Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wave Goodbye & Say Hello

As we prepare to say hello to a new wave of volunteers, i wanted to publicly express a last wave of gratitude for the team of 2016.  They gave so much & it's worth celebrating...

Slow down & Hurry Up!

Some years ago a mentor said some words to me that spoke to my need for anchoring and connecting amidst a collective, hyper modern, hyper-speed; capital driven collision course. He said:

‘The most radical thing we can do is slow down and build relationships with each other’

These words, simple on the surface; sink deep like a tenacious taproot into the subterranean subsoil of the soul.

In many respects, the operation at Camas Tuath has been fast paced, so the emphasis on slowing down during the high season has at times seemed absurd! Sixteen hour days for twenty eight weeks! Slow down? You’ve got to be kidding me…


As a resident at Camas Tuath, it was an honour to spend seven months of 2016 collaboratively working such a group of volunteers as have lived at the centre. On seeing them, a mentor of mine, an indigenous man of the semi nomadic Nevi Wesh peoples; remarked on a summer visit to Camas:

‘Look at these people! they’re faces are all glowing with health and wellbeing’.

This is by cultural and natural design; the ergonomic confines of the bay lends itself to a DIY culture where we have been FREE to exercise our gifts and exorcise our schist! The volunteers have not just smashed it; they have rebuilt awesomeness from the foundations up.

At times, it has been joyous to see them shining- and awash with creativity and energy; meeting the tasks of hand from dawn to dusk with vitality and humour. Gifts emerging from their insides; and when they connected on a human to human level, it had a discernible effect on the young people in their care. Big style.

It's been at its height when the young peoples curiosity has led the content of the curriculum.

‘At one end of the continuum is this little arrowhead called curiosity, right? & if you follow the shaft of the arrow back towards the individual who fired it, & more & more of those arrows go out, & that string gets thicker & thicker, your at Passion. So enough curiosity fed and supported will turn into passion for that individual…These are words to live by.’
[Jon Young]

Carrying Fire.

Now returned to home environment, or pursuing further adventures; I originally wrote these words as an email to volunteers, to celebrate the culture we created together.  It holds true, we experienced a place where a positive group culture that emphasizes intimacy with nature, intimacy with each other, intimacy with one self and intimacy with the creative force that moves through all things.

I also recognized that there can sometimes be a heap of cognitive dissonance that emerges; when you try to integrate all those felt values in your body and mind; with the type of culture society at large emphasizes. I want to re-emphasize a need to carve out the time to slow down and build relationships! Being awesome and cool comes with responsibilities. 

Check THIS out: In Last Child in the Woods’, Richard Louv notes:

“During my research for this book, i was encouraged to find that many people now of college (sic) age- those who belong to the first generation to grow up in a largely denatured environment- have tasted just enough nature to intuitively understand just what they have missed. This yearning is a source of power. These young people resist the rapid slide from the real to the virtual, from the mountains to the Matrix. They do not intend to be the last children in the woods.”

The above quote was written in 2008, placing the ‘college age’ kids now in their late twenties. Never has there been a more necessary time to introduce mentoring to our lives.

To the small tribe of 20-somethings who assembled for the task and I will name you here: Joshua, Mairead, Cormac, Aaron, Jonathon, Rachel and subsequently, Hattie, Davie, Jo & Kat.  Do you intend to be the last children in the woods?  If not you, liie all the generations that pass through Camas, your gonna have to wing it wowed and clear…

Ring the Anchor!

It is my contention that you dear reader, of this generation of superhero(ine)s deserve support, from a diverse source of anchoring relationships from various life-stages, if you are to succeed in mentoring the generation below you.

The realization that people needs resourcing comes with a personal charge: if we are to be strategic and wise enough to realize just how much a tide needs turning; then we 'old-folks' in our 30’s, 40’s & 50’s, need to seek out anchoring relationships & model connective practices ourselves.

