Tag Archives: Permaculture

Permaculture and the Psyche 4: The Problem is the Solution!

imageWhen events grow uncomfortable enough to permeate the boundaries of what I know to be true; when the discomfort of encountering a perspective that doesn’t quite fit my current worldview encroaches upon my awareness, I have a choice: I can view the new information as a problem, or I can view it as a solution.

 

How can a problem be a solution? Because discomfort engages the awareness. For the first time, I can see there is something wrong. And that means I can change it.
Bear with me here: I am going to take a brief field trip away from permaculture and into neurology. Recently my sweetheart let me borrow his book on neurochemicals and it jumpstarted a whole new way of thinking about this permaculture principle.

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Long ago, back in California, I attended UCLA evening classes to obtain psychology prerequisites. I sat in a huge arena-style classroom and listened as the tiny professor, audible only through the speakers behind me, expounded upon the development of the human brain. He explained that the brain “prunes”, hugely, when we are very young; a vast amount of neural circuitry is deemed unnecessary and mercilessly cut from the brain. We do this for efficient and speedy processing of information.

 

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But thereafter, whenever we take in information that doesn’t fit our previous experience, the brain simply disregards it. It is only when this information reaches a critical mass, or induces a certain level of emotional discomfort, that our brain is willing to even “see” it at all.

 

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This is how a person can continue to hold on to a worldview that is utterly disproved by information all around her—her brain just can’t “see” it yet, because it doesn’t match her prior experience. She hasn’t yet developed the critical mass of internal or external discomfort to create a new pathway in her brain, one that would enable her to see the information that has been there all along.

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The language I learned in later counseling classes for this process, when we got into Piaget and development, was that all of us have “schemas”—ideas about how the world works—and any time we receive new information, we try to plug it into an existing schema. We really, really don’t want to have to create new schemas. It’s hard.

 

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So we’ll cram new information into our old schemas any which way, however awkward the results: “oh, lacrosse? That’s kind of like soccer, but with squishy tennis rackets!” “Oh, a moose? That’s basically a big cow, with antlers.” We try to relate any new information to old information we already have, because those circuits are already there, greased with myelin for speedy processing.

 

 

We would rather believe our schemas than integrate information that disproves them. So, imagine I had a loud dog as a child, and had therefore developed the schema that “dogs are loud animals”. If I were to meet a dog that did not bark I would be likely, at first, to assume that this animal is not a dog. Dogs are loud, this animal is not loud, therefore this animal is not a dog. (This sounds silly, but I squirm when I think of how many times a day I make similar, if more subtle, errors!) I would have to be exposed to many different quiet dogs before my brain could be persuaded to adapt my schema to include both loud and quiet animals into the schema “dog”.

 

 

Similarly, if I grew up in America and never met anyone from the Middle East; if my only exposure to Middle Eastern folks was in news of terrorism, I might well develop the schema that “Middle Eastern people are terrorists.” It would take many conversations with Middle Eastern people, perhaps even a journey to experience the Middle East through my own eyes, before my brain would take the risk of altering that schema.

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Our brains aren’t bad—they do this to protect us. It’s important to be able to process information quickly, and we, as animals that develop our brains through experience rather than instinct, can actually equip them to process current information, true information about the world around us AS IT IS TODAY, rather than working with instincts and ideas that were developed in a much different world, as reptiles do.

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But to do that, we have to be able to feel discomfort, the discomfort of being WRONG. We have to be able to notice and face the information that tells us we are incorrect, rather than avoiding it. We have to be willing to revise our opinions of experiences that have felt  true in the past.

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In short: we have to have PROBLEMS!

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There are so many examples of problem-as-solution. Nettle juice heals its own sting. Couch grass, world’s WORST weed, choking and starving out whatever you’ve planted (sorry, not altering that schema, don’t care what godawful weeds you think you’ve discovered) makes the most incredible bio-accessible fertilizer for your garden when brewed into weed tea. Ever heard of the wounded healer? Folks who have been through terrible things and have gone through their own healing process make incredibly compassionate, informed healers. Think of vaccines: disease healing disease.

