The dark surrounding the fire would be ominous were it not for the warm reflection of the flames on the faces of the men and women in front of us. A mixed bag of travellers from all over the country and from all manner of heartbreak. The Bodrahn drum in my hand has been in its case for a too many months. The skin needs tightening. I bring my hand over the flames to test the heat, then the drum, letting the orange and yellow fire shine through the skin. It’s a good bit of storytelling theatre. The eyes watching widen as I strike out a single beat, then another, and another. The instrument rises in pitch, tuning itself to the heat of the fire. I’m nervous. I also need some tuning up!
This is how our time together starts. With a circle, a fire, an old story, the night, new faces, new friends and silence. The drum is ready. Each time this is different. Following the same theme, similar threads but told to each group as if it were the first. Responding to the season, the weather, the feeling within the group. This fine circle of beings who have each been impacted by addiction are each seeking to deepen their healing and recovery. They’ve come to us through RISE (Recovery Integrated Services – link). Each bring a gift for themselves and for us. What those gifts are will unfold over the next few days.
Each have been on a road, heading to this turning point, on the high hills of Dartmoor, for months, years, decades. Weather-worn by what life has handed them. And choosing to do something good with it. Turn it into something they can work with, something they can transform and be proud of. And part of that journey is to discover a new relationship with nature and their own, unique story. To rediscover themselves inside its wildness. John, one of our lead nature-connection facilitators, stops mid-sentence as the rapid trill of a Nightjar fills the air. He calls to it. It calls back. The Isle is Full of Noises.
We know the power of these weekends but never know quite how that power will unfold. We respond to what meets us. Each of the staff have, in their own lives, been touched, one way or another, by addiction. We know the hard road. And we know the joy and freedom that comes from stepping off it, onto another path.
We share our discoveries as the days unfold; through words, poems, journals. This land has been shaped by ancient weather, as have we. This group are no different in how extraordinary they are. How engaged, connected, loving, wise, funny and willing to step out of their comfort zone time and time again. To take their recoveries and their gifts, to the next level.
Long may it continue!
Caspar Walsh, Lead Facilitator and Creative Director