Strangely silent and unusually solo I arrive at Barcelona airport with the neon orange rising sun. I spent my few spare minutes between check in and boarding observing the airport crowds in the wee morning hours – especially the women as I haven’t detached from my mother role, but started missing my boys already.
Even in the anonymity of the setting, it seems quite clear to me who is a mother and who is not (this goes beyond the grey line between the ones having the time to spend an hour in the bathroom each morning getting themselves ready, and those who don’t… like my sleepy looking self). There’s people with the typical busy city looks on their face, phone on their ear and laptop in their hands and there’s a few freshly in-love couples in holiday mood. But there’s barely anyone who retained that sparkle often only found in children’s eyes. That innocent smile, the open joy, the uncovered expression of life supreme and creative free flow in every movement. On my flight to Teneife I get the seat next to the only child on the plane.
After take-off, the mother serves her little boy breakfast: A packet of crisps, a packet of salamis and a packet of chocolate sweets, together with a sugary mix of chemicals outrageously labelled orange juice. She complains to me about how little time she can spend with her son in the busy life which she seems to be forced to lead. I feel even more immense gratitude than usual for being able to spend all the time in the world with my kids, discovering Mother Earth in all her facets with them. Being allowed to become a child again through them. In fact, although this morning travelling for once without them has been easier and more relaxed in many ways, it also felt emptier. Walking up the stairs to board the plane or accelerating for take-off on the runway did not even have half of the usual magic which I often observe contagiously in their eyes.
My plane-mate refuses to eat the load full of life-less food placed in front of him and I wonder why the mother refuses to eat it herself, whilst not accepting his ‘I don’t want anymore, Mummy.’ Why don’t we build a society which allows us to nourish our loved ones (including ourselves!) with wholesome food, time to breathe deeply, space to express our love and creativity, the ability to do what we really dream off, respect for the planet and the trust and confidence to truly connect with ourselves and one another? Instead, the older we get, the more we rush through the rat race and lose our inherent tendency to embrace life and truly live. Instead we are trained to just blindly do, accept and endure – never just be.
The mother continues to tell me proudly how her son already started kindergarten at six months, how he was completely potty trained by age two, how he can write and count up to fifty now aged four etc. I think of my children and how they spent the first years of their lives – our past few years of nomadic adventurous family living – digging sand castles, splashing from beach to beach, fishing tuna, chasing butterflies, observing sea urchins and octopus, singing with dolphins, painting and arts-&crafting almost every waking hour of the day and discovering abandoned ruins and castles playing a mix of Columbus and Darwin – honouring their inner explorer, artist and priest.
Our four year old, too, can write most letters and count in 2.5 languages. But he seems to have learnt this through play, not through school. I observe my little plane-mate stuck to a screen, wondering if there’s not enough time in adult life for that – for ruining your eyes on a screen, for destroying your creativity through video games, for living in a reality far removed from Mother Earth, for performance pressure and a rushed life in general. I wonder how we will fare going back home to Sydney and sincerely hope that we can keep educating responsible, conscious and trustworthy global citizens at home – if not only in the space of our own home, now in a place which feels home to us. They were born with three nationalities and are being brought up in two languages. But I hope it is not only their passports which make them global citizens to be proud of, but also an approach to life in line with the environment, people and spirituality around them.
At the retreat centre I have a long chat with Dennis, the heart and founder of Hacienda Cristoforo – a holistic retreat centre in the Canary Islands. He’s approaching ninety and has that aura around him which only people in tune with every depth of life can have: Environmentally conscious architect, spiritual seeker, relentlessly creative father and probably 101 more facets are to this old and wise man. The retreat he has created here in Tenerife hosts houses built with natural materials into the surrounding nature. Rocks, trees and lagoons blend in seamlessly with natural, cosy and inviting living spaces. We talk a lot about Rudolf Steiner – given the little Waldorf School on the grounds. Dennis explains what I couldn’t put into words on the plane: Once we move from mainly intuition-lead to a mainly intellect-lead life, our organs start to harden up and therewith our creativity – our connection with the Divine – to suffer. If this happens to a child before he hits the age of seven (an important number in people’s life according to Steiner’s philosophy), s/he cannot develop a solid base of learning through creativity. Instead he becomes indoctrinated which later on in life can lead to all sorts of issues observed in today’s society – first and foremost starting with IBS, constipation and related tummy issues symbolizing a stiff core and suffering inner sun. So who wouldn’t want to create not only a more global and conscious, but at the same time healthier future?