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My sweetheart’s neurochemistry book says that there are two ways you can make new circuits as an adult. One is through overwhelming emotion. For example, if you have always loved chocolate cake, and then one night  as you are eating a piece of chocolate cake you learn that your best friend has died, your schema for chocolate cake is going to change. You won’t associate it with happiness anymore, you’ll associate it with grief. Overwhelming emotion can rewire our circuits instantaneously.

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The other way to make new circuits as an adult is through repetition. This entails  laboriously repeating a behavior again and again until the brain takes to it. I am getting married in two weeks, and as a form of purification and ritual readiness, my honey and I decided to do thirty days of clean eating.

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notice how there is no toast with jam. 😦

We’re two weeks in, eating only whole foods, no sugar, dairy, alcohol, or grains, and boy is the repetition grueling. I want my tea with milk and sugar every morning. But EVERY MORNING, I don’t have it. And slowly, my brain is building a circuit that says “black coffee is an acceptable substitute for milky, sugary tea in the morning.”

 

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Did I say slowly? It’s SLOOOOOOOOOOOW. I WANT MY TEA WITH MILK AND SUGAR! But this morning, I didn’t even reach for the teapot. I automatically took down the coffee beans. It is slow, but it is happening.

imageOn Wednesday night, we had the magical experience of using both deep emotion and intermodal artistic repetition to build new circuits in the brain. It felt AMAZING in that room.

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Maeve had found live musicians, at the last minute, and as we engaged in our kundalini kriyas, they drummed and played for us. We could feel, tangibly, the problems resolving to solutions in our bodies, the ways physical stress can lead to joy.

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We used co-counseling to explore the self-critical and maladaptive voices that repeatedly shut us down. We identified these voices, gave them names, and then embodied them in a role play that led to terrible, stagnant feelings. Hooray! Deep emotion activated!

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Then we spent some time on art, using color and shape and line and symbol to discern what was behind these voices, what unmet needs they represented. The unmet needs told us the desire these voices were hiding. Perfectionism can be a desire for acceptance, for example, and unworthiness can be a desire to feel valid.

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We embodied the desires, this time, and the joy in the room was palpable. Hooray! More deep emotion!

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And then the art we had made about critical voices became seeds for paintings of our desires, and the room filled with extraordinary color and swirling light. Problems transformed into solutions right before our eyes. There was silence and laughter and a deep sense of creation.

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This is what I so love about the Expressive Arts. If you want your life to transform, deep emotion and repetition have to be engaged. When the emotion is evoked by lovely music, by delicious motion, by moving and heartfelt words, by brilliant colors and lines and brushstrokes and shapes; when the repetition is engaged by exploring a theme first through art, then poetry, then movement, then music; the transformation happens seamlessly. And it is passionate and powerful and safe and lasting.

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I love this about permaculture too. Yes, the world is full of terrifying and desperate problems. But as we learn from nature and repetitively, with deep passion and emotion, apply her solutions to the land around us, we gain agency and hope. As we transform problems into solutions, again and again, we find that we are transforming not only ourselves, but also the world around us.

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This workshop series has been a source of great delight for me over the past month. I am so grateful to Maeve for co-facilitating with me, and so grateful to all who attended the workshops, responded to these written reflections, and gave me feedback on the concepts and ideas we explored.

I am by no means finished playing with this ecotone of permaculture and psyche….I will continue to wonder and write and inquire into all of the interesting interfaces between ecology and psychology. Stay tuned for the BOOK! ❤️

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September 3, 2016 · 1:25 am

Permaculture and the Psyche Part 3: Least Effort for Greatest Effect

IMG_7749Bertolt Brecht said “Grub before ethics.”  Maslow said there is a hierarchy of needs: one must first have food, shelter, fire, and water before she can focus on self-development or creativity.

If certain needs are not met, we stop developing.

This is as true of gardens as it is of people. If the soil on your land is depleted, no amount of backbreaking tilling, planting, or weeding is going to ensure a good harvest. But a tiny investment in building the soil will yield spectacular results.

If you are deeply exhausted, investments in education, nutrition, and exercise are not going to pay off. But if you give yourself a bit more sleep— everything transforms.

The principle of least effort for greatest effect has a beautiful assumption at its center: you are already moving toward self-realization. Everything is. You do not have to work and work and work to achieve perfection. Your only job is to discern what obstacles are hindering your natural perfection, and remove them.

