From my alternative blog: Live as if others really mattered:
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
I could be calling this post many other ways:
“From a place of regeneration to a place of destruction”
“From a place of caring to a place of detaching”
“From a place of inclusion to a place of loneliness and despair”
That is how I feel on my fourth day after coming back from my Permaculture Teachers Training at O.U.R. Ecovillage…but, as a Permaculturist, I also feel inspired, rejuvenated, regenerated and eager to start my next project…
At home, my little dog who may live ~12 years (from which she has already lived 6) is sitting somewhere waiting for me to come back…how does she spend the day? Outside is sunny and bright, spring is sprouting everywhere, but she can’t run freely, not even when I come back: we are surrounded by houses in a suburban area…running unleashed is dangerous for a dog…
My two boys will come back from school to an empty house. Their mother doesn’t show up until 5:30 (with luck, if I can catch the earliest bus); meanwhile, I’m keeping myself busy behind a computer screen and longing to have my hands dirty in the soil…
At O.U.R., a concert of frogs and crickets would escort me when leaving to my room at night and all kinds of birds, a rooster and a flock of noisy but friendly wild turkeys would wake me up and sing all my way from the room to the eatery and through the forest…
I could see the moon and more stars than anywhere else when going to sleep: even through the skylight located at the cob house where I had my bed…the light would slowly come in through it and the clear windows in the morning…
Here, I can’t go to sleep because car after car park or leave from my house front (I live in a townhouse)…when “silence” is finally achieved, I have no frogs, no crickets but a shallow electrical sound coming from everywhere around me…
In the morning, garage doors and cars start as early as 4 am…I can barely discriminate the sound of one or two bird types still coming to my yard…
“The monks’ response was to climb into their curraghs and row off toward Greenland. They were drawn across the storm-racked ocean, drawn west past the edge of the known world, by nothing more than a hunger of the spirit, a yearning of such queer intensity that it beggars the modern imagination.” ~ Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
At O.U.R., chores were simple and repetitive, but part of a bigger picture: all what you did would have direct consequences on the environment and other species and human beings. We didn’t take more food, water or paper than what we needed. You had to clean after yourself: wash your dishes, dry the shower room, organize and collect what you had messed with. You had to collaborate with community chores; there was always time to share a smile, a hug, a little pat on the shoulder or a deeper conversation. No TV, no radio, no big computers around, the Internet was fast and strong enough to connect for a few minutes a day…we even lost the interest on following the “news” or checking emails…
“In nature nothing exists alone.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
I grew up in a big city, loving coffee shops and book-stores, the convenience of the corner store and the local bakery. Shopping malls were not yet invented (I feel lost and confused in them) and mom didn’t want a TV and wouldn’t buy soft drinks for us. We had a small car that caught fire after a camping trip and no money to buy another, so we happily jumped in city trains and buses…credit didn’t exist (or we were not eligible for it) and as soon as she could, mom bought some land outside the city boundaries and, with the help of friends who would come for potluck and “asados”, we slowly built a small, two-room brick house with an outhouse as a bath and shower room…we had a vegetable garden and no fences. Every night neighbours and friends would come and share a “mate” or some drinks. I was lucky enough to attend an after school program at a somewhat “fantasy land” in the middle of Buenos Aires: the I.N.T.A. (National Institute of Agro-Technology) had plenty of forests and botanic gardens and was used for study, experimentation and observation of different natural systems. As the child of one of the employees, I spent many days walking, building “refuges”, exploring, playing and just wondering around pines, eucalyptus, ombu trees and daisies…
“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” ~ Rachel Carson
Before the world turned upside down for all of us, childhood was wondrous. For those of us didn’t have a perfect childhood (monsters are hidden behind many “happy” walls), Nature offered a way to escape a crazy, isolating and abusive world. Nature was always my preferred refuge. School (believe it or not) was my second: I was blessed with a very unorthodox, explorative and transformative system as all the schools mom sent me to where “pilot” of innovative approaches. Unlike other less fortunate children, I loved school: I could be myself, free, creative and curious and teachers would expand the boundaries of my mind allowing me to stretch beyond the obvious.
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.” ~ Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder: Stories of Work
At O.U.R., I feel in control of my life. I feel grounded and settled, like coming home…
It is a strange feeling, because I used to think of myself as somebody who needs privacy and doesn’t really work that well in teams: not because I don’t like people (social justice and community work are my terrain), but because group-work paralyzes me: I usually need space (and time) to digest things and create…the noise caused by the presence of others (even loved ones) creates chaos and a sense of powerlessness. But at O.U.R. I actually enjoyed being with others and I didn’t feel their presence as invasive or depriving.
Suddenly, the longing for connection disappeared because I was already connected.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
This fifth visit to O.U.R. and the Permaculture Teachers Training was more than just “training to teach”. It was a training on other aspects of Permaculture within Permaculture: beyond the garden, beyond growing food, beyond the homestead or farm dream…Permaculture is a way of life, a philosophy based on working with Nature instead of against it…a philosophy where each one of us is made completely aware of their presence and impact on the world and therefore, responsible for the consequences of every choice we make.
Jude, our teacher, graciously walked us through this landscape: teaching Permaculture while living Permaculture. How can you teach Permaculture without demonstrating (with every cell of your body) that you care for the Earth, care for the people and share fairly?
Unlike here, where our choices are hidden and withered by layers and layers of middle-men, institutions, stories we tell others about ourselves and stories others tell about us…so when we take more than we need or deserve, we are not made accountable for the portion we are robbing others, and when we throw things “away”, somebody out there is making sure we don’t see the damage, the pollution and the suffering, even the extinction we are causing…
Self-facilitation was the key to stay in the “now” and aware of ourselves. To make us accountable of how we allow ourselves to use other people’s time and learning space (not just ours)
“In much of the rest of the world, rich people live in gated communities and drink bottled water. That’s increasingly the case in Los Angeles where I come from. So that wealthy people in much of the world are insulated from the consequences of their actions.” ~ Jared Diamond
Billions still think (and feel) they are different and separated from Nature. That we can achieve independence from other species and Mother Earth through the use of science and technology…they have forgotten that their own bodies are ecosystems for microorganisms , that they need air, water, food and love to survive.
And we have created a “science” which studies our brains and tries to understand why there seems to be an epidemic of loneliness, stress, depression and all kind of mental and emotional illnesses. And we have created another (science) which studies why our bodies are becoming unfit and achy and prone to so many diseases.
Disease and pests, says Permaculture, are the symptoms of an imbalance in the system: something is going off in us when we become sick: either we have too much of something, or we have too little.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
Transition (the fourth Permaculture ethic) asks us for acceptance of the imperfection in design (around ourselves, our lives, the landscapes and systems we design) as we transition from a terribly unsustainable world to a more just, connected, resilient and truly sustainable one.
Accepting the imperfection of our own transition stages doesn’t necessarily mean leaving it like it is.
“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease”. ~John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)
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