Exactly one month ago, 10 “magarians” met for the November gathering in Cocconato. The very first day we were already in an emergency reunion to respond to the new corona measures which would make it impossible for us to follow our plans of having our meeting and then move on to other activities. We ended up embarking on a night bike trip. Some surreal moments on the road in the middle of some random fields (waiting for someone who pinched their scarf on their wheel) reminded me that the Magari crew was back together! Our new destination was Moncalvo, at the farm where my uncle used to live until his sudden death two weeks before. Everything was unfolding so quickly for me, still needing to appropriate the place myself, not having properly mourned nor understood the situation, in a tense relationship with my elders who were challenging my wreckless choices in corona times.
But, well, there we were. I managed to negotiate our way in after a series of heated discussions. Maybe not the best time nor the ideal conditions I was looking for… but we had this place to spend the lock-down together. As the days went by, the initial inner tensions and the dialogue with my father improved and soon I started to be glad of hosting the lockdown-extended version of the November Magari gathering! Everyone seemed to have found their place and enjoy their time, and the farm was full of life once again! A sewing machine from 1924 was put back into working order and was now spinning out all sort of manufacts. An old, gorgeous aisle of the house was put back into use after decades of dust. All living spaces were somehow transformed, rearranged, reshaped in a positive way. Dumpster-dived food started to flood the kitchen…
After a few settling-in days and some general cleaning up and reshaping of the house to make it more homely for everyone, everyone started preparing something for our 3-day “marathon” of workshops dedicated to sharpening our community-living skills in the area of communication and organization. We also had plenty of confrontation and exchange regarding our vision. I was really impressed on how the whole self-organized weekend went! The level of commitment was impressive and so the quality of the interactions. None of use was a master of anything, but nonetheless we managed to run a wonderful program. At the end of it I felt really empowered on one side, while on the other still confused about some of the vision differences and priorities that we all have… Ecology or solidarity? Inclusiveness or stability? Philosophical deconstruction or action in the word thru collective work?…
Community life and vision discussions seemed more like a juggling exercise… between too many ideals & ideas (which we’ll never be able to fully express) and the recognition of our limits. I am ever more convinced that the old latin proverb “in medio stat virtus” has a deeper meaning that we tend to think…
What’s sure is that we were having fun and dared to challenge ourselves. It was good to see everyone happy.
After the initial burst of energy, we started settling down a bit more, dedicating more time to ourselves or to run collective activities on the place. We were still having some sort of workshops or discussions happening daily, but overall it was much more relaxed. I personally managed to advance a bit on my food forest studies and work on the field.. The energy was still good, so was my mood.
The shift to a more relaxed mode reached completion when 4 people left, with the rest of us then struggling on the long run to keep on the intensity of the workshops. We started having short daily organizational meetings (or “coffee talks”, to use a milder framing) at 9.30 before all going about our daily business- to experiment this mode of operation (short-daily- structured- organizational-oriented & with rotating facilitation)..Personally I really liked it (although I’d make the sessions even shorter to promote efficacy and a wise choice of topics) and I think it’s an excellent tool in a community built around collective activities and rural work.
The last 10 days of November went by pretty sweetly, with another day of workshops (a half-marathon this time…) which was good but at the same time felt a bit too heavy, giving us confirmation of our collective need to take some breath and recover from the splurge of group activities of the previous weeks. Life goes in cycles, they say, and winter is also a time for reflecting, taking time time with yourself, resourcing, thinking… We cannot push on the accelerator all the time. Sometimes I have the impression we are all nomadic souls, with few solid rocks where to rest our weary heads. When I think about starting living in Moncalvo and opening the place for people wanting to be here for some time, I have in mind such rock. Something deeply imperfect, but that is out there and is real, now. Being rooted is both a privilege and a duty… and -alas!- requires a different type of thinking from what I have been used so far in my liquid life.
Now December’s starting and my time here is coming to an end. Feeling good knowing that others will stay in Moncalvo for some more weeks. Looking forward to spend a couple of the colder months in Belgium, seeing people I want to meet and diving for the last time in the Belgian scene of socio-ecological “activism”… Once (and if…) I am back in Moncalvo before spring, I want to find a way to bring to this place some sort of political struggle.
Reflecting back on this collective lock-down experience and on the crazy 2020 as whole, the faces of all those who shared part of this journey with me come to my mind and I feel grateful for being alive in the present moment. However it will end, it has been an incredibly meaningful year.