By perfection, I do not mean the kind of perfect that is the enemy of the good. I mean a living, breathing balance, such as we see in a climax forest or a well-nourished, well-loved child. In natural perfection there is always room for growth, but there is nothing actively hindering that growth.

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Sometimes the obstacles are blindingly obvious: racism and poverty and other inequalities jump immediately to mind. Other times they are more insidious; we think we need to work harder when really we need to relax and be more receptive. We think we need to explain when really we need to listen. We think we need a brownie when really we need a hug. We think we need a hug when really we need a brownie.

If we can somehow open ourselves to the idea that we are intrinsically fine just as we are, the obstacles start to reveal themselves. What, then, is hindering us? Do we need shelter? Water? Fire? Food?

Do we need someone to listen to us? Do we need an hour more sleep per night? Do we need a room we can be alone in? Do we need a schedule that allows us to sleep late, or rise early?

Do we need to be working in a field that utilizes our natural gifts rather than deadens them?

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Do we just need a freaking cape? 

Five minutes spent removing an obstacle to your natural progress is worth a year’s hard labor fighting your own natural tendencies. That’s an actual statistic I made up.

So: how do we learn what our natural plan is, and what our obstacles are?

On Wednesday night we used two of my favorite tools, the Ikigai Venn diagram and the Merlin Process.

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To find your Ikigai, you look at the areas of overlap between your talents, your training, your passions, and the needs of the world. You find the sweet spot that encompasses all four, and THAT is where you put any extra energy, time, or money.

Tiny efforts in the area of your Ikigai yield exponential effects, because your passion and education and talent line up to push your ideas into the world.

(And if you need a refresher on how Venn diagrams work…

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…that should do it. )

Merlin Process is a joyful, heady way to trick your brain out of the insecurities that thwart you from achieving your Ikigai. Here’s how it works: Merlin is said to have lived backwards through time. Legend tells of his birth as an old man and his death as baby. The glory of this backward trajectory was that Merlin never had to worry about his future; it had already happened! We can play with this magic ourselves, by pretending our future is already in our past.

It works like this.  Take a little time and work out your Ikigai by making lists of the things you love, the things you are good at, the things you can get paid for, the things the world needs. Notice the areas of overlap. Work your Ikigai until you have it down as a sweet, solid sentence.

Now find an open-hearted friend and talk for five minutes IN THE PRESENT TENSE about how your Ikigai is the center of your life now. For example, if my Ikigai is to write and work with women on the overlap between ecology and psychology to solve personal and global injustices (which, by golly, it is!) then my Merlin Process conversation might go a bit like this:

Me: Wow, so, five years ago I remember sending my first book about permaculture and psychology off to the publisher….so much changed after that! I remember how I started traveling to talk about the book, and set up so many workshops and retreats for women who were suffering, and how the proceeds from book sales and the nonprofit I set up funded so many trainings for women all over the world. It feels so good that my job is to have my hands in the earth and to laugh with women, and I never have to get up before 8 am. I love how my needs for sunlight and laughter and connection and the outdoors are all fulfilled by my work, and it is so amazing to me that I can offer counseling and retreats to the women who most need it, women who would never be able to pay for these services if it weren’t for the incredible donors to my nonprofit and the proceeds from my books and gardens. It astounds me to have a life that leaves so much room for free days with my children, and travels with my beloved; I feel so at service and yet life is not drudgery. It means the world to me that I can respect my natural rhythms and take time for rest during my moon cycle. I love that the work I do leaves no footprint on the earth except for lands that are more deeply loved, lives that are more carefully tended.

Friend: Wow Lissa, tell me more about what your life feels like now! How on earth did you do that?

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Continue this conversation for as long as you want—you may surprise yourself with what you already know about how you got where you want to go! (And switch off with your friend so that everybody gets a turn being Merlin!)

Here’s another amazing story of least effort for greatest effect: Trees for Life and the instant forest . It also serves as a segue into next week’s workshop, our final exploration: the problem is the solution.  (my favorite!)

 

If you want to attend the permaculture and the psyche workshop on Wednesday, email maevehendrix@gmail.com to reserve a spot.

