Thursday, July 31, 2008

Everybody loves the Sunshine!

Sunshine was 37 yesterday. By his own admission, the happiest birthday of his life to date, 2008, or as we are beginning to say, year 1 in Zion. Twas another magical day. A treat of a fried breakfast and pressies for the big guy all wrapped up River style. A relaxing day pleasuring in each others company and preparing for Bacelo’s first party in the evening. Which was a big success too. Raquel, Belita + Pedro, Joao Eugenia Filipe and George, Hugo Sofia + their kids Andre + Malfida, Carlos + Theresa + bump, Evout + his cutey son Tjack (throwing sand) from the UK now in Serta, Fiona + Mark and their little Elsie recently moved to Madeirã and the magnificent 7 of us. Sunshine was made up with all his presents. Bless. As Roy Ayres so aptly put it, “Everybody loves the Sunshine”.


Popped over to the Mount of Oaks in Fundão at the weekend to revel in the enchantment of Shantii B and her wandering clan. Met a young couple from Israel called Titali and Uriah (the guy in the photo with Joshi’s hair) who are pure gorgeous and having just arrived are already using their experience of building in mud to great effect. Can’t wait to have them over to Zion one day soon, along with Josh and Rosie who’ve not yet had the chance to nip across yet. As always, lots of stimulating chats, music, singing and water fights for the kids. Highlight was the mulberry and pear crumble cooked in a makeshift solar oven made of rubbish – a white polystyrene box, backed with a cardboard headboard and lined with foil. Of course, Von quizzed Josh on everything and we built one immediately on our return. It reached 150˚C on first attempt yesterday. Here come cakes, pies, stews, baked fish and then some. And tis all kindly provided by the power of the sun, free. Sweet.


On a more reflective note, with all the road building work going on, plus the house restoration stuff at Moses and Bacelo, it’s been a trifle chaotic. I am learning to go with the flow of what happens day to day. Whatever happens, must be happening for a reason. So if I sometimes don’t really get what that purpose is, I am opening myself, gradually, to the possibility that all things will work out as they’re supposed to in the end, and am embracing the experience of each of my encounters everyday.


Joaquim the fishmonger has almost finished excavating the path of the new road (keep up), and over the last 2 days he’s masterfully carved out a gigantic chunk of the mountain side so I can fulfil a promise made to Josh and Ellie last year. We now have a new flat terrace perfect for a tennis court, football cage, cricket net and golf driving range. With landscaping on this scale, we're starting to see the final shape of the gardens at Moses. From top to bottom, setting off with the swimming pond terrace, stumbling upon a yoga sala terrace a little further down with resplendent views of 7 rolling hills, back to the entrance car park behind the kids’ house that will also house a barn cut into the rock face on two sides, down to the sports arena just above the guest house (the one we are buying back from Michelle), and next week they'll begin restoring a sweeping terrace below our house for River’s greenhouses and nursery gardens. And we're only 3 weeks into the work.


Of course, none of this is anywhere finished but as the structure is emerging others are more able to understand what River and I have been rambling on about for months. The vision for this place. Of what could be created. Of what is being created. My heart is full of thankfulness to the one who made all of it in the first place, and we hope, is in the midst of us, in front and behind, guarding, protecting, inspiring, enjoying. Yeah man. Give thanks and praise to the Lord and every little ting is gonna be Irie. Keep shining on us cos we ain’t growing noways without ya. One love.

A wee house hunt...

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Demolition City

Just 2 videos today at the end of a long dramatic week. Yesterday was a little traumatic as we discovered that the road builders had gone a tad too far with the first part of the road. Only 70 metres. But the repercussions are a little tough as in that 70 metres, it has actually crossed through into 3 other pieces of land owned by three other people. Oh yeah baby! Bring it on! So now we have to buy those bits as well. Ah. I am sure it will all work out for the best in the end but it was a bit rough discovering that news yesterday. Knocking off for the weekend now. Time to rest and let our bodies rejuvinate themselves before we go at it again next week. Bom fim de semana!