Remember, if we want to be gnarled, wise old elders before we become ancestors, then it’s important that we periodically seek out support from our anchors to help answer that all important  fourth tier question: ‘what is this teaching me about myself?’

It’s not that age presupposes exponential wisdom- like a weird linear hierarchy. Rather that, generally, people in different life stages have something vital and valuable to offer each other. Anchors listen deeply; something emerges.

A transitioning reflection.

Here at Camas, behind the scenes of twenty eight consecutive residential weeks, we were involved in various experiential learning and mentoring processes ourselves, including:

* Developing small group facilitation skills including holding space for ‘story of day’ and reflections.
* Skills in peacemaking and resolving conflicts.
* Engaging in and facilitating the core routines of nature connection.
* Developing naturalist awareness skills and technical competence in adventurous activities.
* Building relationships with each other.
* Managing personal areas of responsibility and undertaking household chores such as cooking and cleaning for large groups.
* Moving towards personal goals, actualizing some; and celebrating achievements.
* Tools, including how to process and tend grief and process grievances.
[By the way, though employment is not the endgame- for me at least- these experiences, carefully articulated; are valuable indicators of competencies at interview.]

Making an inventory of significant turning points in each of these areas over your time at Camas would give a firm foundation for visioning what you’d like to carry forward or leave behind.

Go well gang of 2016…. & all the best…   Hello gang of 2017....


May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the centre of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
May you work on yourself,
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know
You see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or dissapoints you,
May the graciousness with which you engage
Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.
May you treasure the gifts of the mind
Through reading and creative thinking
So that you continue as a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw it’s enrichment from the old,
And you never become a functionary.
May you know the wisdom of deep listening,
The healing of wholesome words,
The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,
The decorum of held dignity,
The springtime edge of the bleak question.
May you have a mind that loves frontiers
So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.
May you have good friends
To mirror your blind spots.
May leadership be for you
A true adventure of growth.

John o’ Donohue

1 Louv, R Last Child in the Woods.
2 Louv, R Last child in the woods

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

From Camas Kitchen to yours...

Happy September!

As the nights begin to draw in, we Camas folk are surprised at the dark evenings but so grateful to see the stars again for the first time in months. The colours are bright and intense - a blue blustery sea framed by purple heather, orange bracken, dusty green oak & rowan studded with bright red berries.

We've had a productive few days with New Caledonian Woodlands, who joined us to dig and carry and build and pull bracken. In amongst all this work was much laughter and also some of the best food that has probably ever been eaten within these old granite walls. In honour of this, I feel it's about time to share some of the recipes that fuel all those who find themselves down here by the sea...

  Makes 1 small loaf
  500g strong white bread flour/malthouse (1/2 - 1/2 is nice)
  1 tsp salt
  1 tsp sugar
  1 tsp quick yeast
  300ml lukewarm water
  1 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Gently mix yeast, sugar and water in a jug and leave in a warm place for around 15 minutes until the yeast reacts and froth appears on top.
  2. Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add the liquid and oil and mix into a rough dough. Tip out onto a surface dusted with flour. Knead well for a few minutes (this is to stretch the gluten).
  3. Place back in the bowl and cover. Leave in a warm place for 45-50 minutes, or until dough has about doubled in size.
  4. Cut and shape dough and place in an oiled loaf tin. If you have time, cover and leave for another 45-50 minutes.
  5. Place in a preheated oven at 200*C and bake for around 45 minutes. When ready, the loaf should be golden brown on top and sound hollow if tapped on the base.
  6. Wait for at least 1/2 an hour to cool before slicing your loaf to stop it crumbling

  Recipe makes 12
  0.5kg self-raising flour
  125g margarine
  50g sugar
  75g fruit (optional - we like raisins, apples, pear, apricots, chocolate chips if it's someone's birthday)
  1/4 pint water or milk
  pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 120*C.
  2. Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Add the margarine and rub in until mix resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in sugar and fruit, then add the milk/water - a little at a time - and mix well until a dough      forms.
  4. Sprinkle flour onto work surface and roll dough to about 2cm thickness. Cut into rounds and    place onto baking trays.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes. To test if ready, split one - it should come apart easily.