And if you do engage in the Ikigai/Merlin process above, I would LOVE to hear from you in a comment what you discovered about your purpose!

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August 28, 2016 · 9:31 pm

permaculture, psychology, and cancer

photograph by lori fernald khamala

sugar maple on my street…photograph by lori fernald khamala

I began my studies in clinical mental health counseling this fall.  I’ve been learning dozens of theories, from Freudian psychodynamics to Rogerian person-centered therapy.  But long before I began my studies in counseling, I studied botany and ecology, herbal medicine and permaculture. I can’t help myself; my understanding of people as ecological beings filters through and colors everything I am learning.

Permaculture, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is the study of ecological systems and their application to human designs.  Many think of it as a gardening system, and it is: a wonderful design-based system for the creation of self-tending perennial food forests.  But permaculture principles, based as they are on years of studying ecology, apply to most of human behavior–from the way we grow our food to the way we build our cities and shape our lives.

I’ve found myself quietly ignoring psychological theory and applying permaculture principles to my studies instead.  It seems to me that there is only one system we know of that is entirely self-sustaining and functional under all conditions, only one that accounts for every life and death and galaxy and virus. Why not study that, instead of a man from Vienna, if I want to know how the mind works? Continue reading

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November 2, 2013 · 3:25 am

Women’s Joy Circle: Healing

English: Molcajete y tejolote, (mortar and pes...

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing lately.  I am taking 7Song’s Herbal First Aid class remotely, and dawnings of understanding about the body’s capacity to heal are beginning to break through.  To heal the body, I’ve learned, you clear away anything that might be interfering with the body, and then allow it to heal itself.  The antimicrobial and sedative and carminative herbs we prescribe do not, per se, heal the body.  They relieve symptoms, help deal with invaders and optimize healing conditions, yes–but it is the body that heals.

And since we are beings of mind/body/spirit…not just one or the other, but all, always…it is also so with healing the spirit.  Heartbreak and grief and emotional exhaustion can’t be “fixed”.  Healing is not something you add to your routine like a bandaid.  Healing, for the heart, is just as it is for the body.  You remove everything that is impeding it.  It is already there.

I think about this in terms of my young motherhood.  There was little sleep, there was screaming and crying and utter exhaustion, there were ceaseless cycles of not-having-enough-hands, there were impossible gordian knots of chaos that seemed interminable.  And then, suddenly, about a year ago, I realized that this part was over.  I’m still not sure when it happened, but somehow, at some point, my children learned to bathe and feed and dress themselves, and to walk around without impaling themselves on butterknives or hurling themselves over cliffs, and there were, all at once,  moments of serenity between the gordian knots of chaos. I did not have to learn that serenity.  It was always there, simply waiting for its chance to emerge.

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And I believe this is the human condition.  It is interesting to think of God/Goddess/Spirit/Tao/Universal Intelligence as a young mother, marshaling the growth of this immature, spirited baby species, utterly exhausted by us.  It pleases me to think of it this way because then I can believe that our evolution is not meant to be a slow, steady progression toward “good” and “right” and “balance”—because, if it were, there is no evidence that we are progressing at all!  Perhaps it is instead this chaos of fits and starts—exhaustion and misery and impossible complication—and then, suddenly, moments of clarity and peace, of deep understanding and beauty.  And then the swan dive back into the chaos.  (Because I don’t for a moment imagine I’m out of the woods.  Teenage years start in T minus 5 x 365 x 24 hours).  If this is so, then there is hope for us.  There have been these moments of deep beauty and understanding and there will be again, the chaos of war and genocide and genetic engineering and sex trafficking notwithstanding.  We don’t inch toward perfection.  Perfection is already there, and from time to time we manage to peel away the outer circumstances concealing it.

We circled up on Monday and shared, as usual, first our names and then one word to describe ourselves at this moment.  I am always amazed by the articulations:  overjoyed.  frazzled.  overcome. happy. grieving. in my center. nervous. giving it a shot. healing. frantic. healing.

