Ecology–Permaculture: Edges and Change

Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.  The last two principles of permaculture say that we will find the most interesting things at the edges of our gardens–that we should make good use of the marginal, and that we best respond to change by observing and then intervening at the right time.

We tend to discard, ignore, even despise the marginal: people, experiences, land, relationship.  Marginal people or a things have little value for us.  Permaculture gardening teaches us–if other life experiences have not–that we think of marginal as valueless because we have not awakened to the value there.  Isn’t it easy to dismiss, even demonize, the experiences of others that we have not had and that we think of as “other?”

One day, a long time ago, a friend dared to reveal to me that he was gay.  I have to admit that knowing him as a friend whom I loved made it possible for me to wake up to the marginal status that he lives in, and that if I had met him first as a gay man I might never had made friends with him.  That realization, which took years for me to wake up to, taught me that there is an inherent value in the marginal, whoever or whatever marginal is and that my ignorance is the pivotal piece.

And so, change!  If we observe first, and deeply, we are less likely to see change as something to fear. We gain insight into the right time for action.  After I finish writing this, I am going out into my garden–which is just beginning to show signs of waking up–to move three butterfly bushes.  They are gorgeous and giant, and after three years of observing, it’s become clear that they belong in another part of the yard.

Look around the edges today.  What does it teach you?  What changes are you observing? Have you learned enough to act? Is it time to watch some more or intervene?

Bob Patrick

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