As this year draws to a close, many people’s thoughts are turning towards warmer days ahead … and if you’re looking for a getaway with a difference in 2019, we have a great suggestion for you. Learn all about the magic of the Earthsong camps in this beautiful article by Ruth Pinson, which appears in our Winter 2018/19 issue.
Creating a collaborative experience
by Ruth Pinson
Photography: John Bowker
The magic of Earthsong: wood smoke from a gentle fire cared for a by a family of new friends camping together in a circle of tents. Rainforest harmonies sing from the distance. Small children run across the field, chasing giant bubbles into the wind. Two hundred hands on African drums thunder a tapestry that a single dancer interprets into beautiful movements against a backdrop of blue sky and green earth.
In many ways, modern culture seems to make people into passive consumers rather than active contributors – and whether this is with regard to entertainment or commodity, it has the effect of detaching us from the collective that supports us.
Earthsong camps offer an opportunity to slow down and invest in ourselves, which in turn can transform us into a resource for those around us. The camps counter the illusion that the quickest, easiest and cheapest thing is best by being a place that makes it possible to live and believe the opposite.
The question ‘why make a basket when you can buy one?’ could be ‘why buy one when you can learn how to make one?’ Increasingly, people are realising that they want to be more than a witness to this sped up, amplified life. They want to participate, to engage, to learn and develop continuously.
We are noticing that real magic – the kind that nourishes and persists – requires us to slow down and realise that the more we invest, the more we stand to gain.
Buying ourselves time through convenience is only useful if we use that time meaningfully. Engaging lovingly in the doing, whether we are crafting, singing, dancing, cooking or collaborating with people creatively, is what can bring a real sense of connection and happiness.
Slow food gives true nourishment and it is this understanding of engagement as a personal and a collective experience that informs many of the ways things are done at Earthsong.
It would be easier to have a café that serves dinner as well as lunch, but it is the coordinating and sharing of evening meals with your fellow campers in your home circle that helps you to get to know each other.
And it would be easier to play simple, ad hoc drum rhythms (or just put on something pre recorded) rather than learn to play complex, mind warping polyrhythms, but in choosing to engage with these challenges, we get to push the limits of possibility. Ultimately, the reward is far greater and the magic is stronger.
When we learn all the parts of a piece of music, not just our own, we start to understand not only how it fits together, but how we fit within it and in relation to those around us. We begin to see that we are important and that our presence is a contribution, whether we are drumming, dancing, singing or listening.
In this setting without electronic music, musicians have currency and their contribution becomes invaluable.
Choosing to camp on the earth and forego our usual home comforts means that being able to light a fire can make you into a hero, as can being the one with something delicious to share with everyone under the tarpaulin over the fire when it’s raining and the on-site shop is closed for the night.
The simple agreement to not use our phones on-site is actually an agreement to be present with the people around us, and perhaps even more profoundly, to be present with ourselves and notice the feelings that fill the space left by the phone. This can be surprisingly hard, but the reward can also be incredible.
The appeal of Earthsong is not an unnameable, indescribable thing. It is the slow unfolding of a thousand processes, each aimed in their own unique way towards nourishing some part of ourselves, whether it is late night saunas, early morning yoga, weaving a basket, or simply sitting round a fire telling stories.
Of course it’s not all rainbows and sunshine – how could it be? The intensity of being in this setting with so many people often serves to amplify where we are in ourselves. We are still people bringing our own unique set of values. Our reactions and expectations don’t always align with everybody else’s.
This is the real magic, the real work; the reality that people might want to be there for each other. To learn to listen, and then listen to learn. They might want to sing and drum and dance with you. And they, like you, might be willing to invest, willing to open their hearts and tell a different story of how people can meet and celebrate the richness of life together.
There are four Earthsong Camps in 2019. In June there are two long weekends in Co. Clare: ‘Voice Camp’ and ‘Midsummer Camp’ – both for adults and older teens. And in July, there are two 9 day retreat camps for all ages, ‘Dance’ and ‘Harvest’, both in Co. Tipperary.