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Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Category            Permaculture Principles

‘Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path’

This was just too good not to share, from “Essence of Permaculture”, Holmgren:

Eastern spiritual traditions and martial arts regard peripheral vision as a critical sense that connects us to the world quite differently to focused vision.  Whatever is the object of our attention, we need to remember that it is at the edge of anything – system or medium, that the most interesting events take place; design that sees edge as an opportunity rather than a problem is more likely to be successful and adaptable. In the process, we discard the negative connotations associated with the word “marginal” in order to see the value in elements that only peripherally contribute to a function or system.in rural development work, the focus on staple crops, prime agricultural land and clearly articulated aims and values within communities frequently leads to undervaluing, ignorance and destruction of wild species, marginal spaces, along with the less visible needs of women, the disadvantaged and the landless.”

Oh, those edges…I’ve looked at edges from both sides now…and whether the margins be brambled forest or concrete jungle, this is indeed where the juicy stuff happens.  The mere mention of ‘weeds’ is enough to cause many a stalwart, upright human to bend and resemble our knuckle-dragging cousins.  Is this genetic?  I suppose I’ve been a hippie too long, because I see nothing wrong with a few green things ‘out of place’, and in fact I prefer wild overgrowth to manicured lawn.  And yes, the dirt beneath my broken fingernails is somewhat permanent–that is a fact.  The lack thereof might be more of an indication that something is out of whack.

In Early American Literature we learned that the woods represented ‘the dark side’—the wild and untamed was no-man’s land to the first European settlers in the ‘New World’.  Little did they know that the indigenous people already inhabiting the land had management systems in place, which were quickly encroached upon by the order-seeking Old Worlders.  To those who crave order, natural systems are messy and undesirable, and the ones who thrive in those untidy systems would likely be categorized as ‘marginal’, (just as ‘those dirty hippies’ and ‘Anarchists’ are labeled now).   Our society revels in drawing lines between the ‘middle’ and the edge—exemplified in the massive variety of television programming highlighting the fringe, from cop show, ‘real’ or fictional, to reality programming focusing on everything from hoarders to gun-toting survivalists.

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The Scarlet Letter

 HoldSignSND

Who is on the fringe in your world?  Is it Auntie Mabel, of crazy cat lady fame?  Or is it the homeless guy holding the “will work for food” sign on the corner?  In the Florida Bay area we have an entire county of those marginal, fringy types—once a retirement destination, now land of the lost, haven for illicit drug trade—the highway lined with strip malls and strippers—a nutrient-rich soup, for some things.  Many of those who subscribe to permaculture principles would consider themselves as marginal, on a conventional scale, however even those on the fringe have a fringe—the possibilities for edge are everywhere.  And, as any proper queen (edge players, every one) can tell you—you just can’t have too much fringe or froth.  Therein lies one excellent example of ‘edge’ in our world—that of the gender unconventional.  The entire country if not continent has willingly divided on lines of conservative and not-so, based on a book of rules written for a culture thousands of years past.  This is not how species adapt, mind you, but it has proven very effective for filling the coffers of the few, because the way to wealth lies in creating conflict and supplying the war.

Any battleground, however, also grows lots of edges—think of all of the marginal people created by PTSD and war wounds—families torn apart scatter and create new alliances elsewhere.   Those who grew up, as I and my sister did, military brats, moved from place to place without any opportunity to put down solid roots—nothing but edge in our childhood.  This leads to a strong core, adaptability, and also extreme estrangement of any sense of community, outside of family and perhaps others in the same boat.  We’re all marginal, and we have an uncanny ability to find one another in the world—brats like me, and we’re all ‘outsiders’ to some degree.

Like Hester Prynne, heroine of The Scarlet Letter, me might heed the advice of the narrator:

”The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude!  These had been her teachers — stern and wild ones — and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.”

To truly understand and appreciate the marginal, we must walk, and think, and exist for a time, outside the boundaries of what we were raised to be…to believe—that is how to embrace diversity, and value the marginal.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

 

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Category            Permaculture Principles

“The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the seventh generation.”