  Serves 12
  450g oats
  9 carrots
  3 onions
  450g cheese
  150g margarine/butter
  6 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C.
  2. Fry the onion in butter until soft.
  3. Grate the cheese and carrot. Mix half the cheese with all the other ingredients then add the onion/butter mix. Pour into a greased ovenproof dish, keeping it fairly thin (around 3cm thick) and top with the rest of the grated cheese.
  4. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes until golden and cooked through.

ALSO: Try frying some garlic in with the onions? Adding grated courgette, potato, leek, mixed herbs, salted peanuts? Serve with baked beans//potato wedges//salad.

  Makes 10///60
  100///600g softened butter or margarine
  100///600g soft brown sugar
  1///6 tbsp golden syrup or honey
  150///900g self-raising flour
  0.5///3 tsp vanilla extract
  50///300g chocolate chips or raisins (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 170*C.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar
  3. Mix in flour, vanilla extract and optional chocolate chips/raisins
  4. Roll into little balls and place on a dry baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes until flat and golden. Place on a cooling rack for a few minutes before eating.

If you have had something at Camas that you loved and would like a recipe, let us know and we can try and get it up for you!

Big love from Hannah and all the pots and pans xx

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Let evening come...



[This blog is dedicated to all possible blogs in all possible futures & the endless & wonderful stuff there is to do every single day to make the world better than you found it]

Friday, 22 July 2016

Fancy Dress Fun Time!

Hello from the bottom of the track, where this morning we waved goodbye to The Barn - an awesome youth group from the Gorbals in Glasgow. It. Was. Awesome.

We swam in the sea (a lot) and had an epic camp on Market Bay with giant marshmallows and sand sculptures. We explored caves - the little whisky cave behind the buildings, and the bog old Fingal's cave on Staffa. We ate yummy food and kayaked and climbed and abseiled. Everyone from the week shared stories around the camp fire and got well versed in the art of Mafia. One highlight from the week was on Tuesday night when an incredible thunder and lightning storm crashed all around us - at first we saw it coming down the track like a monster approaching, soon it was crashing on all sides and bouncing off the quarry. There was no fear - only lots of very excited Camas staff and young people, and even a rain dance on the lawn. 

Our week ended with an epic fancy dress party. For those of you who don't know, Camas staff love few things more than to dress up and be silly. Below are some pictures of our costumes...

This afternoon we are heading to the start of the Mull Gala. We are entering into a scarecrow competition which we feel destined to win (despite the Coastguard's attempts to thwart us!). If you're on Mull keep your eyes peeled for a kayaker making his way down the waterfall at the top of the Camas track, for those of you on the mainland we will post photos soon! 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Contemplations on a Track

This week we have:
A poem by Joshua Enns 
A photograph by Rachel Daniels

Between Edges

A shelf of rock usually submerged 
free to breathe air like 
a staircase.

My feet followed swiftly
towards the edge  
of the falling waves.

I walked on the edge of it. 

Land or water,
time changes all. 

But that between place stays
and shows itself

A hill beyond

bog cotton clouds.  

between air and water
in mist. 

Shifting yet solid. 

Just past the heather,
mud and wood 
mark a track.

A muffled cuckoo's call
beckons beyond the baying
of lambs
from the hidden hill
to that place between

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

So long and thanks for all the shhhh.....

A nourishing, thought and emotion provoking week, where many stories were told and ancestral traumas were revealed.

Community member Alison Swinfen came with a group of activists and academics, working hard on the frontlines, supporting the asylum seeking community; and together we explored the themes of rest and rejuvenation.

We were visited by Jan Sutch-Pickard who told local tales around the fire at the top of the garden; kindled in the old way by Josh and Alison from plants gathered throughout the day's fruitful wanderings.

