Symbiosis

This weekend, I had the privilege of going on a homestay in North West England, specifically in the hamlet of Hoff, Cumbria (population: 164), along with two other girls from my program. I had high hopes for this weekend, given all the build up during the IFSA-Butler Orientation. I anticipated a fun, homey-feeling weekend. Fun and homey indeed, the weekend I spent on Nag’s Head Farm, a 25 acre home to alpacas, sheep, a cat, a social enterprise called Learning Fields, and the two people who keep it all going, A and D (not using full names for privacy purposes), yielded far more thoughts and emotions than I could have imagined.

We arrived on Friday night and shared a lovely, warm meal together before settling in for the night. On Saturday, we spent most of the day traveling about the countryside, stopping at various points of interest (such as a 12th century castle surrounded by grazing sheep) and in a few adorable towns. We enjoyed a trip to their local pub that evening and then returned to the home for another yummy meal. By far the most important few hours of the homestay occurred on late Sunday morning. During this time period, A walked us through the social enterprise she runs on their farm, which, put simply, works to reconnect people with natural environments, working off of the premise that nature is healing. A and D host any and all individuals, from children with developmental disabilities and their siblings to recovering addicts to elderly folks with dementia, knowing that no matter what state you are in or where you are in your life, nature yields a refreshing experience and an important time of disconnection from the material world.

Following A’s presentation about Learning Fields, D took us on a walk around their big, beautiful property. Moseying along, I was at first in awe of the big things – the landscapes, the animals, the pond, the treehouse, the bright blue sky and fluffy clouds. D, meanwhile, added to my sensory experience by noting the “little” things, which in reality were far more noteworthy. He pointed out a single tree near the start of the forested area, branches from which a young man with Asperger’s crafted an impressive deer sculpture during his visit to the farm. He noted the specific plants in a grove area that are used for Boy and Girl Scout troops to make art during their visits to the farm. Toward the end of D’s narration, I was struck by D and A’s profound intentions of preservation; a sense of care and attention covered every inch of their land. Their actions exemplify a high level of respect for the world, understanding nature and people’s innate value, and their symbiotic relationship.

Growing up in a culture wrought with consumption, I am often amazed by how few of us (myself included) consistently open our eyes and just soak up the natural world surrounding us. This weekend really reminded me to do just that. I think Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights sums it up nicely: “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

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