'On the Field' with Soul Brothers
On Saturday 9 July over a dozen guys gathered, under the inspired leadership of Robert, Andy and Jay, at a really remarkable space at the end of a bumpy, rutted lane, @ Tuttington.
When we got to the field we found a Round House, a row of green caravans across on the boundary, a tepee, a residential caravan with a ‘Green Man’ awning and beautiful wood carving, and were welcomed around a real open wood fire with a cooking grid and blackened kettles steaming in readiness for tea & coffee.
We sat round in a circle, shared our names and a reason for coming. Some of us were from the Norwich Soul Brothers network, others from Menscraft and one found it on the web. We were introduced to the remarkable facilities of the site : mains water, wash basins, loos, showers, a sauna and as we explored the further limits of the field other structures including a wooden ‘henge’ and initially unseen features emerged.
Our first group activity had us in 2 circles taking it in turns to stand in the middle and sway trusting that those in the circle would stop us falling. That taught us to trust each other. Then we learned each other’s names by standing in a circle and throwing a ball to someone on the other side. If we knew their name we called it out, if we didn’t we asked and then threw the ball to them. Our varied throwing/catching abilities did not matter and by the end 4 or 5 balls were flying across the circle. Just as we were preparing to be Giants, Wizards and Goblins a heavy shower sent us into the Round House.
The Round House
This building became a precious, sacred space for us. Constructed of rough hewn timber and in-filled with straw & mud, small windows, 2 doorways, a beautiful polished wood floor in 6 segments and a circular bench all round the walls with assorted cushions and a few wall hangings plus a central cadelabra. It felt such a welcoming space, almost womb like, protective and supportive.
Another game : Zip, Zap, Boing but the written words do not do justice to the fun we had. “Zip” involved passing the word and its sound rapidly to our neighbour with a variant that immediately you had received the “Zip” instead of passing it on you could send it back the way it had come. “Zap” involved identifying someone across the circle, “Zapping” them, they had to crouch down and the guys on either side competed to “Zap” each other. The final variation involved deflecting the “Zap” with a “Boing” . With all 3 variants in play the result was a splendid cacophony! Loved it.
That got rid of lots of energy and we were ready for a story. Jay read about the King with goats ears who hid them under his hair and crown but had to reveal them to his barber with various repercussions. This led into a time of sharing using a talking stick telling each other how the story had resonated with us. A time of deep, intimate sharing, including personal disclosure for which the space and the circle of men seeming to create a spirit of trust and honesty.
A pooled lunch followed around the fire with good one to one conversations and then back to the Roundhouse for “Threshold”.
We were asked to go out into the field and find a threshold, to purposefully cross that threshold and open ourselves to whatever experiences came our way.
We were to listen to our inner selves and come back ready to describe our journey across the threshold. And after each account our story was ‘read back’ to us ( “I hear the story of a man who …..” ) by Robert or Jay – for me a powerful validating experience. We were heard; our ‘threshold’ experiences were honoured.
After a final sharing of how the day had been for us some took their leave and the rest stayed on for camp fire dinner and a sauna.
The day proved what a powerful, enriching experience it can be for men to be with other men, sharing, offering mutual support and trusting each other enough to voice personal issues without embarrassment or shame. A real experience of the power and beauty of male fellowship. Grateful thanks for the caring, sensitive, wise leadership.
Do it again, please!
David L Saunders
Norwich Soul Brothers
Nicholas Vesey, 11/07/2011