Stories were told of displaced peoples of past & present, Gal & Gael, stories of freedom of expression and worship; on the liminal borderless intertidal zones.

Argyll folklorist, Bob Pegg also came to Criech Hall that week and played the clasach, a bone pipe and many other ancient instruments.  During the course of the evening I learned that there is a certain pink fish, in decline of late; that traditionally is not spoken of among the Gael here.  As a resident of Camas, itself with a biography of fishing this particular species, whilst being part of a community dedicated to honouring the 'Integrity of Creation'; it prompted me to think deeply on what true community engagement can look like here on the Ross. 

How do we have a meaningful conversation on what factory shhhh-farms are doing to local and migrating populations when it is frowned upon to mention the name?  When it comes to the integral nature of biotopes, sometimes the elephant in the room is conspicuous by her absence.

Midweek, we saw a group changeover and a large group of Phd students from Glasgow came to experience Camas and, amongst other things;  how to communicate their specialisms with a wider audience.  On the last night, the rafters groaned with the sound of thundering feet as the pipes played out across the bay at an impromptu ceilidh.  There is life at Camas Tuath!

Not content with having two weeks in one, we bade goodbye to the Glasgow students and said hello to the Camas Committee and Iona community leader Peter McDonald who stayed for a weekends meetings.  Lastly, the weekend's end was punctuated with poignancy as we bade goodbye to Irena Arambasic, leaving for Croatian climbs after five months as coordinator. Farewell Irena; with love!
It was on leaving the island of Mull, and having an opportunity to reflect on the intensity of the week; that this poem bobbed to the surface on the journey from Craignure to Oban:

They gave men fish but they did not spare the rod.
Lest we forget,
The people  at Camas Tuath who built a wall for alms,
A border to keep them from their own fertile land that yielded; crops,
This ‘Galloway’ wall!

Daily we knead our bread,
Weekly, we rekindle the neid fire,
Monthly, feeling our way through the nets,
we renew our commitment to the land,
we know the land needs us!

Just; we connect.
The people at Camas Tuath will deconstruct this wall,
These grandfather and grandmother stones,
once and maybe again; Shielings.
Build shelter from sheep to grow the sprouting hazelnut.
A forest of burning bushes to feed our prayers for a return of the salmon.
And a turning away, at last;
 of the sheep-dipped tide.”

It was a week where shit, both figuratively and literally; came to the surface.  In the realm of peacemaking and reconciliation; sometimes humour is the best medicine.... :)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Oh How The Garden Grows

Oh how the garden grows…

Walking down the track into a dream, the bog cotton waving at me; I stand atop the hill, looking out across the still and silent sea. The bracken is big now, unfurling with all its might – a luminous green that only comes with spring. The leaves of the Aspen are in full power, the bed of self-seeded delights have turned into a jungle of greens to eat, the grapes in their infancy fascinate me and how tall the sweetcorn grows! The Asparagus too, I could watch it stretch, the potatoes, raspberries, salad crops, apple blossom and rhubarb. The kale and the chard, turnips and beets, the strawberries are ready to eat! Fresh herbs from the herb canoe and a sea of sunflowers – I could sit for hours and watch the garden grow, the birds bouncing from branch to branch, the Adders curl in the sun, the tidal ebb and flow and the chickens mischievous charm. The bees come for the borage, as do I. Infinite pickings of nettles and ‘weeds’ from the sea and ground, sorrel is my favourite zesty treat to find on forage.  A gift freely given, food for foods sake. Beauty for beauties sake. I could sit for hours and watch the garden grow. Watch how the light moves across the rocks at the round house, how the rowan leaves turn with the moving sun, how the infant trees made quickly small by the increasingly tall bracken, one day it will be reverse. The willow dome is complete now, a secret to retreat to and look out from within the leaves. The baby apple trees are flowering too and that pine we cut has its use. We sit on the logs around the fire, telling stories united by our mandala. I could sit for hours…