Digger Digs

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Before creation, destruction..

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's all kicking off today!!!

OK, we've just found out that the road builders will be starting today. In 2 hours time. At 1pm. After lunch. They will be carving out a ziggy zag type of road down the steep sloping forested land above the kids house (the treey bit above the road to the right in this photo from last autumn). We thought they might possibly start tomorrow, and with that maybe just an exploratory look around. But hey, no notice required. They just showed up and said the BIIIG excavating digger machine thingies will arrive at 1. So our hearts are pounding a little right now, as we have no idea what the impact of this new road will be. It is bound to tear up the landscape and big boulders will surely roll down the hills crashing through everything on their path. The beautiful spring and summer flowers may not survive the onslaught. All the trees on that part of the land will have to be cut down today (we will use them all in building our houses). And we will have to live with the scars for a couple of years to come.

But we need the road. Mainly to enable us to use the land better. Not only for better access to the land beneath, but also because after the road is built they will be making 5 or 6 new terraces in between the zig zags. Terraces where we want to create swimming ponds that double as reservoirs for emergency water systems in case the fires revisit this area one day. And flat terraces to grow pwitty flowers and trees on. And a terrace at the top to build a yoga sala on so we can look out over the stunning views and smell the aromas of Von's creation below waft up to our heightened senses on the mat. And, most important of all, a terrace on which we can build a sports cage to play football, tennis, basketball and golf on (a promise I made the kids when we first said we would buy the place).

But all that common rational sense doesn't ease the emotional roller coaster of knowing a huge machine is just about to rip apart this serene land in 100 minutes and counting. Von is obviously having kittens (illustrated in the photo by her lying down under the shade of an olive tree half hour before machine arrived). Kids are shopping with Moonbeam so they dont know a thing. And to be honest I am a mixture of excited that at last the landscaping is happening on a mahoosive scale really fast, and a little nervous that in the process everything will be destroyed and River will cry for days. I'll post up video evidence of the action later tonight. Before that, below are the clips from this week. First of which is a trip we made with our mates on Sunday to see some restored Xisto houses in Madeirá, a village 30 minutes West from Amieira (not the island in the Azores, accent on the final A is the difference by the way) plus a couple of stills cos the video don't show a great deal really. The second must be the most interesting one of this blogsite so far: watching paint dry. For those who're keen to know about how we're building these places it might just catch your attention long enough before you click away. Or maybe not. Yeah, well, whatever. Shoot the creative director. I'm off to watch men on diggers. I wonder if they will let me drive......?

Weekend trip to Madeirá










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Homemade limewash boiled in a metal bucket drying on the wall. No, really.


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Progress on deconstructing houses at Moses....

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She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes...

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So it turned out, that the driver was in fact someone we knew. Joaquim, the local fishmonger. His Mrs runs their shop in town during the week, and he's been digging this baby for 15 years. The guy is lovely and we trust he will do a first rate job. He's pretty nifty we this thing too, changing bucket head to stone breaker device as if he was sewing a needle with thread. Knocking over the huge pine trees as if they were toothpicks. Although it was a bit scary to see a massive boulder rush down past the houses today at a gizzillion miles per hour down to the river. Hope no more come that close or we might not have houses to restore! Anyway, go Joaquim! We're right behind you. well, not that close, cos it's well scary really.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Granny Arlene!!!

Here's a quick video message from the kids today just for you Mum. Happy Birthday! It's been a sizzling 35 today so after a long morning's work the kids and I popped into the pool in Oleiros for a quick dip. The views from the top there are marvellous; along with the ice cold beers I bought to accompany them.

The other 2 videos are a peek at our work in progress on the kids house down at Moses. We are having to start work at 5 or 6 in the mornings cos it is way too hot to carry on working past 11am. Anyway watch out for the wise words from the experienced Dundee and the colour of the clay on our skins. Promise its not dodgy colour control on the camera, we really are this orange most of the time. And although its exhausting work heaving so many stones around the place, as you can see, we still have energy for a giggle or 2.