Using the word “healing” as a focal point, we settled in for a long, slow yoga practice.  We noticed what parts of our bodies responded to the word “healing” and what emotions it elicited.  We did a lot of cyclical movement, hip circles and knee circles and shoulder circles and circles of the head and ribs.  We checked in with our center by doing cat/cows in forearm plank position.  We spent long moments in child’s pose, compressing the third eye, scanning the body for areas of tightness and coldness and pain, using the breath to melt them down and open.  Yoga is wonderful for asking the questions of the body that a good herbalist would ask of the patient.  What is going on in the body?  Does this hurt? Do you feel cold or warm?  What moves easily?  What feels stuck?  I love my yoga practice for reliably peeling away one of the layers between me and healing, that layer of disconnection with my body.

English: Udara Shavásana Português: Udara Shav...

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Then we ate some of the 756 leftover scones from the herbal high tea (slight miscalculation.  Sorry Molly) and sipped tea while I discussed the next exercise.  I like to call it “The Two-Year-Old.”  You sit facing your partner and ask them “What hurts?” and they answer. When their words slow or stop, you ask “Why?” They answer again, and you continue to ask “Why?” for five minutes.  Have a pillow ready so that if they try to punch you in the face you can protect yourself.  I’m kind of kidding, a little.  But kind of not.

Then you ask your partner: “What do you want?” and allow them to answer.  When their words slow or stop, ask “Why?”  and continue as before.  Go for five minutes.  Then switch and have your partner ask you both questions.

Getting to “Why” is fascinating for so many reasons.  For one thing, you get to discover what makes you angry—usually just past that point of anger and annoyance is a very interesting insight.  For another, you get to discover the similarities between what you most want in this world and what has most hurt you.  You get to see that what you really want is inextricably tied in with what needs healing in you, because what hurts us in the world, what feels painful or isolating or deeply wrong, is what we are strongly called to fix or make right.  I have found that my deepest pleasures in life have been the moments when I can prevent someone from being wounded in the ways I was wounded, or create circumstances that bring joy and connection where I once felt alone or isolated.  I know that this is my work, and my healing process.  As I peel away the layers of misunderstanding and pain and rote behavior that keep me hurting, I heal both myself and my world.  Not by “fixing” anything.  Just by revealing the beauty that was already there.

I feel another “Permaculture and Parenting” article coming on, about removing limiting factors.  I so love this principle, that the perfect ecosystem is already there if you just set it up, get out of the way, and let it thrive.  That miracles happen in Zone Zero and Zone Five.  That you always leave a little wilderness as example and seedbank.  That the chaos is part of it all.

moments of serenity: our lovely Herbal High Tea

moments of serenity: our lovely Herbal High Tea

3 Comments

May 15, 2013 · 4:05 pm

permaculture and parenting: the problem is the solution

cobIt struck me today that permaculture (the study of applying natural principles to life design) might be a useful framework for approaching the thorniest, most gutwrenchingly complex aspect of my life. Namely parenting.

There are several basic principles of permaculture:  among them stacking functions (making sure that every vital job in your system is covered by more than one element), using vertical space, working with nature,  ‘everything gardens’ (noticing the ways in which other species naturally modify their environment, and using them to your advantage), and my favorite, ‘the problem is the solution’.  Now clearly all of these have some very interesting applications to parenting (using vertical space?) , but I’m going to focus on ‘the problem is the solution’ right now and perhaps return to the others in later posts.

The way this principle was described to me requires a bit of backstory.  See, I got my original permaculture certification in Scotland. (I was woefully oblivious to the bioregion-specific nature of permaculture design, and shocked to discover upon my return to North Carolina that my newfound in-depth training in  a) sheep and their ways, b) rocky soil, and c) managing heavy winds did precious little to advance the health of my animal-free, red clay, zephyrless plot of land.)

English: Old Scots Pine and Trees For Life vol...

Trees for Life volunteers

So. Scotland is actually temperate rainforest.  The land there is always yearning to return to a forested state, still holds the seedbank in the soil to accomplish this, and is prevented from it only by the incessant grazing of sheep.

An incredible group in Scotland called Trees for Life, wishing to regenerate Scotland’s forests, identified sheep as their primary obstruction.  Having done so, the solution presented itself: build fences.  Testing this theory, they surrounded an acre of land with sheep-proof fencing, the dormant seeds already present in the soil sprouted, and soon a diverse woodland stood where once there had been only grass.

