Happy New Year, Permaculture Resolutions, and Where Do We Go From Here?
I have never understood why January 1 is the day we mark off an old year and decide we are starting a new one. The time seems so random; the day could be numbered anything. We can probably thank Julius Caesar or maybe Pope Gregory XIII for the designation, and although the Earth will be closest to the sun on January 4 (the “perihelion”), the time of the Solstice makes much more sense to me as a beginning for a new year. It is that moment when we pass from the longest night to a wee moment more of brightness. It is the true turning.
But so it is another year – and like the early Romans who celebrated the two-faced god, Janus, who had one face looking forward and another looking back, January is a time for renewed reflection and vows for change.
The Year in Review:
Looking back, we define our time with events: births, deaths, marriages, special occasions; whereas the mundane blurs from one day into the next until we marvel at where it all went. 2016 was admittedly a roller-coaster year. For our family, a new grandchild was a definite highlight. In the garden, our first year with the Solexx Greenhouse definitely proved its worth. We had bumper crops of all kinds of berries, cherries, plums, and apples, thanks to the bees. Being able to help with both the Medicinal Herb Growing and Marketing Conference and the Northwest Permaculture Convergence were two events that stood out in the year and at which I was privileged to give presentations. Sadly, we lost two greats in the permaculture world: Bill Mollison and Toby Hemenway, whose legacies have such far-reaching effects, they can’t be measured.
Meanwhile, the world swirled in turmoil. The media reveled in a political campaign that saturated the airwaves with insults and hate. We were confronted daily by crimes against humanity in war, corruption, violence, economic hardships, and poverty. We read with somewhat numbed apprehension reports indicating irreparable harm to the environment through pollution, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.
It is enough to make one retreat into the YouTube world of baby sloths and pandas – until that point it becomes too acute for comfort – and where that point is, exactly, can differ from one person to the next. Suddenly, we sit up. How did we allow this to happen? And what do we do now?
What Would YOU Do?
The recent U.S. election left many feeling that if our leader does not represent the majority of our people, what kind of democracy do we have? It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling helpless. Over the next four years, are we resigned to just watch things unfold? True, we may be powerless to prevent a conflict with North Korea, Russia, the Middle East, or anywhere else. We can’t stop the slaughter of people in South Sudan or help a child pick his way through the rubble he once called home in Syria. My miniscule efforts will do little to reverse the needle on the direction of climate change.
What can one person do? The bigger question is, what can 1 + 1 + 1 + many more do? Witness Standing Rock, which received little coverage during the election process amidst the onslaught of slanderous sound bites, but which continues to be one of the bigger issues in our country, proving that yes, public protest and standing up for what is right CAN make a difference!
What can one person do? As it turns out, a lot!
Resolutions – or perhaps, unresolutions –
It is, after all, January 1. We start anew. We refocus. We humans are afflicted with this need to create goals. Maybe we decide to get more politically involved; maybe we decide to hunker down and take care of our own. Some years, I make a lot of resolutions; others, none at all; and some I make a defiant list of “un-resolutions.”
This year, I am applying David Holmgren’s Principles of Permaculture to resolutions, because they have become integrated into my approach to gardening and other aspects of my life. These principles comprise a whole-systems thinking toward sustainability and are designed to build resilience and prepare us for an uncertain future – and we certainly live in uncertain times! Overall, my goals this year are about ensuring we are better prepared for any tumultuous times ahead while also achieving better work/life balance. Of course, being retired, we are less driven to earn a steady income, which gives us more flexibility than some. I fully understand the difficulties of juggling work, children, and other aspects of making things work. Still, I think many can relate to wanting to do what we can to help the world, support our local economies, intensify our own backyard ecosystems, and also take more time to simply enjoy life. So without further ado…
Pemaculture Goals for 2017:
- Observe and interact: take time to be in nature; make more time for family and friends; strengthen my personal guild; take more time to just be – be still, be in the present, be grateful; play more music.
- Catch and store energy: optimize the resources in the garden through more mulch and a better water system; plant more trees. Flake out in the sun in a hammock now and then; get more rest!
- Grow and harvest a yield: eat more plants; drink more water; plant more than we need so we have some to share; and plant more trees, of course.
- Accept feedback; apply self-regulation: pay attention to what works and what doesn’t; optimize and enhance what we have; keep on plantin’ (morphed from the “Keep on Truckin’” of yesteryear).
