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Reflections on 2018 After the October 2017 Fire

Looking back through photos...

Quinta da Mizarela Before the Fire - Spring 2017

Quinta da Mizarela After the Fire - October 17, 2018

Quinta da Mizarela in the Spring of 2018

Quinta da Mizarela 1 year later - October 2018

Here is our story...

This time last year Pete and I were walking down our track for the first time after the devastating fires of October 15th and 16th.  It was the photo that was used for our crowdfunding campaign.  I didn't even know that it was taken and yet I will never forget that walk. So much was black and burned, we were shocked and devastated and it has taken a year to come to terms with the trauma of it all.  And it is only now as I write this post to you that a bigger understanding of this year continues to emerge.

So I write to you now to close a chapter.  It has been a very strong year for so many of us.  We have learned a lot, we are all changed in ways that are irreversible.  The fire has taught us about impermanence and insecurity and it has also taught us to understand more deeply that which is eternal and where no sense of security is needed. We have learned about trauma and we have learned about Love.  We are softer and more resilient as we recognize the fragility of life and honor the relationships we have to each other and our commitment to freedom. 

So here is a summary of the year…

For the first weeks after the fire we were concerned with getting power, electricity and water systems set up.  Once that was done we had time to settle into the winter and deal with the trauma of the whole situation.  We did this in different ways and we were all stretched as we found ourselves in uncharted territory alone and together.   

The rains started at the end of December and then we were dealing with flooding and mud slides. 

 

 

The rain continued through June and we even had a flash flood in July. Despite all the rain our water supply was constantly threatened as the stream was filling the pipes up with silt that flowed freely off the bare mountainside blocking the pump. It felt like Nature would continue to have it’s way with us and all we could do is the best we could do. Sometimes there was a lot of fear as we felt insignificant in the face of the power of Nature and we were forced to surrender, as there was literally nothing we could do.  Once it became clear that the buildings and outbuildings were not in danger we could relax a bit and all we could do is wait to see what would happen next.

 

 

For months Pete and I didn’t know if we would have events in 2018 or not. We did know that we would have people here as most of our team from 2017 wanted to return to devote themselves to the recovery process but also to give themselves in service so ALP could continue to operate. We didn’t know what 2018 would look like but we knew it would be different.  In a certain way Pete and I were on automatic pilot but there wasn’t really a pilot as the rug had been taken from under our feet, a new level of surrender was called for.  We had to make decisions without knowing if those decisions would ever manifest.  It was a very strange time for us and I am sure for the returning team as they committed themselves to something that wasn’t always very defined.

So Pete and I decided to schedule only the events that we would normally do every year and then we would decide later if we would actually do them. In the end we did them all, along with weekly question and answer sessions, weekly silent days, and ongoing ALP men’s and women’s groups.  The annual events were two weekend meditation retreats (May and September), ALP men’s retreat (June), ALP women’s retreat (July), 6 week Transformational Intensive (Aug/Sept) and 10 Day August Retreat.  To our amazement these events far surpassed the 2017 events in depth and commitment.  All but one was sold out with amazing participants that gave themselves completely to what we had to offer and a team that prepared the way beautifully for all those that came.  The daily meditations continued and people who were here gave themselves to meditation fully.

Summary of 10 Day Retreat August 2018

Women singing to the land during the July Women's retreat

Intensive Graduates of 2018

The land was different as we were different.  The weather was cold and rainy until the end of June.  June was as cold as November normally would be.  On the upside grass and ferns came back to cover the blackened land, wild flowers sprang up as never before, more butterflies then we have ever had flitted around, birds sang.  All of this was occurring in a valley surrounded by thousands of dead trees.  Sometimes we would see photographs of how it was before and it was hard to remember the lush green hillsides.  I think we all went through a time of comparison and then many of us stopped comparing and it was then that we could see the beauty of the whole picture, we could appreciate the different manifestations of Life, feel the love for the land as we felt its pain and our own.  We all seemed to be healing together.  We consciously spoke about the burned landscape in each event and this acknowledgement beautifully took all of us deeper into ourselves as we were not in avoidance of the obvious situation and also of our own experience of that situation.  

This year has brought an appreciation for everyone and everything that is happening now and for everyone and everything that has come before.  For years we have had amazing people come and give so much to the creation of the Awakened Life Project.  There are many that have come as volunteers over the years and have left their mark in small and big ways. There are some volunteers that didn’t want to leave and stayed for years to create this physical place and the spiritual container that welcomes each individual that arrives here.  They may not live here at Quinta da Mizarela anymore but they continue to give support with their heart and their hands. Then there is the wider ALP Family that spends less time here but continues to strengthen the values of ALP through their lives and relationships and was present when needed after the fire.

And most recently we have had an incredible group of young people that were here in 2017 that bonded together as a unit in a way that hadn’t happened before.  None were here the day of the fire and all didn't hesitate to come back, some within days, others in the months that followed.  All committed to coming back for the 2018 season, which was a miracle and huge support for Pete and I.

