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A Voice for the Earth by Stephen J Adamson

So….. finally, after a long, five hour drive, I arrived at the College at about 1:45 on Monday, just thirty minutes before the “opening circle”. Parked the car, and walked down to the courtyard at the heart of the College. Lots of familiar sounds, smells and sights. Familiar faces. Friends. Hugs. And then to my room – dumped the bags; and headed off to the library…..

I always feel comfortable at Schumacher, but this time more so. I’d hardly been here thirty minutes and my whole being seemed to ‘relax-down’ into a different gear entirely. I also noticed myself avoiding the temptation in the opening circle to give a mini-CV, preferring instead to say something like: “I’m Steve. I’ve been here before. I have no expectations for this week – magic always happens here; I see no reason to think it will be any different this week. It’s good to be here.”

One of the many great things about Schumacher is that nobody really focuses too much at the start of a course on ‘who you are and what you do’. In fact, it often takes two or three days before anyone asks such, relatively, unimportant questions. We are united by values, purpose and calling. By the time ‘the question’ does arise, it comes in a very different form: “What is your gift to the more beautiful world we all know is possible?”. Brings a lump to the throat even writing that sentence. What a grace-full, invitational use of the English language.

So, how to describe Schumacher? In one sense it’s easy: the College is based in the Old Postern, a Grade II listed, 16th Century parsonage, set in several acres of grounds on the south-western perimeter of the Dartington Estate. Beautiful old trees; a sunken garden; organic vegetable plots; chickens; a craft studio; hand-built barns and other buildings; indoor and outdoor learning spaces; and a formal lawn, surrounded by a wild-flower meadow. What’s impossible to describe is the feel of the place – bathed, as it is, in beauty, and love….. and a large pinch of fairy dust. The place actually glows at night; the woods shimmer at dawn; and glisten throughout the day. The birds sing to you. The trees feel you. The ground almost literally seems to hold you.

The course unfolds, with talk of the unravelling of ‘the old story’; the need for a ‘new normative’; discussion of (inner and outer) Ecocide; of how Polly is working with the UN to change the Rome Treaty and recognise Ecocide, in law, as the fifth great crime against peace; and Charles’s compelling, powerful, deeply integrative analysis of the state of the world. Interestingly, he isn’t quick to advocate action and doing; his instinct is to call for us to sit in the not-knowing (the ‘space between stories’) and create better questions. Quite right too!

For much of the week I sit quietly, making only one or two contributions each day, preferring instead to just listen to my own, oft-spoken sentiments reflected back with such clarity and passion by Polly and Charles. Emotions are stirred, more than once, as I feel the pace at which I am moving toward the ‘new reality of me’ – especially when, around a fire, among the fabulous Redwoods, Polly calls for us to let go of the cycles of harm and Dare to be Great.

Each morning, the dawn chorus begins early. The sun shines. The light is bright, crisp, piercing. Sleeping late is simply not an option. The opening stanza of one of my poems comes to mind: Wake up, wake up; / the birds are singing / their chorus of invitation / to a larger conversation. / Wake up. Wake up!

And so, to breakfast; muesli, yoghurt, coffee. Community meeting. Workgroups (cooking, gardening, cleaning)….. and then into another session with Polly and Charles.