- Use & value renewable resources; produce no waste: be less of a consumer; lower my ecological footprint (there is always more that we can do). Have you heard of “Earth Overshoot Day?” On August 8, 2016, people had already consumed more resources than the Earth could regenerate in the entire year. Think about that a bit and how we might change that benchmark. It’s no longer about achieving equilibrium. We need to regenerate and do more to offset the losses. Unfortunately, the burden falls greatest on the world’s poorest. We need to help those who are having difficulty with the mere basics of survival. Individually and together, we can make a difference. And during all this, we can plant more trees.
- Design from patterns to details: understand our patterns and how they align with natural rhythms; sow seeds, nurture, harvest; design with intention and care; pay attention to details; make it matter. Make sure there is plenty of food worked into the design.
- Integrate rather than segregate: reinforce our human guild, because connections are the basis of empowerment. Together, we are stronger than any corporation or government. We have Standing Rock and many other examples to prove this strength, but we cannot afford to become complacent. It requires ongoing diligence. We cannot act alone. Our communities need us more than ever. When we support our local businesses, we are better able to withstand the onslaught of competition from large corporations that value profits over people and communities. Thank your local farmers and small business people. Buy, barter, trade.
“One way to survive and thrive in these interesting times is to maintain a strong local community that is sustainable and resilient, and that means supporting local food systems.” (A quote from Nash’s Farm Store Newsletter – well-said!) Thank you, Nash & Patty Huber and your entire crew for working so hard to bring us healthy food we can trust!
- Use small and slow solutions: don’t overextend; do not be a slave to the self-imposed To-Do List; do it right; build on what you have. Plant a tree for the future. It’s ok to slow down.
- Value diversity; value the marginal: don’t rely on any one thing; diversity makes us strong and resilient. Creativity is found on the fringes and in people who walk on the edges. Meet people who are different; have more adventures; seek out the unknown. Reach out. Do more. And yes, plant a variety of things. Incorporate art into everything, just because.
- Creatively use and respond to change: seize this opportunity to make a difference! We are, indeed, headed for some serious changes! The question is, how will we direct that change into something positive? That is our challenge!
Where do we go from here? January 1 is just a day. So very random. It could be any day of any number. The day does not matter. What matters is what we do.
I come from a long line of strong people who endured much harder times that we do now. Our challenges may be different, but they are still difficult. At times, they appear overwhelming. Recent events may very well serve as a catalyst to mobilize those who normally would assume things would go according to the will of the people. How do we keep things in perspective and in balance? What can we do now to get us through hard times? What can we do to make things better for those who follow seven generations from now? Thinking of the long-term implications of what we do can carry us through the weakness of the moment. We honor the past, live in the present, be optimistic for the future, and never underestimate the difference that we, as individuals, can make.
For me, although I appreciate the importance of interaction, my natural instinct is to withdraw into the garden and into wild places around me. I am so fortunate to live where I do. I don’t want to live in the messy world of politics. I would much rather busy myself about the garden (there is so much to do!) – or spend time kayaking on the ocean, or walking by the river’s edge, or snowshoeing across a field of snow in the mountains, or wandering down a forgotten road overgrown with shrubs and weeds, or foraging for mushrooms and other plants in the middle of a forest – or be just about anywhere not dominated by the manufactures of man – and when I am there, I touch the simultaneous feeling of smallness and of being part of something unfathomably larger. I need this. It is nourishment to me. So for me, part of my resolutions is making time for this replenishment. We need to feed our souls. It is important.
Yes. We are in the season of darkness, a time of rest, retrospection, and also of renewed resolve to make things different. The key, I think, is that we must balance the need to retreat into our comfort zones with that of needing to step out to make our voices known. We have to separate what is beyond our control from what is possible. We need to find our inner truth. We also need to reach out to those around us — broaden that circle – larger and larger – and those who are touched will also reach out – as will those beyond. We are holding hands.
We, whose lives follow the ebb and flow of tides, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the subtle but dramatic changing of the seasons – see ourselves for who we are at the brink of the Yule tide and that turning on the Solstice. We celebrate a new beginning – the true “New” Year, when the trees turn toward the light to guide them through the winter darkness, and when the garden calendar counts off the Days of Persephone to when plants once again emerge from a dormant cloak of silence.
There is no emotion in the garden — no hate, no avarice, no revenge — only the yearning for life.
My wish for the New Year:
May the year bring wisdom and a desire to reach out to our fellow beings.
May it bring love, respect, and gratitude for our Mother Earth.
May we work together to help one another, protect our waters, our forests, our wild spaces, and the very air we breathe.
May we save our seeds and sow the seeds of hope for future generations.
May we create abundance for all.
May our love and kindness be a light in the darkness.
Earth care, people care, fair share.
P.S. When you start feeling like it’s all bad news, go here to this list of great things that happened in 2016.