I rode back to Vancouver with three women who were teaching (a great class on fermentation) and learning at the Sustainable Living Arts School in Robert’s Creek, BC.
It’s a great privilege to hear people’s first time reactions to a learning experience I’ve come to love, especially as I head into programming workshops in Vancouver. Cedena, (I’m making up spelling here) along with Paris and Andrea, cooked us a fabulous lunch before Andrea’s fermentation workshop, then she and Paris headed over to Peter Light’s for his “On the Ground” workshop. So she got to hang out in two very different gardens. “Their land is very different but somehow perfectly expresses who they are.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
Robin’s land is very open and sunny though filled with alder and cedar. Her soil is sandy and mineral rich (the water from the well could cure anemia in one dose) and the plants look resilient. Her beds are laid out with narrow paths and are abundant with a comfortable assortment of intentionally planted food and medicine plants and some visitors, who are made to feel welcome. Plants that come in from some other vector- wind, birds, mulch etc must have a reason for being there. It’s hospitable and open- with boundaries, like Robin.
Peter Light lives in a bamboo forest that he planted where the blackberries once roamed free (there is lots left to snack on, no fear.) He lives in a small trailer and clearing covered by a very high plastic tarp, covered in vines. There’s a fire circle and another small trailer for guests. The bathroom is a simple composing toilet behind the trailer. An herb spiral is handy at the south end of the circle for cooking. It’s a cozy home for a forest spirit and Peter himself looks rather entish. .
Of course, we shape our land to reflect ourselves. We choose particular plants to feed, heal, shelter and clothe ourselves. But the land itself is alive and the rocks, the soil, the trees, shrubs, vines and smaller plants around us are not under our control. They’re here because that’s where they need to be. If we pay attention we just might find that what shows up uninvited is exactly what we need. We shape the land and the land shapes us.