Some people go diving to see sharks, turtles, barracudas, dolphins… In short, big fish. Well, probably the majority of people. Me, I like the little gems, shining all around, making every corner a treasure cove. Those small crabs, the tiny blennies, brittle stars… The “details”, so to speak.
Same with a story. Who cares about the plot (especially since, apparently, most stories follow the same plot), when there are all those interesting scenes, thoughts, twists and turns? I guess it is like with life itself. One wants to see the bigger picture–and that’s certainly something good–but lives are lived on the moment. In any instant there is no future, and the past is just a memory. Of course, a lot of details together make a big picture, just like a lot of scenes make a plot. And it is that lot of little sea critters what makes a reef. And individuals, their own selves, can produce a supra-organism, with superpowers beyond each one’s capabilities. But that is certainly food for another post.
Leewood is like a coral reef. Magnificent, yes, impressive in its size and splendour. But, just like a reef, it is made of a miriad of details. And, just like for a good story, the details have been thought- and heartfully put together, so that they are in their natural place. In every corner there is something to find, which, after a smile of surprise, simply makes sense. As if it could not live anywhere else but there. I like to get lost in the details (self-irony intended), so what better place to be?
The details form layers of observation, much like in a fractal.
And staying in Nest or in Ark, the two amazing “tents”, is like being in an exotic, romantic story. It feels surreal, irrational… After all, who can “believe” that a mixture of Lawrence of Arabia and Gustav Klimt, with a generous pinch of Grunge, can sprout in the middle of an English meadow?
Or that a naval ship where grandmothers meet for tea will get stranded by the River Walkham? Ah, but those details all around you, they make it feel real. And interesting.
Take for instance the lichen between the wooden boards of the table outside Nest, the “wild” tent. It took me some time to realise they were there, like small elven chalices, ready to welcome you into the realm of observation. And that’s the beauty of it: all these details invite you to contemplate, to slow down and relish, to get lost and meander, without having to go far.
In this paradise of upcycled materials, Nick and Ryan didn’t just build a couple of flamboyant, fully-equipped dwellings. They’ve made two liveable art pieces, where the guests become part of an imaginary yet palpable world. And, despite the richness of details, there is no cramming of stuff. Again, every part seems to naturally sit where it belongs, like Hazel’s beautiful crochetery interwoven in old rattan amidst a textile pletora. Just by the enormous–and enormously comfortable–bed in Ark.
I’m not going to tell you about the whole picture, because it has already been done, and very nicely so. But I do want to tell you more about one aspect of Leewood that makes it so special, what I call the egg-washing phenomenon. Every day Ryan and Nick collect quite a number of eggs from the ducks and chicken (the latter got their own Viney-Rodgers to live in). They are then washed, one by one. I’ve done that a couple of times (whenever I’m quick enough to get at them) and it can be a fascinating activity. Every egg is slightly different, has different “needs” (that’s the polite for “duck- or chicken-muck to be removed”), and one can just get lost into its details. That, I’ve noticed, is how things are done at Leewood. Yes, there are chores, but they are attended to with care, attention and a fascination for the detail I’ve seldom observed.
That is an aspect of permaculture about which one rarely reads or talks about. Yes, permaculture (or at least “proper” permacuture, in my view) is all about efficient algorythms, about applying the least effort for the best results. What we tend to leave aside (or at least I do) is the full enjoyment that comes with going through our activities thoroughly, mindful and present. Yes, it will take time. And yes, very often we have to sacrifice the pleasure of thoroughly cleaning eggs for some more urgent activity. Or do we? At least in a place like Leewood, where attention to detail is one key element of success, re-arranging the bed covers until they perfectly align is not ridiculed as a symptom of OCD, but smiled upon and thanked for… Perhaps the permaculture element I should learn from Leewood is to build a place in which my enjoyment and weirdness-come-skills can flourish. Garden my livelihood, so to speak, according to the resources I have and the details I want to live with and use to liven up my daily life, and not only according to the bigger picture. And never forget that it is the details that bring depth and reality to that big picture.
And there’s much more to Leewood than Glamping (and this, dear reader, is seriously glam glamping). There is the food garden–or rather, food jungle–where one can almost watch squash grow. A garden where art meets extreme mulching.
An art and activism permaculture project. Or, rather, a miriad of projects, again fitting with each other, their emerging properties forming a supra-organism with a “mind” of its own. An ecosystem, an experiment where to learn what the land needs and what it offers when its needs are met. An act of rebellion where regeneration of an acid, nutrient-poor pasture leads to a superabundance of growth and deliciousness. The power of mulching and companion-planting!