I’ve Found That in My Life…

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You know what can be hard to do? Commit.
(*skip to last paragraph for new commitments/projects!)

It can be hard to commit to things, to people, to places, nouns basically, and some verbs too. I’ve found that my life, especially during my university years, has been a unique game of subconsciously dodging and deflecting deep commitment. I was (and still can be) good at jumping at the initial challenge to commit to prove myself as a leader, as worthy, or as a friend, as understanding and caring. But, I realized that in my efforts to become someone who was “connected”, “knowledgeable”, “reliable”, I was actually stretching myself too thin. So thin that my depth of connection, of knowledge, of reliability, was coming off to me, and some others, as shallow commitments–I felt false. I didn’t feel like I was being effective, which didn’t feel good. For me to understanding why I was dodging deeper commitments took a whole lot of work in community and work in myself. Just being and observing helped a lot.

Permaculture has this neat principle of “Observe and Interact”.

During the design process of systems, whether of a farm, a city, or of my, an individual’s, interactions in life, a vital piece is observation. Understanding what is happening–flows of energy (ex. people walking, leaves falling, water pooling, thoughts circling)–on a site, in a city, in a head, is so important in order to form a base from which to begin designing. Observing creates opportunities for understanding, for relationships to be seen. For example, imagine a chippiemunkie standing all cute on a step. It skitters towards a lupine in a garden and licks at the globe of water held by a leaf and then excitedly scorfs a peanut into its cheek. Mouth full, the chipmunk bursts towards the hole in a porch only to be intercepted by a beautiful red-tailed hawk. Off flies the water, the peanut, the chipmunk, and the hawk–now one. Or were they always one? Observing helps us to see how energy flows through systems (ex. food chains) and may hint at where we might best, if at all, interact for the purpose of designing systems.

Communities do not exist as multiple individuals but as the relationships between.

Observing the feelings that I was experiencing during my interactions with my community showed me that I didn’t have a fear or an avoidance of deep commitment with others, but with myself. I feared letting myself down or feeling like my actions weren’t enough and that I wasn’t worth. To cover that fear I tried to build as many relationships as possible and I ignored my base feelings. Those relationships, which were built on a hope (a design) that lacked proper inner reflection (observation), were not as meaningful as they could’ve been and I was left feeling unfulfilled (inefficient system). Realizing that hit me deeper than the roots of prairie grass systems (ecosystem nerd love). But, it was cool, too, because realizing that allowed me to adapt–to go back and try again. I created opportunities to observe my relationships with myself and my environment and my community. I then got to interact–I choose what to continue/stop doing and how to change things so that I felt valued and felt connected. I got to choose what I wanted. Note: There’s a huge piece here about privilege. Currently I am the only one in my life that is holding myself back, where as others have shared that they feel held back by other individuals/institutions/systems and are unable to fully do what they want. I’m just acknowledging that and am trying to only speak for myself.

*Declaring what I want and committing (Current Many Rivers Permaculture Projects)

Here’s what I want for myself:
1) To observe in the moment the way I’m feeling and express those feelings, especially sadness, with the intention of creating a space that is safe, for me and others,
2) To do things that I want to do, not to do things that I “think” others may want of me, and,
3) To be present to what others (people, landscapes, plants, etc.) are communicating so that I can better understand them and how to interact with them, if at all.

Here are my current commitments/projects relating to Many Rivers Permaculture:
1) Raise a minimum of $150,000.00 to create a Community-Based Permaculture Scholarship.
– Purpose: Raise community public money to fund research in the field of permaculture that will benefit the public.                     Create those relationships.
– First Steps: An advisory committee, which will be a group of diverse community members and University                                   staff/faculty to guide the process, has begun to form. If you have suggestions for who should sit on the advisory                         committee please email me.
2) By 2025, convert 50% of Guelph’s open, non-recreational, public land to food production using food forest principles.
– This is going to branch out of a yet-to-be-created summer camp for junior youth that focuses on permaculture                          principles, environmental leadership and collaboration. If you have any resources or suggestions please share them                with me 🙂
3) Produce and publish open-access research papers, including my research thesis, on temperate climate permaculture with a focus on food forests.
– The idea here is to take full advantage of my opportunity as a masters student  studying food forests and build a                        platform for other academics to reference as well as community members to apply.

Moving forward, I feel confident and fearless in these commitments to myself, which feels really sweet! I also know myself and view myself as a combination of complex relationships with all others in my community. This is why each one of my, and Many Rivers Permaculture’s, commitments will be as open and inclusive as I know how to make them. Where I lack the knowledge or experience I will open that up to my community for assistance and I will assist, if requested, where I can with their needs. I feel like this is a strong base to build my design for myself and Many Rivers Permaculture from, and I know that as long as I continue to observe and, if necessary, interact my efforts will be meaningful.

-Paul
Many Rivers Permaculture

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