Birthday message from the kids

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On top of the walls of the kids house

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The road back to Amieira

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Magnificent Seven


One day, not so long ago, before our civilisations ‘developed’, we understood the significance of a name. Our tribes would choose names for us based on a whole variety of factors. Ancestry, parents, family, seasons, moon cycles, days of the week, time of the day, events happening when we were born. All of which, it was and still is believed, had an influence on the character of the people we would eventually grow up to be. Our names were a reflection, it was hoped, of our true nature. Somewhere along the long road from that primitive state, we have lost our wisdom. So here, in a place called Zion, this little motley crew has decided to rename ourselves. We have been given and chosen for ourselves, names which again hope to reflect something of the essence of who we are. They are our Zion names. Received and beginning to be adopted in this holy and beautiful land. We have not abandoned our old names. We still like them a lot. We need them, mainly for operating in the Matrix; to sign cheques, to pay bills, to be officially part of society. But our new names are tremendously exciting. They speak of our freedom from the systems of control and they speak of our potential as heavenly beings. They allude to a new way of thinking, of being, of behaving.

I know River (Vonnie) has explained her reasons for renaming herself, me, "Tom and Jerry",  but I wanted to add to it, hopefully to shed more light on why we feel this is not only just a bit of fun but a also powerful statement of intent, of inspiration, of vision. Let me start with the kids.

Eloise means warrior of light. And boy is she. Darkness cannot abide her light. She fills any room, any home, any school, any place at all with the purest of light. Love exudes without inhibition. She gives and gives and gives and with this dispels the darkness wherever she resides. Ellie is also a star. Whatever she chooses to be in the years ahead, she will always be a star to me and to anyone who has the pleasure of knowing her. Her career might be fashion, might be music, might be anything. Whatever she does, she will surely continue to shine brightly in the dark skies above us. So her new name is Starlight. She was also born in the top of our New Cross house next to a fireplace. From the ashes rises the Phoenix to defeat and conquer all the forces of darkness. Thus she is Phoenix Starlight. (Although she also likes Effie Starlight as well. “That can be my dramatic name”. Of course it can be sweetheart.

Joshua means God saves. God’s arm is never too short to reach us and intervene in our lives to bring goodness, clarity and wisdom, and to revolutionise our circumstances. Since Joshi was little we have called him Joshi Bear. He is in many ways very much like a bear. He loves to fish, he will fight to protect those around him particularly where he feels an injustice is taking place, but he is also as gentle as a bear, soft, nurturing, affectionate and patient. Intriguingly, both aggressive and tender in different situations. But he is also more than a Bear. He is lean, fast, graceful, clever, insightful and sharp. More bird-like in nature. When he flies he soars majestically like a bird of prey. And when he swoops in for the kill, usually pretty effective (Ellie can vouch for that I suspect). In nature, part bird, part bear. Joshi’s new Zion name is therefore Falcon Bear. He thinks, like us, it is most cool.

Vonetta, as far as we know, has no meaning. It was however the name of a talented African American singer in the seventies. Maria, her second name, is in constant use here in Portugal, the name she is known by in our village. River, as she so wonderfully described in the post below, sums out perfectly her true energetic nature. For a second name? One of her favourite artists is Minnie Ripperton, who like Vonetta is another seventies diva, and above all else, sang songs of incredible beauty. Her band of musicians gathered around her to enable those songs to be sung and heard by millions. Kind of like what River has already done here with those she is gathering around her so it can be possible to create the gardens and a whole life of outstanding beauty. Ripperton also connects her to the African sisterhood all over the world. Now in central rural Portugal, she’s mainly surrounded by white Europeans, but she’s not separate from her mum, her gran, her aunt, her family, and all those pioneering beautiful and talented black women who with tenacity, genius and grace, have beaten down a collective path for others to walk in. Sounds like her, no? River Ripperton. She sure is.

