Alumni Spotlight: All Is Process

Hello Sister-Brother. I thought I would write this in the ethereal style of the blogs I wrote as a bright-eyed intern builder. So I did.

Three years later.

We come to the program for different reasons, but there are patterns of arrival and there is overlap. I came for footing, for community, for a sense of place, and for an education. There was a craving there which I chose to lay on an unfamiliar landscape. Like of many of you, I suspect.

 

If you are reading this, you may be of generation of itinerants seeking home. What were you taught of the land, of the ancestry of the place where you were born? Place-based education is still too rare, but the desire for it is growing. We see it in the movement. Often we feel we are rejecting something in our choice to leave, to move forward, to switch gears, to take a leap. This is a language I am not particularly comfortable with. So we might as well call it what it is: a deep and nourishing embrace of uncertainty. Take a dive; it’s the world we live in. These days, we talk of ‘change’ as peril. There is peril, all right, but peril is the consequence of an absence of change. So, change.

 

As a CR student – allow me to be honest here – I remember thinking: “How do we get this campus garden started?” and “How do we get everyone around the dinner table?” and “What do I write to these people to speak home to them?”

 

I worked to build a house – absolutely – and I learned a great deal about what it means to do so, and my understanding of shelter and its care has matured. I cannot walk into a building now without noticing the human fingerprints everywhere. This is a wonderful gift, a kind of insight into things elemental, a pattern language of its own. Still, what I recall most from my time as an intern is the community that sprung up around the act of building; what it means to live densely and with intention among strangers. All is process, as it goes, and we are the catalysts. We don’t rest to stop; we rest to keep moving. One enters the internship not for job security or long-term stability, but to exchange ideas and experience, knowledge and care. It is a visceral schooling, and pleasurable. Does this ring a bell?

 

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Moab is an oasis and a confluence – geographically, hydrologically and spiritually. After four months of wondering why I had moved to the desert and what had happened to the forests and harbors I had once called home, I found myself smitten with the beauty of the subtlety of the ecology of the drylands. One thing leads to another, and the strand of permaculture running loose curving lines behind the building of a straw bale home came to center. An opportunity to work for USU Moab on food security and permaculture initiative projects through the office of Extension Sustainability spiraled my life into a world of regenerative design, a transect of the personal beliefs I had long been defining in agriculture and poetry and travel, and the pressing desire for long, thoughtful observation of a place I would call home.

 

The southwestern United States is a dispersed hub of passionate practitioners of regenerative design (whether they recognize themselves as such or not, these are the scientists, landscapers, poets, builders, farmers, and unnamed others) who are watching the skies, the waters, the forests and the dry, dry land for signs of what has been and what is to come. Tracking, as Joel says. The drylands is an edge ecology, between the normative then and the transformative future, and it is a hell of an exciting place to live, especially in the quiet moments.

 

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Through a community of good friends, mentors and organizations in Moab, I have had the privilege to run the local farmers’ market, work in riparian restoration, grow food (and eat it too), teach on the value and simplicity of indigenous water harvesting practices – and this is to say nothing of the opportunity to dance and play on the stage. You come to realize these qualities are all innate within us – we speak art, we speak land – and that its merely a matter of drawing it out in one another and in ourselves. And that is part of the beauty of the place within this community I have come to know: it is as though designed to give back, in reciprocity, in redundancy, and – ideally – toward resiliency.

 

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With a growing sense of place has come a desire for place-ment. Inspired by my time with Community Rebuilds and the opportunities that followed, I started a regenerative home and landscape design business: In Transition Permaculture. It is an opportunity to build upon needs observed and to perpetuate an education through action. It’s a lesson straight out of the CR playbook: build your own. Having spent a good part of the year traveling around the country to attend trainings in design and resource management, I settle back in Moab, with reciprocity in mind. More and more, my thought is this: How do we become (how do we create) a culture that realizes that the integrity of its ecological systems relies on the health and resiliency of its human communities, and vice versa? So we harvest rainwater, plant perennial food crops – what is this without the education and care that sustains relationships through time? We need not marry ourselves to any one strategy – an apple tree, a dogma, a nostalgia – but the skin of it is the underlying value we create through the care we place on every thing – every single thing – we do. That feeling you have in the pit of your stomach some days when you wake up and the world has turned as you slept – it is not for nothing, sister. It’s all of a larger piece, and we can do so much, can give so much, to learn the ‘whys’ and the ‘what feels goods.’ To create the sense of self and place that is, at heart, community. Our bodies are a conglomeration of pores and slime and endless comings and goings. Those chills you feel is your body reminding you you are ecology.

 

So we begin with strategies sometimes, but the meaning is the intention. The lessons we take from permaculture studies – and the permaculture movement itself – are moving into our cities, into our understanding of of social networks, into the very fabric of human relations and connection in this global world. Some days we are in the food forest admiring the majesty of nature in growth. Other days we are walking the halls of the nursing home, wondering why the ways we treat one another – young and old – are not yet as beautiful as a cherry tree in bloom. This, more anything else, must be the direction of our thinking: love and care.

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As independent of a choice it has been, true strength – tensile or otherwise – is in collaboration. (I think of all that chopped straw laced into our brown coat, tying it in to the bales like dry little fingers.) I am fortunate to share common ground with friends and supporters pursuing their own design work here in town: EcoLogic, the Moab-based sustainable building company, has long been a supportive resource and will be a collaborator in 2016; the Bee Inspired Gardens Group, whom I have been fortunate to work with and for from its inception; and USU Moab and the office of Extension Sustainability. As to the latter, I encourage you to have a gander at Toby Hemenway’s recent book “The Permaculture City,” which features the design for USU Moab’s campus rain gardens (by Real Earth Design), whom we enlisted to guide the transformation of a swath of parking lot into a multi-story, mixed adapted and native perennial food forest. This is a model myself and good friends – Claire Core (Hi Claire!) and Jeffrey Adams – are currently utilizing to design a functional landscape and gathering space for the new WabiSabi Thrift location.

 

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USUMoab3.jpgIt is a piece by piece, plot by plot, mind by mind shift. But, as before, all is process. Soil fertility may not heal in a season – it may take several years – but this does not mean we neglect to mulch the ground today. It is a blessing that change comes slow. Think of all the time we have to observe and to learn in the meanwhile.

 

I have been watching the cadre grow, semester after semester of dedicated folks moving through this community. Most leave with what they have learned, some fortunate few stick around. As the alumni network advances, I encourage staying in touch. Though dispersed, our networks are invaluable. They are how we endure peril for the embrace of change. They are how we establish new infrastructures of community and social resiliency as the old guard falls away. So, stay in touch. Write me: PO Box 4 Moab. Easy. Write one another. Keep up, and visit when you can. We live in a time that may very well prove a renaissance for indigenous ideas, a resurgence for adapted, sound living. How’s that for hope?

 

Be well All,

 

Jeremy Lynch- Fall 2013 Intern

 

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