Some might read this title as “self-control” and “critique”, and I love the fact that it is addressed early in the principles, because this one is key to understanding social permaculture and ‘invisible structures’.  Heard that one mentioned yet?  It’s permaculture jargon, to be sure—and it’s also something very important to know and pay attention to.  If we are to actually create the kind of change, to transition this entire planet from the energy-sucking waste pit it has become, into the harmonious, beautiful, regenerative place we know it can be—we had better understand something about people, and how they develop these ‘invisible structures’.

Principle #4 does not, in fact, refer to self-control—it is a re-iteration and a deeper understanding of ‘observe and interact’—this is the second turn of the spiral, where we go back and look again with new eyes at what we perceived before.  This is the “Hotel California” mentioned in the last section, where you can check-out but never leave–the part about where we come to recognize that we all come into every situation with our own ideas, experiences, and expectations—which may or may not be met there.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Ok, perhaps a bit overly dramatic, but the fact is—no one likes to be criticized, we all take things personally, and it takes a very long time to get to the point where one can truly self-regulate on a consistent basis—we all have bad days—I’m sure even the Dalai Lama gets irritated once in a while.  The point is to be aware of this rule—that, as permaculturists we strive to maintain a higher standard—one which allows us space to step back and re-evaluate with no judgment.   We ALL make mistakes—what this principle speaks of is the ability to open our minds to the possibility that there may just be another way, one that hadn’t occurred to us before.  This does not mean we need to go around pointing out others’ flaws, no–in fact—noticing what we consider ‘mistakes’ or ‘weaknesses’ or other character flaws can often give us great insight into our own foibles.  If not for community, how little opportunity we would have to grow as individuals!  This is one of the great values to ‘community’, and one of my personal favorite aspects of all of the permaculture courses and convergences I’ve attended—that sharing of ideas, leading to growth of each individual as well as the whole.

Personally, I’m a bit of a hermit—introvert for certain, far more comfortable in my home environment than out with people, as a rule.  There are, however, some acute disadvantages to being a ‘homebody’, which is why I choose to involve myself in many communities.  We think we get it right, those of us who are thinkers and planners and analyzers—but we must actually apply those thoughts and plans and hypothesis, because only half of the equation has taken place—the scientific method requires testing.  Sometimes over, and over and over again, until we get it right—and even then, adjustments must be made.  ‘Organic’ means that the system develops on its own—more of an evolution than an application, and what we do as designers is try to come as close to an organic system as we possibly can, mimicking the patterns of Mother Nature.  We are so embedded by adulthood into the systems we were raised in–the challenge to continually review and revise our social interactions, especially, can be daunting.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”

 

If this had happened, more, at the Cuba convergence—we would not have spent half our time in lines, or waiting on buses.  We might not have missed half of the farms we intended to see.  Perhaps we might have had the time to implement some permaculture project designs, if we had not been forced to contribute so much energy to helping provide sustenance to those with specific dietary preferences, or translation for language barriers.  The old saying ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ no longer applies in the world we are creating—not if Rome is the one responsible for the breakdown of society, the economy, or our planet.  Now is when we make the choice to make a different choice, and that means constantly questioning our own thoughts and actions, and learning to listen carefully to others.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

This is us, after all, isn’t it—permaculturists, on the whole?  We are so fired up, especially during and after one of our gatherings, that the energy must dissipate somehow, somewhere.  Often that appears to be on one another, or on an unsuspecting public, still feeling their way along with blinders on.  It is our responsibility to help them to clear vision, however, not to bat them over the head with concepts they have no tools yet to understand.  (This, by the way, is me speaking of myself—this is where I fall down, over and over again—in making the assumption that the person I’m having a conversation with has come to that place having traveled the same road, which is rarely the case.)  So, I find myself applying this principle again and again—self regulation, and the harder one—accepting feedback, which I have learned to ask for when appropriate.

Here are four words to remember and to use with impunity whenever faced with the necessity to change some course of action or design—four simple words, which can change the outcome of any difficult situation:

“I made a mistake.”

Now, the next step is simple—make a new choice, change the line of the swale, the angle of the gutter, the composition of the soil, the mode of communication—change your mind, and others may as well.

Image

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost

(Or, as my dad likes to say:  “If you see a fork in the road, what do you do?”  …”pick it up.”)                              Image

Thanks to my dear friend Jemma Sinclair, for always helping me to see the road less traveled, and to remain happy with that choice.

Read the Series:

Introduction:  “Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

     

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.