"Jerry" is derived from the word for Lilly. A flower of innate natural beauty. "Jerry" ebb’s and flows like the Moon. And she is as beautiful and tough as Pocahontas. Moonbeam Pocahontas. See River's blog post for more illustration of why her name fits like a glove.

"Tom" is the Rock. The one on whom we are currently depending on for so many things that will provide the foundational stability for the life that lies ahead. His Zion name is Sunshine Dundee for the reasons River has given. Interestingly, when his name is called loudly over the terraces, “Toooommmm?” it’s normally because one of us needs something fixed. He says when he hears it, it makes him feel startled and he ducks a little as if he was caught in gunfire! But when we call “Sunshine”, or “Dundee”, his response is totally different. His spirit rises and is prepared for whatever is necessary. A powerful change just in the calling of a name.

Michelle is Cocoa Indigo, but since she left this week to stay in Oleiros, I have not yet the chance to explore the significance of the effect of her new name. Will fill you in when I do. Although her Metal elemental characteristics have been well helpful to understand.

Finally, me. Andrew means strong and manly. And Memphis is my new name. I love that character in Happy Feet and am very happy to be Memphis. It reminds me that a big part of who I am is music. In music I am able to express the deeper, more unconscious murmurings of my soul. River said she thinks music is my silence. My way of stilling the thoughts that whizz round and round. I think she might be right. And for a second name? Well, that came to me last night, a name that ties a few of my passions together. Apparently I am fire in the five Chinese elements. I love to play trumpet and drums. I talk quite a bit. Really I do. Especially when I want to explain stuff in my eternal quest for discovering meaning in all that is happening. And in a temper I’ve been known to let rip (sorry kids). So, fires bellow. Trumpets and drums bellow. Memphis bellows. Memphis Bellows. How apt.

Phoenix Starlight and Falcon Bear, Moonbeam Pocahontas and Sunshine Dundee, Cocoa Indigo, River Ripperton and Memphis Bellows. Superheroes in the waking. All with unique special gifts that we are in the process of understanding how to bring for each other and for the people who will inevitably stay with us in Zion for a while. We sound like we could be the Fantastic Four, except that we are seven. The Magnificent Seven. Of course we are.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Message from a River


Hello all it’s me here Mrs Winter. Well first thing this life is good, really really good.

Everyday it seems that so much happens and at the same time that nothing is actually happening. I think that’s because here life just seems to flow.
Often it feels that we are in some kind of story; characters acting out a play. As each day breaks I am really not sure what will happen. And so much has happened, we have met most of our basic needs; now places to sleep, eat, poop, grow food. We have learned some Portuguese. The children are building relationships in their local school and everyday their Portuguese far excels that of us adults. But, hopefully they will write a blog soon so I won’t spoil their story. We have made friends with each other and are becoming a family. In other words we are making a life in the little village of Amieira and yet I still open my eyes look out the window and am shocked that I actually live here.

When my darling andy (now renamed Memphis, more on that later) first started Source, his business, we were: very young; living in a house like a building site; had a new baby and had no money. It was daunting and risky. One day he came down from his work room in the house full of worry and trepidation and I asked him what was the best thing about being his own boss. He said to me that it was having an idea in the morning and then being able to make it happen by the afternoon. That really stuck with me and I thought “that is how I want you to feel always and that is what I want for myself no matter the trails of the life before us the risk is always worth the joy of actively taking part in the creation of your own destiny”. And here we are starting over and doing it all again. And we worked hard then and are working hard now but rather than being just Andy and I, we are in community. This time we are not alone in the effort. We are not alone in the joys and are still together in the sorrows, even if the working out of that is different for all of us.

