Permaculture: the outer and the inner garden

This is a story about “why permaculture?”. My short answer is “because community”. A deeper side of the answer is that permaculture gardening was an unexpected companion while I was on my path to discovering who I am: who I am as a woman and who I am as a human being, living from the soul and trying to bring a contribution to this world.

Discovering permaculture

feeling part of a community

I was, and somewhat still identify with being a landscape architect, but on a more superficial and conversational level. I did projects with other colleagues, or alone for private clients or public parties (like schools). Yet something in my heart was aching, something was missing, and the worst was, I felt alone in my endeavours to discover what. Also I felt like I was somehow wrong or crazy, never satisfied with what I had. This struggle, this itch did not go away.

And then I discovered the concept of permaculture. And please do not take the word “concept” lightly. Concept means it’s still something very vague, something like a presence of interest hovering ghost-like over my head. But I was young(er) and this was enough to give me a spark of hope, of energy and enthusiasm.

Synchronicity came into action and I was given the opportunity to start exploring the practical side of permaculture, without much diving into the theoretical side (which I loved, because I was so full of what academia and theory had to offer). I worked as a volunteer in small community gardens. Was so excited, and so in awe of discovering community work: working together, hanging out, not for any established purpose, but just spending time together outside, with our hands and knees in the dirt, just being, being together. There was a sense of communion, of simplicity and the child like joy of discovering a seed, a veggie, a bug, or just plain dirt.

⎻I felt more sure of myself, of handling things, of being present.⎻

I started discovering what community means in the sense of work and play, and a small seed was laid for me to unravel who I am. This seed was still in its infancy, and it manifested very timidly in the sense that I felt more sure of myself, of handling things, of being present and intuitively finding resources for what was needed. After more than a year of such on and off experiences, and after some struggles separating from a more conventional path, I made a decision. I decided to live for one year in a community and work in a permaculture garden daily. This meant living separately from my partner, but there was a lot of support, so it did not feel like I am giving up on anything, but more like I was going on a big, soul uplifting adventure. And so I did.

Growing my soul

Discovering the woman

The timid seed of me unraveling who I am grew so strong, so bright. I was discovering who I am as a woman, in a beautiful medium with very few distractions or interferences: the place was somewhere in heavenly nature, not many people living there, and everybody mostly minding their own business. I discovered my body strength, I started doing things I never thought were possible. I felt free, like I didn’t need anybody or anything, like there was no need to please. Of course we had schedules, of course we had conflicts, tension, tears but also compassion, patience, love.

⎻When my hands and knees were in the dirt, it sometimes felt like a prayer.⎻

The way we gardened was reflected in the way we treated each other and ourselves, and vice versa. When my hands and knees were in the dirt, it sometimes felt like a prayer, like an immense wave of gratitude was washing through me for being able to work in this divine temple of nature. Well, I felt like a goddess, taking care and giving service to this temple. My intuition, my emotions got more sensitive and simultaneously my tolerance to noise and distractions got increasingly smaller. I was digging deep in myself, and loving what I found.

The return, diving deep in darkness

Finding what I was missing

And then the experience ended, the permaculture gardening year was over. Just like that. I said goodbye, thinking everything will go back to normal when I return to my “old life” in the city. I had some second thoughts regarding my reintegration because of my increased sensitivity to exterior stimuli, but did not mind them much.

And guess what, it was terrible! Everything around me started to crumble, my emotional and mental health, my relationships. I felt trapped, unable to move, and was constantly nagging myself as to “where did that confident woman go?” and “who is this weak, sad, small and scared being I have become?”. I was trying to escape, and at the same time holding myself down. Needless to say there was a big struggle in my self, and I was diving deep into darkness, the darkness of humanity, the darkness of relationships and the darkness of my soul.

The struggle continues, and I am finding out more and more about myself, my dark side and my light side. And I ask myself why? Why the struggle? I know the stories I tell my self: that I am still not there yet, I have not found “the” garden, “the” place in nature or “the” people. And I have gone so many times on this path of trying to change places, people, gardens. Yet something makes me feel that I am at a dead end: this exploration has served me so far, but now it can only go one way, inwards.

⎻It’s so easy to admire the beauty of a permaculture garden…Yet how easily do we admire the beauty of our inner garden?⎻

What’s my inner garden like? The truth is I am terrified about the dark sides of my inner garden. Woah! It’s so easy to admire the beauty of a permaculture garden: the variety, the colors, the beautiful bugs, even the weeds (and yes! I know there are no weeds for mother nature, but for the sake of contrast I will use this term) are so lovingly blended together. Yet how easily do we admire the beauty of our inner garden? Do we have many dark spots, which we consider ugly and would “lovingly” blast off if possibly, or have we seen them, acknowledged them and integrated them in the bigger system of our garden? Buried emotions, unsatisfying relationships, do we keep them in the shadow? Yes, because it is more comfortable this way, our self image is based on the “plants” we do like. Yet “weeds” keep popping up in our inner garden. What would I do in a permaculture garden? I would find a way to integrate them, sometimes maybe pulling them out, or even moving them. What do I do with my inner garden? I go crazy, try to blast it out, try to run away, try to think for months about strategies to make them go away.

Permaculture has been a companion on my path, has taught me how to work in gardens, how to appreciate communities, and now it is side by side with me as I am diving deep in my inner garden. And the path continues…