Had they not identified sheep as the problem, this elegant solution would never have presented itself.

This story jumped into my mind today as I biked my younger son home from his school, where we’d spent a few extra hours digging out grass and preparing garden beds for carrots and wildflowers.  He was hot from the exertion, crabby from the change in schedule, and generally whiny.  Every communication was a complaint.  We got frustrated with each other, there were tantrums and tears, and the whole afternoon began to fall apart.

I took a deep breath and stopped the train. If complaining was the problem, then surely, if permaculture principles are worth their salt, complaining would also be the key to solving it.

As a student of the womanly arts, I have learned that complaints are simply blocked desires. A complaint about the inattentiveness of a mate is simply a desire for deep attention.  A complaint about the mess in the house is a desire for sacred, clear space. It is far more effective to state, say, “there is something super hot about a man with a trowel in a garden full of scented flowers” than “geez, would you get off your butt and help me do the weeding?”

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I’ve never once considered applying EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED IN EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF MY LIFE to the most important job I’ve ever had, but what can I say?  I’m an expert compartmentalizer.  If that’s a word.

So it finally struck me that behind Yvar’s complaints were desires.  And I began to listen to the desires instead of the whining.  In this way, “I hate all of the itchy stuff all over and I hate being here!” became “I need to feel clean and comfortable, and to get out of the sun.”  And  “everything is too bright and awful and these pants are wrong!” became “I need someplace cool and calm, and to get out of these clothes.”  And that’s how Yvar ended up in a candlelit sea-salt-and-lavender bath, giggling, singing, telling me stories.  And that’s how the stress of a sunburnt afternoon turned to ocean-scented magic.

One of my favorite problem-is-the-solution stories involves both gardening and parenting.  Back in California, I adopted a small earth berm at the Learning Garden.  It was choked with couch grass and the fruit trees planted there were straggly and malnourished. I would take Aiden, then about four years old, with me a few afternoons a week to try and rehabilitate it. There was a five-gallon bucket I’d throw the couch grass into, and it was Aiden’s job to empty it into the green waste bin once it was full (no way was I putting couch grass roots into the compost.)

aiden

One afternoon, we arrived to work and I saw that the five gallon bucket was still sitting there, still full of last week’s couch grass, unemptied.  To make matters worse, it had rained, and now the thing was full to the brim and slimy with rainwater. I was frustrated with Aiden for neglecting his responsibility, but I needed the bucket and didn’t want to waste the water, so I slogged it onto the dying fruit trees before throwing the decomposing grasses away and commencing to weed.

The week after, we returned to find the fruit trees thriving.  You guessed it—couch grass tea is a phenomenal fertilizer.  The problem is the solution.

9 Comments

April 27, 2013 · 2:37 am

famine and feast

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fallen cherry petals on the herb spiral

Oh, the abandoned abundance of nature.  Autumn does not scatter leaves artfully here and there, but strews them in an eight-inch-deep blanket all the way to horizon.  Spring is not a few petals drifting on the wind, it’s a snowstorm of color that lasts for weeks.  Until it’s gone.  And then, sometimes, there is nothing at all.  For days, weeks, months on end.  For all that we cleave to the storied ‘balance’ of nature, there is nothing moderate or balanced in the least about natural systems.

Right now there are violets clustered everywhere, their drooping heads hidden beneath their rapidly greening heart-shaped leaves. I gather them by the fistful, walking by the stream, and when I turn to go home I see that I have made not the slightest dent in the wash of purple. Next week, they will all be gone.

Last year a friend had a particularly productive winter squash patch and we feasted on squash all winter.  Now our compost pile is overrun with squash seedlings, deep green and veined and beautiful, but doomed.  They are competing for sun, water, space, and most will not survive.  Beside the compost pile is a small mountain of grass clippings; I stalk the neighborhood with my wheelbarrow and cart them away.  There is always more than I can carry this time of year.  But a few months ago—nothing.