Since I have been here everything just seems so simple. To resist the flow of what is happening creates effort. To move into and embrace what is happening releases energy. To flow with life is better than resistance. To move to the pace of a day, a moment is simply more pleasant than to be constantly fighting with it. I seem to need less, want less, but have more. More time, more energy, more life, more joy even in a moment of suffering. The love that I feel for the people I share my time with is greater than the sum of the actions they take. What they do may cause pain but love flows unbidden and unhindered.

There is so much abundance of nature here. Her spoils are shared openly so that we can create our dreams. Every project for me now begins with the question how can I get this done by using the things that are around me. For instance, while walking I collect materials in hunter gatherer mode and reassemble them into something which fulfils some purpose that I desire, but equally offers beauty in some form or another. It is impossible to move against so strong a flow of abundance which surrounds us. The only way that flow can be stopped is by removing oneself from its presence, and that is a hard thing to do.

But it has not all been heavy work and heavy revelations, we have been having a lot of fun too, assing around, laughing, being silly and just generally playing. Over the course of the last couple of weeks we have renamed each other and worked out our basic elemental tendencies according to Chinese medicine, adults only so far kids coming soon. What started off as a joke has now become something more important, not sure how yet but I think these names embody some understanding that we have made of each other.

"Tom and Jerry" were easy to spot so their names came first. "Tom" is now called Sunshine Dundee. Sunshine because he can be quite strong minded and perhaps a little abrupt but his true nature is bright and shiny, it warms you when you least expect it, a presence you can glow in. Dundee, from Crocodile, because he is a little bit of an action hero and we daily see him doing some crazy stunts to get this place into shape.

"Jerry" is now called Moonbeam Pocahontas, Moonbeam because her energy is more tidal, flowing and ebbing. It is softer, more fragile. "Jerry" can make you feel dreamy and wistful with her soft brown eyes and beautiful smile and Pocohontas because of her passion for animals and she really does have a Native American thing going on.


Michelle’s name has yet to be finalised but for me she is Cocoa Indigo. Cocoa is good for you in its raw state, it’s good in small doses but can send you nuts if you consume too much at once. Cocoa is decadent, luxurious, naughty. Indigo is the colour of the deep abyss, the unfathomable but irresistible. It has been a difficult time for Michelle and us recently and we have opted for a little more space in our togetherness and like all things that happen here we will just have to wait, see and be part of that story as it unfolds.

My Andy is now called Memphis, after that lovely Big Daddy Penguin in Happy Feet, who swept his bird off her feet with a song, lost his bounce for a while and is now dancing through this life. Memphis is in his element here, joyfully doing whatever needs to be done. Lifting us when we get a bit heavy and weighed down with effort. He is the exhorter, encourager and without his enthusiasm I would surely falter if not fail.

Before I tell you my new name I will have to tell you a little more. We also worked out each others elemental qualities according to Chinese medicine.

Sunshine Dundee ("Tom") is earth, solid, supporting, nourishing, centered, stable, full of mental clarity and understanding.


Moonbeam ("Jerry") is our wood element. Wood referring to all vegetation that covers the earth. As a wood element she is clear on her boundaries even though they may be vast embracing the boundaries of all that surrounds her. She is a powerful character that can spread her energy until the earth is covered. She likes things to be correctly done first time around. She will give her time generously and effortlessly for the development and personal growth of others and is constantly seeking growth in herself.

Memphis (Andy) is our fire element he exudes love and warmth, is fuelled by closeness and intimacy with whoever he is with and whatever he puts his hand too. Full of joy and laughter he brings lightness to us by clowning around even unintentionally (next time you see him ask him how many times he has hit his head). His warmth grows with clarity and diminishes with confusion.

Cocoa (Michelle) is our metal element. Metal in this sense means the core of the earth, ore and mineral. For Cocoa recognition, acceptance and approval are important. Feeling complete and part of the environment gives energy for inspiration and meaning. Purity and refined solid action, is her gift to us.

