Our next stop after Asheville, NC was Carrollton, GA. This unpresuming town is a particularly special spot for Camden and I as it is the place we met while pursuing our Master’s degrees at the University of West Georgia. Located an hour outside Atlanta, you will find an eclectic population, many having graduated from our beloved Humanistic Psychology program at UWG. Camden and I are fortunate to have many dear friends still living in the area. It was wonderful for us to have the chance to reconnect after being away for the past two years. It is a deeply warm and unequivocal feeling to be in the presence of those people who you love and admire and feel loved by in return. We are both in sincere gratitude for the connections that we established in this unlikely town.
Three such people that I would like to acknowledge are Paul Feather, Terra Currie, and their 8 year old daughter, Zinnia. During our time in the Master’s Program at UWG, Camden lived on their land and had the opportunity to learn from their deep wisdom. Paul and Terra have a great deal of knowledge and skills around natural building, permaculture, farming, and living in unison with the earth. Their home is an off-grid structure made of cobb (a combination of sand, clay, straw, and water.) They built their home by hand with community support and the use of almost no machinery. There is a heartbeat to their home that is easy to feel when you come into contact with it. They are dedicated to living a simple life that is aligned with the natural flows and cycles of our earth and universe. They are inspirational as they live in a way that is deeply thoughtful and connected.
When Camden and I arrived in Carrollton, we were warmly welcomed by Paul and Terra as they invited us to stay in La Casita, a tiny house on their property. It is hidden back in the woods, surrounded by tall trees. The cobb house was built by them several years ago and served as their home for some time while they worked on building their current home. In addition to building and farming, Paul and Terra home school Zinnia, as well as some other children from town. Camden and I had the opportunity to spend time gaining insights about education from being in their presence that we feel inspired to share.
When I first met Zinnia, she was sitting on her own outside, in the back of a cart filled with apples. I didn’t even know she was there until she popped up, apple in hand, munching away. Zinnia feels so comfortable being outdoors, immersed in nature. One day, she walked over to see Camden and I in La Casita while it was pouring rain. She didn’t have any rainboots or fears of getting wet and muddy. She pointed out how a “river” was forming outside as the rain increased and flowed downhill past the tiny house. The three of us stood there for a moment, silently watching the natural movement of the water moving across the earth’s surface. It was refreshing to see the rain taking on this beautiful form, in contrast to my usual adverse response to rain and the inconvenience it causes. When it was time for her to leave, I offered her my raincoat or an umbrella and she said she didn’t need it, she walks in the rain all the time. She then proceeded to trot out into the rain, walking along the flowing river, back towards her home.
As their overall lives are so deeply intertwined with the natural world, it makes sense that many of the activities that Paul and Terra provide the children as part of their home schooling are situated in nature. However, it was not just her comfort with the outdoors, but the shear excitement and joy that she got from sharing her knowledge with others. She was eager to show us her dinosaur museum that she created in one outdoor structure, her garden and what was growing there, and the shelter she was building by hand. Her shelter wasn’t completed, and Paul commented to us that there wasn’t a rush for her to complete it. Zinnia was in a process of trying different approaches and planning what she would work on next, such as adding the roof. We saw this come to light again when we were reading a book together, the five of us, in their home. Coming across the unfamiliar word Petulance, Zinnia asked what that word meant. Andrea turned the question back on her and she responded with an expression, corners of her lips turned down with a slight wrinkle in her forehead. Smiling and acknowledging the presumed accuracy of this, Paul then went to get their large physical dictionary which he noted that they used often. This moment in time was a learning opportunity for all of us and demonstrated once more this shared movement toward a process of knowing and learning. This process, where the final result is not the epitome of success, is a larger lesson for us as educators.
Paul and Terra helped Camden and I to explore this concept further by discussing with us the difference between long and short stories. Most stories of learning these days are very short as there is a limited amount of time and space to learn the information, memorize, and regurgitate it. But, as educators, how can we cultivate these stories of learning to align to a longer and more valuable engagement with the process itself? When we build a shelter from the wood on the land, have to manage real obstacles as they arise, and create something that takes months, we can offer a learning environment and task that reveals the longer story of building. In a time when Facebook stories scroll by our eyes at the speed of light, updating every minute, we are in desperate need of experiences that bring us back to the value of engaging in an imperfect process, learning hands on, and knowing the longer story of how things come into being.
If you’re interested in learning more about Terra, Paul, and Zinnia you can find more information on their website. They have published three books, Sacred Violence, Quantum Justice, and Massive Information. Each of which, in our opinion, take a thought provoking stance in relationship to: violence in our culture, the quantum makeup of the stories that we tell, and the human story within that of the ecological or cosmic story.
We’re grateful for our time at their farm, piece of paradise, oasis, and humbled in the stories that we came to share together.