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I’ve been letting this sink in today.  Could it be that there is nothing wrong with me?  Could it be that is is natural to have periods of deep, flowering, intense productivity followed by a fallow season?  Could it be that there is no such thing as life balance?   Continue reading

6 Comments

April 26, 2013 · 1:44 am

the perfect is the enemy of the good

English: Photo of Bee Balm Plant (Monarda)

It has taken me so long to plant my little garden here.  There was far too much information coursing through my mind—ecotones and hedges, guilds, layered food forests, medicinal companion plants, swales and ponds and microclimates.  I would gaze out at the muddy clay of this unfamiliar soil and feel too overwhelmed to start.

Or, more truthfully, too fearful of making a mistake.  Of not building a garden complex enough, beautiful enough, after all of these years of landscape design and permaculture  training.  Garden after garden that I’ve designed, labored over, loved, and left behind.  After a while it hurts.  So I built no garden here.

But somewhere I read this, or heard this—I forget now where— “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”  And I realized that I was doing what I have done far too often in my life, letting my desire for perfection inhibit me from acting at all. Continue reading

6 Comments

April 13, 2013 · 12:50 am

on time

English: The white-lipped snail (Cepaea horten...

I have noticed a disturbing tendency in myself lately.  I am “moving through” things.  You know what I mean, right?  You’re reading a book to your kid and flipping over two pages at a time hoping they won’t notice, because it’s a repetitive f-ing book anyway and you’ve got things to do.  You’re eating yogurt while standing up and simultaneously reading because it takes too long to stirfry burdock and wild greens. You’re internally rolling your eyes when your child takes up an interest in quilting, because oh my god, are you kidding? Do you have any idea WHAT A TIME-CONSUMING PROJECT THAT IS?

But, at the same time, you have no idea what you’re cutting all of these corners for.  At the end of the day you’re just napping, or reading, or checking facebook.  What was the point of all the hurrying? And wait just a second, isn’t it freaking AWESOME that my eight-year-old wants to QUILT?  What happened to me?  Because I say “you”, but I mean “me”.  Me, the one who used to live in a hut made of twigs I’d built myself heated by a lard-can-stove I’d made myself, writing my college papers on a manual typewriter because I didn’t have electricity, eating groundnuts I’d painstakingly dug and sipping tea made with water tapped from trees because I didn’t trust the cleanliness of the stream.  Now I somehow don’t have time to read the even-numbered  pages of Green Eggs and Ham?

Continue reading

7 Comments

March 6, 2013 · 3:40 am

Women’s Joy Circle: Celebrating Beauty

Henna design at 36 hours

self-decoration with henna

Every Monday, the Greensboro Women’s Joy Circle meets to share stories, sip tea, brag, write, stretch, dance, and meditate…every week it is a different constellation of women, and every week we explore a new theme as we continue to build daring, joyful lives.  On Tuesdays, I share what we’ve learned with you.

Okay, disclaimer:  the women’s joy circle didn’t actually meet this week.  My wonderfully intelligent body kicked the crap out of me because I had decided to take a trip that my spirit, mind, and intuition were all warning me against.  (“Just try to go NOW” purred my body from its supine position, too feverish to allow me even to pick up the phone and cancel my airplane ticket.)  There is a treatment when sickness has progressed this far: it is called SHUT UP AND LISTEN.  As in, put your echinacea tincture down, girl, get some sleep, and next time your intuition kicks in PAY ATTENTION.  All right, all right.  Sheesh.  Anyway, what follows is a description of a women’s circle from last month.

We congregated to celebrate beauty.  We stood in that circle and took each others’ hands and looked in each others’ eyes and decided that we would make our own definitions of beauty that night; that we would love and celebrate and affirm what we saw.  And then I passed out bellydance scarves and put on this song and we were off.  We practiced hip circles, and rib circles; we learned to flutter our bellies and shimmy like fiends.  Some of us had never bellydanced before.  It didn’t matter.  This is a female dance form, sinuous and cyclical.  It comes pretty naturally and feels wonderful.  It is felt beauty, moving like this, letting the body spiral and shake, and laughter bubbled out naturally from all of us.

Bodies warm and loved, hearts full, we sat on the floor and I brought out my little bags of prepared hennaContinue reading

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March 5, 2013 · 3:11 am

the one herb i’d never be without.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioicea) is a miracle herb.

It embodies the permaculture principle “the problem is the solution”: nettle juice heals its own sting.  Taking a few minutes to contemplate that can unleash a lot of insight. Continue reading

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