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Autumn Picnic with Blanche Nevile

It was a sunny autumn day when the teachers and students of Blanche Nevile School for deaf children and young people came for a picnic at Omved Gardens. We had been looking forward to the visit since Chef Arthur and myself tasted the students’ delicious carrot biscuits during one of their cookery lessons.

Would we be able to treat them to something delicious in return? Well, kale and millet are not usually top of the list for most children but there were many brave and hungry children who challenged their taste buds. Pumpkin was also on the menu and some were intrigued that the pumpkins we’d hidden in the garden for them to find, were the same pumpkins in their lunch boxes. Those still peckish at the end of the picnic, picked the last of the apples from the trees.

The students were full of questions about the garden, tasting herbs and asking how we made things grow. This huge question was dealt with in some detail by Paul the landscape architect and translated by a number of different interpreters to the various groups of children. Once the picnic and the questions were over, some of the children raced through the gardens whilst those in wheelchairs in particular were feeling the cold and needed to think about getting back to school.

Prior to their visit, we had tried to make a plan, perhaps remembering my own school days when all the time spent at school was accounted for.

On the day, it was less about a plan and more about an exploration. What could we learn about each other? We experienced kindness, support and trust in the way the school communicated amongst themselves and inquisitiveness about all the garden has to offer. We watched the garden come to life.

A few days later walking at dusk amongst some trees, I reflected on the school visit. The fading light dimmed the sky and the rustling fluttering leaves felt like the roof of the world. I remembered reading about how trees are thought to communicate with and support each other and wondered about different forms of communication.

Do we miss a lot of what’s really going on by focusing exclusively on speech and the facility of hearing? Can we learn to become more sensitive to other forms of communication: shape, colour, scent, movement, feeling? Our picnic with the school showed us that we could encounter new forms of connection and thereby new encounters with wholeness.