We have now been here a while, fast approaching three years in fact. During that time we have had opportunity to mull over what it is that really makes a community. What are the essentials, the pillars into which we can all lean? What makes Windsor Hill Wood Windsor Hill Wood? Shared values? A clearly defined purpose? The gift of hospitality? The wisdom to know when to be flexible, when to be firm? These are all clearly very important. But. What we have discovered to be the one thing we can’t do with out is … drumroll … a dishwasher! However, you will only discover this if it breaks down. So, what happens if it does break down? Easy, you phone up the manufacturer, quote your warranty and – LOCKDOWN!!! Everything changes. Nobody moves – including the Bosch engineer. Time to roll up your sleeves and grab a tea towel.
So, here at Windsor Hill Wood we have had to do a bit more washing up by hand recently, and no, it’s not a big deal, but it does illustrate how much we can so easily take things for granted. I’m sure you have all had various freedoms taken away and all of our lives have been affected in many different ways. One of the customs we have here is for us all to say out loud something we are thankful for before we begin to eat our communal meals. Josh often says “Food!” and most of our guests chip in with a word or two about the land, each other, or perhaps a job we have completed that day. Now more than ever it has been really helpful to keep the discipline to be thankful for what we do have rather than focus on what feel we are missing out on. And as we do that we (four guests and four Thompsons) do realise that we have much to be grateful for:
There is much to be grateful for
We can’t really express how extremely grateful we all are to live in such a beautiful place, at any time, but particularly in these uncertain days. We would not be able to do what we do were it not for the kindness of many. For example the sheep field, above, (and below) is actually our neighbour Shaun’s and we remain very thankful to him for letting us use it.
Lambing season is always one of the highlights of the year here and everyone loves taking their turn to go and check to see if any new lambs have arrived. However, in our house meeting when we divide up the various checking times for the coming week, there is often silence when we ask if anyone would like to do the 6am slot.
Josh experienced symptoms of Covid-19 a few weeks ago and unsurprisingly most of the rest of us did too at various stages afterwards so our lockdown had to tighten even more. The only thing we had been able to leave site for was to go to the shops, and now we couldn’t even do that! It was then that we realised how blessed we are to have lovely neighbours and friends who were happy to do our shopping for us. It did mean we had to plan ahead properly or else just put up with having to have honey on our toast rather than marmalade for a couple of days. In times like these it is wonderful to be able to grow our own veg and though at this time of year we are sowing more than reaping,
… we’ve just harvested our first potatoes!
One of the main differences that we have had to get used to is having fewer visitors. Wednesday volunteer days were often a highlight of the week. Now and again our long dining table had to have the kitchen table brought through and put next to it so that everyone could squeeze round. It’s safe to say that the kitchen table hasn’t had to move for some time and that there is more than enough elbow room for everyone who attends lunch and no-one has to raise their voice to make themselves heard.
Somerset Skills And Learning, having funded the building of our new shepherd’s hut, are financing the transforming of an old quarry building hidden in our woodland. At some stage it will be transformed into a classroom where various woodwork skills will be taught, but for now everything is on hold, apart from the nettles which keep on growing.
Before … and after
Human beings, living alongside one another, will always experience difficult moments. It goes without saying, but though WHW has not been without tensions now and again, we are very grateful that by and large, everyone has made the effort. And I think most of us would say we have been a mutually supportive community recently, despite all of us living cheek by jowl in these uncertain times. Without comings or goings for such a lengthy period of time some commitment to making things work, even if we would prefer things to be different, is absolutely vital. And, so far (!) we have manged that. So, a big thank you to our current guests!
Apart from looking after the woodland, animals and veg, what have we been doing during lockdown?
We are all in this together
This is so true, and we have experienced this at WHW: All of us who live here – each making the effort to help one another along. Hopefully this will to some extent always be the case, but at the moment it is absolutely vital. And of course this includes our children Josh and Natty. We have been blessed by the fact that all our current guests get along really well with our kids. They play games together such as Stratego, Ludo, football, cricket. It really has been a massive help to the community as a whole and has helped the boys adapt to what has been quite a change for them. They don’t go to school and don’t see their friends so being able to relax and have fun with people other than Mum and Dad has been really beneficial for them. And as is always the case, but is especially so now, laughing and joking with kids helps us grown ups take ourselves less seriously.
We weren’t able to go out for a meal or invite friends round for Natty’s birthday but he had a great day.
Here he is, with Josh, at the beginning of the Quest …and about to unroll the first clue.
Can you identify the characters? If so, do get in touch and we’ll see if Natty will let you join what is an extremely secret society.
And as well as the guests helping our boys, in turn Josh and Natty have been more and more involved in kitchen activities which benefits everyone.
What’s it all about?
Being in lockdown and with the future uncertain and having more time on our hands does mean we all have greater opportunity to think, to reflect, to be. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally, but certainly many of us at WHW have begun, if only a little, to slow down, to ponder, to dream, to ask the questions: What’s it all about? What am I all about?
Being able to look around at the beauty of creation, and allowing ourselves to look up…
And choosing to spend more time in our tiny (and increasingly rustic) chapel where over the years many people have asked these questions not just of ourselves, but of God…
Well, that is a blessing.
And what a blessing that we are indeed all in this together. Most of you have visited WHW at some stage, as a guest or as a volunteer, or perhaps on an open day or to help us in practical ways. Many of you pray for our family and our guests and others share their wisdom with us and contribute financially. We are so very grateful to you all and we pray that we would all continue to be in this together, both here at WHW and in the larger, fragile but beautiful world.
So, what have we learned during lockdown?
We are all in this together, not just those of us who live here, not just those of you who read this newsletter, but all of us, all of humanity.
There is much to be grateful for, and we don’t actually have to look that hard to find it.
Times like these are an encouragement to reboot.
Just when you think the macerator toilet is behaving itself you will find that as you had originally thought, IT CANNOT BE TRUSTED and you will have to get your hands dirty – and smelly - again.
The movement from pride (albeit very well hidden - from ourselves anyway) to, or at least in the direction of, humility, is a difficult journey but one we are realising we have to at least begin to make.
Finally, lambs. They are just so beautiful (actually, this isn’t a learning; rather a third time around re-learning).