Coming Home to Bright Valleys
Dark Mountain seeks new stories and cultures for an age of collapse: stories and art and music and crafts and ways of being that privilege a deep ecological perspective. They seek to privilege ‘notman’ rather than ‘man’... Intriguing, for me and for many good, clever and very deep feeling people… some men, some not. And a fine old time was had by many, at a sustainability centre set amidst magical young copper beech, wildlife areas and a pond.. There was certainly a lot of laughter, and singing, and even a little bit of time when we could begin to hear from the deragonflies and trees..
There was a proper ancient folk tale of BabaYaga by the fire, mysterious lights and doings in the woods, a children’s council, embodied action in some sessions, and this year there was access to food and water throughout, fires to sit around in the evening, even a woman on the main ‘Collapsonomics’ panel…All major advances on last year’s do.
But aside from these peripheral events, it’s still as if the core of this version of a new culture will be a lot like the old, a lot 'like the BBCs’ Question Time', as one angry woman observed it. Who wants a low input cultural future where unaccountable self-selected groups of mainly white, male, able-bodied and highly educated friends talk a lot of brain stuff on stages while the others of us are lucky to pose the odd question or comment, whether or not we've had a cosy bed, full breakfast and a hot shower every day of our lives that we wanted them?
At this gathering there were people who had lived through real collapses like the Soviet Union where many, especially men, turned to drink, drugs and suicide, while mainly women responsible for children and the older ones, just had to get on and cope. There were people at the gathering who had lived on the road, or in wildlands all their adult life, people with deeply heart-led perspective to add to the technocratic discourse from the stage…there were people who could have held an opening ceremony to add a little something to the beers and the boys with guitars singing doom laden songs.
As one of the Dark Mountain co-founders points out, it was a project hatched by two men sitting in a pub; and it shows. A festival called ‘uncivilisation’ has a tendency, surprisingly enough, to be a little bit uncivilized. At the heart of this seems to be that a gang of mainly (media friendly white English heterosexual) men has difficulty opening its framework to give equal voice to the ‘other’: to ‘notmen’ like women, trees, animals, ancestors etc.
There was for example a session called ‘why we can no longer afford to ignore the sacred’. But who are ‘we’ that supposedly were ignoring the sacred, for a start? And then, is it really wise to launch into conversations about ‘death, sex and revolution’ without without holding the space for such deep stuff in some kind of sacred way? In short, this session answered a different question, namely showing 'why we can no longer afford to just talk about the sacred without actually doing it'. The answer becamse clear to me when the gadgets with me (a recording device and phone) both stopped working. Someone was crying afterwards. Others seemed full of rage.
At least a couple of women were invited up as guests in the 'sacred' session (one was one of the organisers’ mum, a former nurse speaking about medical disasters, the other an elder who I’d enabled to be there, Cunny Carnival organizer Raga Woods displaying her Sheela Na Gig).
This gap where the really deep ecological stuff, the private fears and learnings and scary ancient sacred that never was ignored by some, could be made wholer on the slopes of some dark mountain, is what I stepped forward to begin to fill with a Bright Valley circle… a cup shaped holding, gathering inspired by, and yet on the other side of, that terribly dark phallic tower.
And so it was that I held a hearth-led gathering centred around an altar flame, sharing tales from the heart of life and death and doing what’s needed for the children… passing a stick so the voices of all would be heard, sharing some of our deepest stories and emotions, speaking our truths in the presence of the ancestors, recognising the elemental directions ready to support us, the earth and sky for protection in this time of transformation.
And it felt right and it felt good, and I was thanked much for it. The people who cried in the circle wiped their tears and smiled before leaving.
But none of this would have happened were it not the the boys, brave boys, dark mountain boys, in whose shadow bright circles are forming.
So thank you.