Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kilcullin and the Camphill Movement

 Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs.

I arrived in Kilcullen, a small town in County Kildare feeling like a veritable piece of The Proverbial. A week earlier, I had picked up a cold and was still snuffling and barking like an old sheep. Clearly it was one of those times when it was important to: Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs. Then, of course, I did see a sign, and as a result, I met Pauline.

Signs for Manna Foods and Kilcullen Farm and Nature Reserve.
 Initially, I had only been curious about what Manna Foods might have in store for me. Moments earlier, I had checked in and dropped my bags at Bardon’s Guest House just around the corner. Maybe, I thought, Manna just might have something that would complement my intended evening repast of soda bread and cheese. Perhaps an apple.

As it was, the shop was closed, but Pauline was still there, checking accounts on her computer. Come in, she said. We had no sooner started chatting, than I was overwhelmed by one of my post-viral, asthma attacks. Damn.

Pauline ran next door to fetch a glass of water from the nearby kitchen, returned, and gave me the space to reassemble myself. Once I had caught my breath, she gave me some names of people to see, and things to do in my brief time in Kilcullen. I wrote it all down on my hand – my palm pilot – having left my diary back at the B&B. There I was, travelling without pen and paper. Tsk. Tsk. It will, however, indicate to those who know me well just how entirely out to lunch I was.

It turned out that Pauline is one of the many souls who work to keep The Bridge Community afloat. Part of what this Community aims to do seems to have much in common with L’Arche, another way of integrating and supporting people with special needs. L’Arche was started by Canadian Jean Vanier. The Camphill movement started in Scotland, inspired by the writings of Rudolph Steiner. Both L’Arche and Camphill start with the premise that we are all special, and we all have needs. It may sound simple, but it is definitely more challenging to put into practice than what it might seem. There is that damnable thing about being human, after all.

As I walked back to Bardon’s, I recalled a time in the early 1970s. Three women with special needs living in a L’Arche Community Home in Victoria BC first introduced me to this inclusive approach. They were helping me train my staff at a YWCA camp. In a session that I will never forget, a young woman explained to a couple of dozen of us, in a sentence that took several, painful minutes to stutter out: I really hate it when people say I know, I know, when they haven’t taken the time to hear me.

This Community that I had stumbled into in Kilcullen also made me think of our own Roberts Creek Cohousing, another approach to interdependent living. This community includes more than seventy people, some of whom live with so-called special needs that have labels, and some who live with all sorts of other kinds of needs, temporary, or otherwise. We all stumble along in the great human experiment. When you boil it all down, we all have special needs. Moi aussi.
 It may not be obvious, but the chicken coop is on wheels. Perhaps soon, we will have something like this in Roberts Creek. I know it is being talked about.

The next day, I enjoyed a delicious, affordable lunch here. If you find yourself in Kilcullen, I can fully recommend it. Most of the ingredients are organic, some of it grown on their farm just around the corner.

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