Lastly I am the element of water. Personally driven and excited when taking risks, the water element is also all about trust and safety, giving safety to those who feel fear and feeling safe themselves, broken trust is detrimental to the water element. The water element can be reassuring and trustworthy but can also be highly intimidating.

I love water and can never get enough of it, and yet I am terrified of the Ocean. In part this may be as a legacy of the slave trade, many many West Indians are terrified of large bodies of water. I began to see this in myself on the Lifeline walks Andy the kids and I did in Africa and more so, when I learnt to swim this year and yet water is the element I hope to infuse this hot and thirsty land with. To this end I have chosen the name River. I want to be a River here, flowing without resistance, capable of softening hard edges of ore and rock and yet being able to respect those boundaries; nourishing and softening to the earth without washing away its nutrients and making it over soggy and lacking in fire; enabling the growing of all green things that sprout forth, giving their roots space to breath and not drowning out their potential with my own qualities. I want to be vaporised and fly through the cosmos of the universe when touched by fire. I wish to flow like a River to adapt and alter and transform according to the playing out of this story.

So now at the age of 35, today is indeed my birthday and I have a new name: River. I want to be a river. Skipping, rushing, flowing, gurgling, carrying, nourishing, cleaning, heading gaily towards the Ocean. My place of deepest fear and greatest potential. The place where rivers are transformed. Oh what glorious hippies we are turning out to be!

P.s. After finishing this blog, a well dressed Memphis came to me and asked me to go for a walk from Bacelo, "Tom and Jerry"'s home (where we are currently staying) to our place Moses. Always up for a walk I happily agreed. I went to Moonbeam and Sunshine and asked, "Do you fancy going for a walk hon". But she looked at me kinda kinda strange and said "Sunshine´s taking me for a drink". Odd, I thought Sunshine and Moonbeam don´t really drink and wouldn´t usually go out to have one. Never mind, I thought "nowt as queer as folk".

I also thought Memphis was a little strange, normally when we go for walks he surges on a head while I saunter behind. He points things out everywhere but this time he walked with me, held my hand and seemed very quiet, contemplative. I thought, "wow! it really must be my birthday".

As we approached Moses my breath paused for a moment as it always does, but then Memphis started surging on. "Okay" I thought, "he has used up his full quota of girly actions for the day" and sped up after him. As we stood at the house I could hear people moving inside. "No probs, we have visitors, cool". Then the visitors came out and said, "Surprise!". "Who could they possibly be surprising?", I thought, then it dawned, "it´s my birthday!" It was such a beautiful party held in that apparently derelict house. I was utterly overwhelmed by their presence, generosity (so many really cool presents) and friendship. You see with all this work we have hardly been to the bar or seen them in their homes, yet here they were on my birthday, even our beautiful friend Barbara, now renamed Shanti Barbie, and some of her friends. I am now overflowing. Thanks guys. You made an old girl feel very loved.

Videos From Memphis

There has been loads of stuff going on round here. In brief, held a surprise birthday party this week for Von at Moses with all our mates from town, candles, musicians, loads of food, drink, the works; a first taste of future parties methinks. Von's pumpkin patch is finished and looks gorgeous; already eaten the first fruits of the courgettes, onions and peppers too. Kids house down at Moses is now gutted and we start rendering walls next week. The Tac room next to Hari's house now has new walls, floor and roof and just needs a lick of limewash on Monday before Josh and Ellie move in. Paula Bedford and Zuzka Beckett came to see us for a fantastic couple of days. Paula's man Alfie will follow shortly to help us build houses and look at properties to buy. John and Caroline come August 10th with Maya and Violet to do the same. My mum and dad are booked for 1st fortnight of September. Busy months ahead. And its getting real hot. Yeah baby! Anyway, below are just 2 skits to keep you amused, both involving water (on theme for River's latest post) shot down at Moses last week. One of the kids cooling off in the granite pools (sorry for the angle again. it does correct half way through though). And the other of a strange creature I found in our water mine, which we suspect is a new anthropological discovery. Comments welcome. Enjoy....