Stanford Valley farm is nestled in the beautiful Overberg of the Cape. Four years ago it began as a dream and forty of us responded to the idea of living and growing sustainably together (it’s a dream-in-process still as few of us actually live on the farm yet). This past weekend, the third of what has become an annual event, happened on the land. The Freewheeling Festival – check out the website: www.freewheeling.co.za . What a weekend it was, for me in ways unexpected and unscripted.
More than 200 people gathered to consider the world we want to live in and how to make it happen. In the final plenary session, a group of young multicoloured teenagers stood up on stage and sang their prayers for us all. “Ask us the questions you want to know of us” they sang. “Let us in return, ask you, so that together, old and young we can build this country and our world into all it longs to be” ( this of course is my clumsy take on what was said). I cried as I watched them with tears of the soul. I cried at their hopes and dreams, their trust in their power to make a difference. I cried, because I am a grandmother, and I want to be a part of this dream of a world whole and fair. Here’s the rub though…
Forget the stimulating presentations on sustainable living, on holism, on health of mind and heart. The children said it all to me and I learned the most through Kieron, our 7 year old grandson. He’s an independent little tyke, who loves to explore this farm we visit with him every opportunity we have. I watch with granny-eyes, how he and the other children of our growing little community, are fast getting so big, and strong and willful. They love the safety, the wide open spacey, the freedom to be themselves when they come to this place. It heralds memories of my own childhood, safe, and unworried, where we could jump on our bikes after breakfast and roll the day out for ourselves, coming home hungrily for supper.
We loved to explore the river that ran beside our small town, the “foofie slides” we built on the overhanging trees, the secret clubs with passwords we created in the gnarled branches of those overhangs. That unstructured freedom of childhood? Has it slipped away I sometimes wonder? It seems to have been replaced with art classes, tennis lessons, dancing and karate. Hip hop, music, swimming, and all the other opportunities to grow talents. Wonderful of course, enriching I am sure. There is something though, that lets my heart sing when I see children running freely freewheelingly into unstructured fantasy of time to be alone, to be down, to be silent in their own worlds and to learn from the ultimate teachers of leaves, light and land.
I watched Kieron burst out of the car as soon as we parked on Friday afternoon, just as the first session “Welcome to Freewheel” was beginning in the big tent. He dashed off with abandon. “You OK?” I asked every few hours of the weekend to follow, as I cornered him, like a good gran should. “TsOK” he replied with that don’t-ask-so-many-questions look he gives. Of course he’s OK. Later I discovered he and a friend found a curled up cobra in the grass – it slithered away before they could catch it. He helped Chester build some steps to the camp ground. Farmer Michael took him and the rest of the kids on a tractor ride to the far end of the property to see the Feinbos that grows so abundantly in the Overberg region of the Cape. There was a pretty girl he hung out with in the hammock, a powerful kicker that belonged to a 10 year old black foot – he was chuffed to play with. The before-sleeps were brief and soapy. His sox smelled skunky and his new T-shirt, well… unrecognizable. His lead-head dropped asleep en route to the pillow.
And me? Well all’s I can say is this past weekend, I Freewheeled a wrinkly crinkly smile that stretched from my mouth to God’s ears. Because it’s all too simple and too bloody complicated to fathom. This is the world I want to live in dammit! There’s room for us all, there’s food for us all, our earth loves to support us. Why do we humans battle with what is real and true? It’s me I ask, not you.