Batu, Marco, Katrin

So many people have helped us and we would not be where we are right now without their help but we also want to acknowledge this group of 5 that were the backbone of the last year here at the Quinta. What they did physically was amazing but for us the way they gave themselves whole heartedly in very challenging times inspired us and through their maturity and care they gave Pete and I the time and space to go through our own healing process that was so needed to continue this project. 

So thank you Batu, Bernard, Sonja, Katrin, and Marco.  Batu and Marco spent weeks and weeks after the fire covered in ash as they cleared the land, got the water hooked back up and so much more. They never stopped. 

Sonia

Bernard, Sonja and Katrin had left before the fire started but they all returned after the New Year to give everything they had.  They were not just individuals helping out, their love for the land, for what ALP is about, for us and for each other brought this project to another level.

Bernard

We all walk on the shoulders of those who have come before and this is true for all of us.  ALP could not be what it is and what it will be without those who have come already, those who are still here and those who are yet to come.  One thing I realized after the fire was that ALP is not something that I/we are building that will last after Pete and I are gone; it is living and breathing in every moment that people give themselves to it.  When people stop giving then there is no ALP. There isn’t anything to hold onto, there is nothing permanent in this world, there is only love, devotion and action in every moment.  This brings a liberating responsibility to be fully here now and do all we can to be who we already are!

There is still trauma to deal with, still tons of trees to cut down, still more things to fix and repair but something has shifted in us as individuals and as a project. We are not the same people and we are not the same project.  Out of the ashes something new is emerging and it is more unknown and solid then it ever has been,

Thank you to all of you that have given us the financial support that we needed to rebuild, repair and rejuvenate.  You gave us financial means so we could breathe a little easier as we went through this process and you gave us so much love that buoyed us when times were tough.

I have never gone through anything like this before and looking back now I can only say that I am grateful for every minute of it.  It is only now as I am writing this that I have a even a bit more distance to see the perfection of all that has happened.  Not in a ‘let me make myself feel better way’ but in the acknowledgement that pain, fear and insecurity really are the drivers that can open the door to ever present Love, Joy and Happiness.

On a practical note here is some of what we have been doing this last year…

Cleared up after the fire – burned tubes, plastic, metal, wood, caravan leftovers and so much more.

Cleared mud away from around the yurt, from the trenches where all the tubes go that filled up as the water roared down the mountains.

Cut burned trees, dead branches, broom, and brambles – this job is far from over!

Strimmed, strimming and more strimming! For Americans strimming is weed whacking!

Burning all the stuff we cut! 

Planted fruit trees, small oaks, acorns and flower bulbs. 

Made a new compost toilet called the Hanging Gardens of Poopylon.

Built new steps Everywhere!

Built a new roof structure over the Meditation Room entrance complete with some art installations made with burned branches.

Repaired the stone wall of one of the ruins that was threatening to fall into the courtyard.

Repaired solar system and adding 6 new solar panels to the roof of the workshop. 

Replaced wires that connected the solar panels to the batteries.

Repaired the solar hot water system.

Replaced the 1000-liter tank that burned above the big house.

Got water back to the yurt shower by replacing the barrel and tubes.

Repaired the yurt shower where part of the walls burned.

Replaced the gray water system.

Ordered tubes, connectors and figuring out all the bits needed!

Transported and then layed hundreds and hundreds of meters of tubes for water system and hydro system.

Cleaned the stream from all the debris that washed down.

Flattened the ground where the wild boars have been looking for food (a lot of their habitat was burned)

Rebuilt the washing lines.

Repaired raised beds and making new ones.

Cleaned the mold and mud from the yurt (inside and out)

It is actually very healing to make this list as sometimes it feels that there is so much more to do that I forget to realize what has been done!

Things that still need to be done:

Replace the sluice gate that was damaged in the flash flood - happening in a couple of days!

Install the hydro turbine – happening in the next couple of weeks.

Clear more of the land

Cut down more trees

Repair walls damaged by flooding

Redo the floor of the yurt where it has warped from the mud

Plant more fruit trees, chestnuts and oaks

Plant flowers everywhere!

Rejuvenate the bees – some hives are weak and others were lost

Figure out the irrigation system – we haven’t done anything with it yet

Put the pond liner in so the pond can hold water again!

And things I can’t remember…

So that is our story for now!  This will be the finish of this campaign.  The year of mourning is over and it is time to move on.  For this whole year the fire has been the reference point and now it’s time to recognize the 2018 season that just passed is the season of all seasons so far and we look forward to what is next.

Thank you to everyone!

Much Love from Cynthia, Pete and the whole Awakened Life Project Community!

Cynthia

More photos...

 

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About the project

The Awakened Life Project is situated in a beautiful and wild ecological reserve in the mountains Central Portugal. We offer volunteer programs, courses, events and retreats to support the liberation of the human spirit in a context of evolutionary emergence and communion with the ecological web of life.

Contacts

Quinta da Mizarela
3305-031 Benfeita
Portugal

info@awakenedlifeproject.org
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