I spent my week-long vacation in Sevilla, one of the most architecturally stunning cities in the world. Also vastly polluted, with its gracious, hospitable inhabitants saturating the air with car exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke, getting high on sugar, chowing down on industrially produced meat and deep-fried and mercilessly processed foods. We’ve got work to do!
Mostly I spent the week listening to my daughter’s stories. I couldn’t get enough of them and she seemed to have an inexhaustible supply. She told me about building adobe igloos and other constructions by using earth, sand, fibers and recycled tires, and about a scientist living in the southern Negev, Dr. Elaine Solway and her Experimental Orchard, where she grows among other exotic trees, the marula tree. Legend has it marula is a delicious fertility enhancing fruit for men and women, with four times the vitamin C of an orange, many antioxidant properties and high protein content.
I listened to the story of a generous Bedouin woman, who picked herbs from her garden, gifted Ellena with a bottle of “All-Ills-Defying-Remedy” and carefully wrapped spices. I heard about Mike Kaplin, one of Ellena’s teachers at the Center for Creative Ecology on Kibbutz Lotan who gets up at four in the morning and works into the night but also picks up his children at the bus stop, and somehow manages to spend quality time with his family. I was particularly grateful to hear how Leah Zigmond, the Eco Center Academic and Educational Director, who teaches gardening at Lotan, became the surrogate mom to the group of American students who were part of the program. Leah listened and consoled and baked cookies, when the challenges of poverty and violence Ellena and her friends witnessed on a field trip to Jerusalem, seemed too tough to handle. I loved hearing about Alex Cicelsky, the goodwill ambassador of Lotan who is sure to find you the perfect person to meet no matter where you travel.
And of course all of my daughter’s stories were about increasing our individual and the earth’s fertility in the truest, deepest sense. About learning to live joyfully and abundantly without exploiting someone else and damaging the exceedingly more precious resources of our common earthly home. The stories she shared with me were all about learning to distinguish between the needs of the Orphan and the needs of the Visionary. who knows that if we really love ourselves and our children, we don’t have a minute to waste on analysis, discussions, or wait for institutionally sanctioned changes of behavior. That we must begin to act and do all we can right now.
One of the required readings for Ellena’s program was a fascinating book by Graham Bell, The Permaculture Way. I loved Bell’s no nonsense simplicity, loved learning from him and the other teachers I”ve been introduced to in the book. The concept of Permaculture, developed by Australian ecologist, Bill Mollison, is a way of thinking, a culture and philosophy that is essentially a radically holistic attitude toward every aspect of our lives. So for example when we are about to buy an item, we don’t just think of its immediate usage, but consider whether its production has polluted the drinking water, or the air. We consider whether the packaging can be re-used or will it create more landfill.
Listen to this: “Permaculture,” says Graham Bell, “doesn’t mean abandoning technology. It means that every time you choose to use technology you do so because you really want to, and because it’s the best way to accomplish the task.” Or this: “A second falsehood…is the concept of experts…Experts are expensive people who have some highly specialized skill which is usually couched in jargonistic language…all too often experts are simply protecting their own territory. They do not use their skills to enable others.” Sounds familiar?
Many of the ideas in Permaculture about the importance of community, of collaboration, of doing our own thinking and choosing, of behaving responsibly, echo the Fertile Heart™ principles our community has been striving to implement in the last decade and a half. So the book also feels like a huge nod of encouragement to all of us. I highly recommend that you include The Permaculture Way in your personal library.
Looks as though it’s time to raise the bar again. Ellena and Graham Bells are challenging me to walk my talk with greater resolve. To live these principles more fully. To observe where I’m wasteful and where I can cut back. One of Ellena’s projects in the program has been to turn our home and our property here in Woodstock into a much less wasteful, much more luscious space.
But I’m not waiting for that to begin making changes. Here are a couple of tiny steps I’m commiting to right now: No more off season-organic-blueberries for me. Or raspberries. I want to pay a lot closer attention to the amount of driving I do, and reach out to people in the community about car pooling. How about this? Here is one of the eminently doable adjustments Graham Bell suggest about appropriate water usage: “Why use four gallons of water to flush away half a pint of pee…?” Hmm. Not much of a sacrifice in making that change. I don’t think I’m quite ready to entirely give up taking my “mini-vacation-bath, but I could certainly use the bath water more creatively than simply letting it flow down the drain. Now why didn’t I think of that before?
Perhaps before the next Birth Your Next Creation Phone Circle, each of us could observe a little more carefully where we can cut down on waste in our daily routines, and make a commitment to take one small conscious step toward a more ecologically kind community. I bet our born and not-yet-born children would approve of our efforts. What do you think?