Spirit of the woods – Transformative Learning (updated)

One never reaches home,’ she said. ‘But where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.”
~ Hermann Hesse, Demian

There is a new corner of this beautiful world that now has a special place in my heart. Its name is Roberts Creek, in the Sunshine Coast of BC.

Today, I had an introduction to Permaculture and I was not disappointed: it was all what I was expected, and much more…

I saw the magic of Permaculture a few weeks ago when I took the PDC at UBC-Farm: there were two moments during the course when I “saw” the matrix of life and also felt our interconnectedness…for a few seconds, I didn’t know where I ended and the other person began…I felt one with everything and everything made sense: memories, stories, myths, feelings, longings, hunches about what the world is and the meaning of it all, suddenly fell into place.

The free intro today started in Surrey on a rainy, even stormy and cold day. When we arrived at the Gumboot Cafe (in Roberts Creek) after carpooling and ferry-ing for about two hours, we felt immediately at home: is one of those places that has “character”, good food and service in an old-fashioned woody environment of comfy tables and neat cabin-like windows. After a few minutes we met Delvin, an elf dedicated to spread the wisdom of Permaculture to anyone who has the willingness to listen and learn: one of the kindest spirits I’ve ever met.

During the morning, we learned about the six “biodynamic” plants that can make a different in your garden: dandelion, valerian, yarrow, stinging nettle, chamomile and comfrey (oops! White Oak!). All of them have both spiritual and medicinal significance for many old and well established cultures, but they also contain important nutrients, play interesting functions in the garden (from nitrogen fixers to insect attractors and dynamic accumulators) and can be used for composting and “healing” the soil. Many of them are sadly considered “weed”, but they are actually pioneer and healing plants.

We met a majestic big leaf maple, an old tree covered by lichen and learned that that lichen (lungwort) was a symbiotic organism, which means they (the tree and the lichen) help each other with different functions (again, Nature is more about cooperation than competition!)

Before going for a longer walk to the near beach, we explored the internal gardens (Heart Gardens) and discovered a perennial edible cover plant (redwood sorrel) . Delvin reminded us that food security is not about growing more annual crops (most of them non native) but about re-learning about the edible and medicine perennial/native plants that have supported native people for centuries.

For aboriginal communities, there is no difference between “edible” and “medicine”: you just need to know how much you can eat from a particular plant (and what parts, or whether they require some preparation before being eaten). Food is medicine.

We visited the gardens that sustain the coffee shop and a small edible forest right at the side of the street, we observed trees using comfrey as mulching and winter covers preparing the soil for the next year’s garden; then we walked to a community mandala and the town’s pier which has a breathtaking view of the ocean…

Along the way, we learned about Permaculture concepts and its ethics: Care for the Earth, Care for the People and Fair Share. I also learned a fourth ethic: transition, or change…which means accepting not-so-sustainable solutions as a transitional choice to a more sustainable future (or “do what you can with what you have at hand”). We also learn how we can “vote” with our money and our everyday decisions, if we just base our decisions in Permaculture ethics: what is the life-cycle of this object or service I want to acquire? Where are the materials coming from? Are they renewable? How is this going to be disposed? How is this object or service caring for the Earth, caring for people and creating fair share?

After a great potluck lunch full of organic, local and wonderful crafted food from each one of the 11 participants and watching Permaculture videos at Delvin’s place, we went to an incredibly beautiful forest, where we explored Permaculture principles while watching water falls, old trees and fairy bridges.

The day ended at Delvin’s with a great Permaculture’s cards made mandala and a great comfort herbal tea.

Fun to know that my name (Silvia) means “spirit of the wood” in Latin, where the name originated. I fell in love with that forest today. And again, for the third time, with Permaculture.

For those eager to make a difference in this world, for those asking what is this all about, for those who are aware of the many predicaments we are facing, for those overwhelmed with pain for the world, I recommend to take a deeper look into Permaculture. It will never disappoint you.

Some great books to start reading:

“A Designer’s Manual” by Bill Mollison

“Earth’s user guide to Permaculture” by Rosemary Morrow

“Gaia’s Garden” by Toby Hemenway

Websites with open source tools and resources:

Gaia Craft: http://www.gaiacraft.com/free-tools/

Courses: http://www.gaiacraft.com/courses/

Permaculture is revolution disguised as organic gardening

~Graham Burnett ‘Permaculture – A Beginners Guide

It is time for all of us to make changes about how we live our lives and to follow a path of the heart. By following our intuition and inspiration we encourage our own acts of heartfelt genius and boldness. This makes us feel alive and vital, gives us a great purpose and harnesses parts of ourselves we may have neglected or didn’t even know we had. We no longer feel overwhelmed by the way the Earth’s resources are managed, but recognise that change is in our hands, yours and mine, the hands of extraordinary people who have made a leap of understanding and are determined to make a difference. We become part of the change by becoming part of the solution.”
~ Glennie Kindred ‘Earth Wisdom’

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