Embercombe’s fifty acres - a beautiful mosaic of gardens, pasture, woodland, working and living structures of various kinds - is nestled among the gentle, rolling hills just east of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, southwest England. Combe means “a short valley or hollow on a hillside or coastline”. When I step out of the women’s yurt each morning, an enchanting landscape breathes around me, and there’s usually a strong wind to sweep away any residual tiredness. The soft contours of the hills are softened further by rounded canopies of oak, hazelnut, sycamore, and other members of deciduous forest I’m not yet familiar with. Small fields are crisscrossed by tall, dark hedges, many of them hundreds of years old. To the west, Haytor’s granite shoulders rise dramatically above the hills. The outcrop looks almost moody in this bucolic landscape. I’m determined to walk there someday. It has become a landmark in my mind, an ever-present reminder of feeling a calling and answering to it, and the emergent journey that that tension creates.
I feel too new to what Embercombe does to articulate it with any comprehensiveness or authority. Here is their website if you are curious about it. As a long-term volunteer, I am part of the working community that holds the physical and emotional space for Embercombe’s mission.
To live here is to become a participant in a complex ecosystem. Our daily work is determined by dynamic, interconnected factors - the season and it’s expression in the garden, projects and programmes on site, and the ever-shifting extended family of this organisation who shows up to offer time, labor, skills, ideas, dedication to this place and what it stands for. As far as I can tell, Embercombe for many people is a place where they find an opportunity to play a meaningful role, where their contribution matters and affects a bigger picture that is at once visionary and pragmatic.
The wood pigeons are beginning their throaty cooing, while a chill slips over the hill and settles into our little valley. Someone has hit the gong - supper time. And then, to bed, for my mind to work through the wondrous, mysterious processes of integrating experience, and recharging for another round. Each day brings many more curiosities. I feel like the English robin who has ventured boldly into the dining yurt recently, following our dropped bits of toast - small and inquisitive, hopping from one inquiry to the next. And so far, finding enough nourishment along the way to get up each morning, hungry with questions, and full of inexplicable song.