Step back, squint your eyes a bit and Permaculture becomes spiraling, self-organizing, self-replicating swirls of energy and matter – if you’ll allow me to get a bit “woo,” for a moment.
Those who follow this blog know I’m particualrly interested in the measurable energy transactions within systems. To me, this balance of inputs, outputs, and the self-organizing loops that minimize our maintenance and maximize the utility to as many beings as possible is what Permaculture and good natural gardening are all about! I think many of us sense that on a certain level most of what we experience in life is really all about the energy flows between living things.
This all sounds incredibly hippie when I hear someone else say it. It’s usually something like “when energy is flowing well, things are good, and when energy gets stuck or congested things go bad…” Like, totally hippie, you know what I’m saying?
But any social scientist looking at economic outcomes can tell you the same: It’s clear that when money, one very artificial form of stored energy that our society uses to accomplish work, gets “stuck” in certain social strata and does not “flow” well to others, people actually suffer.
Society needs, like, a chakra alignment, man.
And any ecologist can tell you the same… when an ecology breaks down to the point that energy is not easily cycled through its biological community, things don’t go well. Diversity, biomass, stored energy and life (carrying capacity) all begin to decline.
One of the most rewarding things on my Permaculture journey has been to observe how these self-organizing swirls have begun to take on life in the wake of our project at Lillie House. These self-organizing energy patterns begin when energy flows away from me to other people… other places. From this perspective it’s good when energy flows away from me. Such as when we give rare plants away to others in the region, this means our collection will remain available to me and to others should we lose a plant, or should something happen to our project. Or when we discover a technique that works well, we want others to learn and try it, too. Rather than lock that energy up, it’s better to let it flow! This is what happens when you do Permaculture right: you create “procreative” systems that replicate themselves, bits of our Permaculture DNA go off into the world and mingle with other systems.
And now, our particular type of Permaculture system has begun to replicate itself all across Michigan, the Great Lakes region and beyond! Our plant material, in the types of polyculture plant communities we’ve experimented with and developed are going out into the world, spread by a particularly beautiful “vector,” earth-loving humans!
At this point, our home ecosystem at Lillie House has reached a point of complexity, richness and utility that its value is apparent to earth-lovers throughout the region. Just as a fruit or flower might evolve to tempt some other species to play a role in its procreation, pollinating its flowers, spreading its seed, our beautiful, productive ecosystem is reaching out to the people who hold a place for nature, good food, and community in their hearts.
I do not feel like some brilliant creator of this situation… but just one other part, one member of the biotic community of this place, playing my own small role in spreading around this earth-healing super-organism of Permaculture. Watching its tendrils reach out into the fertile ground of the compasionate heart, wherever it lies, I feel I’m part of something so much bigger than I could ever be as a mere human.
And that feels incredible.