A place to work from, not a place to stay.

It was May when we had our first intern get together–we met at Gigi’s Cafe, and with a round of introductions of self, and some information about where this project was starting from, we played a game: write down any question on a piece of paper, draw one from a “hat” and have everyone answer. Some folks call these types of games “ice-breakers”… We were mostly new to each other, there were some connections and overlap, mutual friends and past projects, and the ice-breaker was just the thing to get to know a little more about each other. One of the questions asked was “What inspires you without fail?”

So what is it?

The wind? The sun? Kindness? Love?

We all answered and in that moment bonds were formed. We could see a little more deeply into each other and it allowed for a moment of reflection. When I responded, I spoke about how there is never just one thing at work, and for me (at that moment) what inspires me without fail is the moon and the resiliency of people.

Phases moon

With the moon, we are reminded of cycles, of ebbs and flows. Reminded that we are part of something mysterious and deeply moving. Some practitioners of permaculture and/or biodynamics (not exclusively) even plant by the moon cycles and is mentioned in the book How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jevons. The moon reminds me to take time to process and re-connect. No matter what cityscape you find yourself in, the moon will be there, and so will plants (hopefully!) And it is in those cracks of sidewalk, the potholes, and the crumbling brick that we see indications of natures struggle to resist the imposed structures of modern day society. These commonplace expressions of resiliency remind me of the human potential to tear apart entrenched systems, creating a space for more cooperative partnerships to take hold. Plants remind me to act.

at the roots

One of the over 3,200 (estimated) trees to fall during the June 21st storm.

(Side note: I was in the middle of writing this before I decided to head home–it looked like rain. Then the storm hit, on the summer solstice, nearly a full moon, and while Mercury is moving into the pre-shadow aspects of retrograde [if you’re into that kind of thing]. And I had just been writing about how plants and nature work to take down systems of oppression, like concrete graves in boulevards. Synchronicity of sorts. The Honey House Farm is looking good, though definitely water-logged!)

It is from these inspirations that many of us find connections with the land. Permaculture is one model that seeks to re-establish a balance between people and place. It works from a set of ethics and principles, but the point isn’t sustainability of the “current situation, but moving into a place of actually creating more than what there is. And that can only be done in good relationship to the earth and each other (1).” Within many groups and movements that have a set of ideals put forth like those of the permaculture guidelines (e.g. Transition Towns, Occupy, or Non-Violent Communication), there is a tendency to take them at face value and run with them, often becoming myopic or short-sighted–rather than seeing them as reflexive, ever changing, and dynamic (just like all living things). When no new material is introduced and the cycle of reflection and action becomes stagnate, groups dampen off and no new growth happens. Principles are meant to be a guiding force, a place to work from but not a place to stay.

permaculture principles and ethics flower from http://permacultureprinciples.com/

permaculture principles and ethics flower from http://permacultureprinciples.com/

And as Martin mentioned in his post, we are learning more and more about this space as the days pass, not only because of our relationship to it, but also from the neighbors that stroll by. Stories of curious George, stories of other residents, neighborhood lore, and of trees near by.

To be continued…


(1) From an interview with Erik Ohlsen entitled “Permaculture, Mystery, and Industrial Collapse” from the book Tangled Roots edited by Matt Soltys


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