Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Last week in a flash of insight I realised I am exactly where I ought to be. All the many twisting paths I have followed have led me right here, right now, with time and space in perfect alignment. I was daydreaming, gazing into the horizon, remembering our first few months here, two years ago.
Last year October was crisp and dry and brown, but when we first came to Springfield it was wet and green, just as it is now. It seems mad now, but there was a time last year when I wondered, what if it never rains again? And then it did.
Two years ago, still surrounded by boxes waiting to be unpacked, I wrote:
These recent days have been cloaked in the mystery of meaningful uncertainty, as if I am waiting for the morning fog to lift so I can see the landscape more clearly. In reality I can't see the big picture some days, and all I can do is connect to the details, like dots, to live each word, each step, each decision as if dropping crumbs to find the path back home again.
To feel at home in a new place I like to renovate, putting my mark on our house first, and then the garden. Peter moves into his sheds, installs solar panels and rainwater tanks, gets to know the paddocks and then starts on the veggie garden. My favourite nesting activities at Springfield included renovating the kitchen, setting up my studio and planting a scented garden. Peter set about making soil, growing food and caring for tiny animals.
So, it was here, in my studio, remembering our nesting, that I had that moment of visceral delight - this is where I belong. I felt it inside to my core and all over my skin, like a wave washing through and over me. For that one expansive moment I was held and supported by that wave, and I had nowhere to be and nothing to do. Belonging felt like a place to rest.
Belonging (and resting) have not featured highly in my life, for all sorts of reasons, so I treasure those moments like precious glass found on the shoreline. What does it mean to belong to a place? To have an affinity, to be in the right place? We may have only been here two years, but in a strange way I have always been on my way here.
That’s one of the big shifts, for me, since everything changed in March this year. It is somehow easier to join the dots to see the big picture now.
Before March I wasn’t deeply connected to any one place. It was more like I was living in my head, always thinking of the next step, the next task, the next plan, the next appointment. The only way to find peace was through deliberate mindfulness practices, allocated to small allotted time slots. I barely registered any place I might find myself in, let alone feel anything like a sense of belonging.
With the benefit of hindsight, it's obvious something had to give, we couldn't have continued on the trajectory we were on without racing headlong into calamity. The great slowdown that was foisted upon us in March this year has at least hit the pause button. We’ve been able to take a breath and sit with the big picture. It now seems obvious that I’ve been yearning to find a place to rest, to belong.
Another profound big picture moment that recently grabbed our attention at Springfield is Sir David Attenborough's masterpiece on Netflix; his ‘witness statement’ to the world. It is at once beautiful, honest and heartbreaking, and a brutal account of humanity’s impact on the natural world.
The documentary, ‘A Life on Our Planet’, is a challenging call to action. It is tough to watch, awe inspiring and ends with a message of hope for future generations - to seek ways to “work with nature instead of against it”, ways to work together to co-create a more sustainable world.
The idea of working with nature resonates deeply with us, so we asked ourselves what we can do today and every day moving forward to participate in such a future. Being conscious of the complexity of the challenges we’re facing, as a small business, in a regional community, what can we do to stop the cascade of environmental degradation that is threatening the delicate balance of life on our little blue dot?
Doing, we’ve learnt, is a wonderful panacea to the awful feelings of depression, anxiety and powerlessness that we can easily slip into when confronted with the torrent of the bad news we’re exposed to on a daily basis. If you haven't already visited it, David Attenborough’s How to Save Our Planet is a great place to start, full of ideas on what you can do to help save our planet.
The simple answer is to do what we can, with what we have, where we are. For us, that means finding ways to align our business and lifestyle with our values and deep care for our fragile environment.
Belonging to a place, I’ve learned, comes with responsibility.
So where do we begin? After a little research and creative brainstorming this is what we’ve come up with so far - tree planting.
“Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis.
Forest restoration “isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” Tom Crowther, The Guardian
Springfield is on 20 acres of land that is almost entirely cleared. This is Country once shared by the people of the Gundngurra, Dharawal and Yuin Nations. Once upon a time it was a forested home to a plethora of wildlife, but these days we see only wombats, rabbits, and the occasional fox. There have been rare echidna and snake sightings and we do occasionally see kangaroos crossing the neighbour’s paddocks. We do see many birds and bees.
Our dream is to live in a forest, surrounded by wildlife. So, that’s the plan, to reforest Springfield. This entails a number of planting programs including a wildlife sanctuary with native bush reforesting, grasslands, rewilding and native food forest. Years ago we planted thousands of native trees on our farm in Jamberoo. For the most part we simply planted and protected the trees, then stepped back and nature did the rest. Voila! Twenty five years later there was an abundant native corridor connected to a National Park. So, we know that Springfield can be a native forest once more too.
Once again we do need to do some well considered planting, and then get out of the way so Mother Nature can do her thing. We’re delighted to be working with a new Roberston nursery, Native Grace to help design, plan and care for our new native plants. We’re also looking forward to collaborating with local conservation groups such as ‘Glossies in the Mist’ (planting trees for Glossy Black Cockatoos), Land for Wildlife ,and the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project.
We’re only in the early design stage, and it may take years to plant the 1000’s of trees we envisage, but we’ve already started a small and slow approach that will impact all of our future retreats.
In the big picture, planting a few trees is a tiny thing and we may never witness the flourishing of a mature forest in our lifetime, but there is joy to be found in tree planting, so we want Springfield’s guests to share in that joy.
From now on, before we bid farewell to you on the last day of your retreat we will walk together to a piece of land that has previously been cleared of every last remnant of native forest, and we’ll invite you to plant your very own tree.
One person planting one tree might feel like nothing, but if a billion people plant one tree each, that’s a lot of future forests.
Planting forests is something to think about when we’re not overwhelmed by the scale of tasks before us and all the problems of the world. There are days, however, when the overwhelm is too much, and all we can see are the dots, and the details. Sir David Attenborough has ideas about the details too. In his Seven Personal Strategies he reminds us "To care for the animals that you see. Don't waste things, don't waste food, don't waste electricity. Look after the natural world, it is the most precious thing we have and we are a part of it." So, on the days when we can't deal with the big problems we can always seek and find something in the natural world to remind us that we need to take responsibility for our own choices regarding waste, to play our part in caring for our planet, where we all belong.
Pictured below is Bec and -- Wish, our very first guests to plant a tree here at Springfield. They choose to plant a -- tree. To read more about their stay with us, check out Bec's article about Springfield on VOGUE Living, here.