Permaculture 2.0 : The Rekindling of a Flame

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Dr Schweitzer’s quote summarizes very well this past weekend trip of mine to Roberts Creek in the Sunshine Coast: I had not attended a Permaculture-related class since last March/April when I was the TA (teacher assistant) for Jude Hobbs’ PcTT (Permaculture teachers training)…my last trip to my beloved OUR Ecovillage was a painful eye opener showing what in Permaculture we call “limits” to what I felt as a call. It was also a painful reminder of how split many of us are, living two or more lives that cannot possibly integrate into one coherent one.

A series of events and “choices” sent me down a “spiral of erosion” (to use Looby MacNamara’s concepts) and I found myself floating away from Permaculture, lost and terribly isolated from the values, projects and people I  love so much.

The Trip:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~ Marcel Proust

Ferry coming to Horseshoe Bay
Ferry coming to Horseshoe Bay

I travelled Saturday morning. It was a rainy day, designed to discourage anybody…the trip from home to Horseshoe Bay took about 3 hours between bus, train and more bus. Then the little ferry to Langdale: a nice woman offered me a ride to Roberts Creek and I accepted. It was her jeep or the bus and she sounded more exiting: on the road, she shared with me her love for riding motorcycles and how she was living at a little cabin all by herself. In less of 40 minutes we talked about life, partners, divorce, children, relationships and women’s freedom and love for adventure. I may never see her again, but her jeep reminded me of that of my uncle H. (my first love) and how he drove it with a then 6-year-old Silvia, both laughing at the sun and wind of another Coast located in the opposite side of the planet…Allison and her jeep reminded me of freedom, love and dreams…and all the strength and potential inside every woman.

Attending the last day of the diploma program was an inspiring relief: it took away the pressure to do something extraordinary and showed me the many different ways Permaculture inspiration can be used in people’s lives and their communities…it also give me ideas of how to integrate the many learning experiments, official and unofficial work experiences and projects I’ve been done in the last three years (more, but for Permaculture diploma documentation purposes I need to only collect what I’ve done since my first PDC)

That evening I struggled with my own values: why documenting? For who? Who cares? What’s the value of it? In a society highly focused on the individual and his/her “achievements”, where “selfies” and self-reporting are so common, I didn’t want to use my time to “document” what I do, I want to just do it!

But then a few things hit me: first was a video of Bob Hopkins (initiator of Transition Movement) mentioning the importance of valuing what we do no matter how small we think it is: I had personally struggled with this: “what difference a veggie plot in the suburbs would make?” I’ve been asking these types of questions again and again lately about every single thing I do, and sometimes about what others invite me to do…but then I have had co-workers telling me they started a garden, or fermenting, or whatever, inspired by the things I do and write about!  I have people telling me they took PDCs because of something I shared or presented in a workshop… And I saw myself inspired by what I saw in other’s people’s presentations…


I stayed in “Up the Creek”, a hostel for backpackers I highly recommend: clean, cozy and friendly…that night I continue reading the amazing book (which deserves an entire blog post in itself): “My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization” by Chellis Glendinning…the rain continued poring over the family room glass ceiling and I had the opportunity to chat with a nice girl who was travelling all around Canada as a woofer and work-exchange: another sign of the strong/free woman inside each one of us! (Did I see a piece of my younger self in her?)
….

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Sunday was a magical morning…: allowed me to see deeper on how my new job (working with people on the edges of society) matched Permaculture ethics and principles…it was also an opportunity for me to be more personal and open with my mentor and share my path fears and struggles (a bit, not much)

We all have a special place where we collect certain memories: memories can become patterns in your brain as you recall them on purpose time after time. This will be one I’ll treasure. Along with one happening on last September when the bloody moon eclipse in a cob bench with Nasturtiums’ seeds and flowers. What makes us alive can’t be translated to words…

I found this sonnet in a book; it reminds me of those memories:

And yet some Thing that moves among the stars,
And holds the cosmos in a web of law,
Moves too in me: a hunger, a quick thaw
Of soul that liquefies the ancient bars,
As I, a member of creation, sing
The burning oneness binding everything” ~ Kenneth Boulding 1993

Sunday class: 20 souls of all ages: all types of projects, experiences, dreams, all representing a piece of the human journey…we shared our hopes, hiked into the sacred forest, held hands, listened: all remembering the words that made us change in the first place: the moment we decide to stop the cycle, wake up and start responding the call: from the ecosystems, from other humans, from the future.


That evening I took an unexpected gift: with my (almost incontrollable) Horse of Fire tendency to jump I took a little book I thought I could read and reflect on: “A Demanding and Uncertain Adventure
by Rosemary Morrow.

With eagerness (I absolutely adore Rosemary Morrow’s work in Permaculture with refuges and vulnerable communities!) I open the book in the Up the Creek’s kitchen table: an apple, a cup of tea and a notebook to take notes…what a strange book! Rosemary opens it with a “letter” to James Backhouse as this is part of a series of talks organized by Quakers in Australia…

Rosemary shares her life experience and transformation and how she became a missionary whose first goal is to restore the Earth and its ecosystems while through the work on food and water systems, she also allows peoples to empower themselves…a book about challenges and discoveries of an extraordinary woman, what can be more inspiring? How after reading about her experiences can one not document their own?

Returning to Civilization

Here is where the challenge begins: how to move Permaculture towards “mainstream”? (or the other way around)?

It is easy to feel connected and inspired in a place like Roberts Creek where birds, trees and water all speak to you…coming down to take the bus this morning I was exhilarant and strong…after five hours of extensive travel and waiting times, I found myself in the city and felt the hard corners of the buildings hurting me, the tough non-eye contact of busy and hurried people walking slapping my smile shut.

Reality faced me with a house with un-done dishes: I quickly remembered I’m not Allison in her jeep, I don’t live in a tiny house up on the mountains, my (not so young) children like Coca Cola and fast food, my ideas are not understood or supported and I’m seen as a bit crazy and tolerated (for now) as long as I don’t do something too radical…

A third book I’m reading (about non-violent communication) reminds me that we don’t “have to” do things/accept situations or relationships where we are not happy…we “choose to” because we don’t like, or fear, the consequences of choosing differently. I’m still trying to digest that and trying to check against so many situations people are forced to face (“have to”) as what Rosemary describes in her book…but me? do I also “have to”?

Will say no more than this for now: that this trip marked the re-kindling of a flame: that of Permaculture and its potential…

2016 is just at the corner, I can almost see it…the year when I’ll turn the age that Plato said we start being “adults”…
Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
Thanks to serendipity who brought me Rosemary Morrow’s book, Allison and her jeep, the girl at Up the Creek, the two travelling ladies from South Africa, classmate Carol, my Permaculture mentor and dear friend Delvin and the 20 people who started this new journey with me…

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