US, you get a fruit juice such as maracuyá, pineapple, blackberry, or mango, followed by the hearty main course, usually including a salad, and then dessert. Once a week, I’m hosting an Empathy Circle. Last Friday four of us spent about three hours working through our feelings and needs. It was time well spent, and I am really pleased to have this skill to offer. The Connection Practice boards are very helpful. I enjoy being able to provide this to the Earth Regenerators group without any payment…part of the gift economy that so many people practice here.
The gift economy
Margarita aspires to move from the cash economy to the gift economy. In exchange for pineapples which she dehydrates and adds to her granola, she gives some bags of the finished granola to the pineapple farmer. Often she helps farmers create dehydrators out of old, nonfunctioning refrigerators. It’s not exactly barter. She also provides jobs for a few women in the community to help her with processing foods, for which she pays them and usually provides lunch. Margarita is very reluctant to charge anyone money for staying at her hostel (although I always insisted on paying $250 a month for a room). She likes to take in women who have no place to go.
Because of her generous and helpful nature, Margarita is well-known in Barichara. For her 45th birthday, she murmured to me that she wasn’t really inviting anyone; but at least 75 people showed up anyway, and the party went on until 2 am! A wonderful band played, featuring José, who can play at least ten different instruments including a traditional long wooden flute. (He is also a genius at facilitating groups, I’ve heard, and often facilitates the Territorial Foundation meetings.) The lemon birthday cake I made was way too small! Being five years old
This week, I had a lot of fun taking care of Elise while Joe was in an all-day Territorial Foundation meeting and Penny was in a multitude of zoom calls. We drew pictures in the morning, continuing the underwater theme that had begun with an octopus. Then Elise drew a giant heart and we decorated it, drawing circles, flowers, greenery, water, and more hearts. Walking down the street towards the canyon, Elise started chanting, “Don’t put your shadow in the garbage can!” with wild gales of giggles. I have no idea where she learned that one! We played with substituting other words in place of shadow: dog, cat, breakfast, sweater… What I loved most was when she would bring her face close to mine and make eye contact with me, her own sparkling with merriment!
I discovered how much fun it was to sing instead of talk, and how much more receptive Elise was to things I sang rather than spoke. We experimented creating “new” flowers by putting a tiny purple one inside a large golden one. When we went to see the outdoor museum, we guessed what each of the water-sculptures was. Sometimes what looked like two halves of a fish turned out to also be two lizards! Another fish sculpture was a lot like a frog. Holding two perspectives at once was great to share with her. It began to rain, so we headed back, Elise holding the umbrella. As we noticed dry patches of sidewalk, we sang out “Dry spot! Dry spot!”
For the first time this rainy May and June, we all went swimming in the river near Curití! Jakob researched transportation and discovered that for not much more than bus and tuktuk fare, we could get there a lot faster with a small bus or even two separate drivers. Eight of us volunteers went: Jakob, Alpha, Chad, Steven, Charles, Charles’ friends Taylor and Lizzy, and me. We were blessed with a beautiful, warm sunny day, perfect for swimming, picnicking, and exploring. Jakob led everyone but me up the river, while I was content to stay behind and guard people’s belongings. Unfortunately, Jakob slipped in the river at one point, and his foot was pinned while the current was so strong it could have broken his leg! But he was promptly rescued and only suffered a few bruises. I also slipped on a slick rock and fell, but without injuries. At about 3, a light rain began to fall; luckily, no heavy rain until we were safely back home. Barichara, Colombia, 07/01/2022