The taxi dropped me by a sign which read: ‘Cooperation with nature: Send love ahead and touch only then. Send the wish to get to know ahead and touch only then. Send the wish to do good and touch only then.’ I am met and welcomed (by a human) with a jug of water and a snack. A sparrow waits at the table for the cores of pears. I explore around and in the lakes, where a creature taps my toes. This settles me. Birds flock above. The martins nest in the Aula, a straw bale hall with living roof. A sign in another building alerts me that this too is a bird bog: ‘Swallows nest in this toilet… We are living in an experiment to find out what cooperation with swallows can look like.'
This experiment takes place in Tamera Healing Biotope, which is an ecovillage in Portugal. It is actively researching social, ecological and ethical aspects of peace, and learning to live with trust. The community also has strong links to Zegg in Germany. Here I will describe aspects of cooperation with nature I experienced on a month long visit in 2010.
Tamera aim to ‘recognise basic animal rights: the right of all animals to living space, food, freedom of movement, curiosity and contact.’ Animals are viewed as ‘conscious living beings with a soul, who want to contribute to the healing processes of our lives and the life of our planet.’
These commitments manifest in various ways. Animals are observed and respected as cooperation partners in the design of the permaculture landscape. First aid is given to ‘suffering animals in the neighbourhood.’ In the distance a dawn chorus echoes through the valleys from rescued dog barks. Tamera also experiment with horse communication.
I went to the horse field in a group, feeling slightly apprehensive. Growing up in a city I never became fully acquainted with horses; and carried some social awkwardness around animals into adulthood. However, here we were instructed how to approach the horses considerately. Sitting cross legged on the ground with horses walking around, I felt calm. I think the horses and I both enjoyed exchanging pats. Tamera has found, as did I, that when humans reduce their fear and anger, the same transformation happens amongst animals.
Sabine Lichtenfels and Barbara Kovats explain how they are working through their fear of rats to coexist. They had found evidence that rats moved into a new building, without human invitation. At first they attempted to move the rats on with meditative telepathy, but the rats did not respond to this. Next the idea came to offer the rats an alternative ruined building to call their own. This time the meditation concentrated on letting the rats know they been given a home. The rats moved in! The ruin became known as the Rat Temple.
However, around a year later the rats returned to the human house. The humans heard their inner voices say that the rats were looking for more contact. The humans began to pay regular visits to the Rat Temple, and soon the rats went back to stay there. Gradually they made themselves known to the humans, first with squeaks, and then with scurries. Now rats appear in numbers to eat from plates of food the humans offer.
One of my lasting memories was sitting in Rat Temple at the Community of Children. Around the walls were drawings the children had made for the rats. They had left straw bedding and nibbles for their furry friends. I had the fantastic feeling I was being watched.
Picture credit: http://www.tamera.org/uploads/tx_igfstandard/ecology628_02.jpg