Where is change happening in your yard – and in your life?
The sun has been a primary change agent. When an old apple tree was struck by lightening and came down, we gained a sunny back yard and a much larger vegetable garden. When an ash tree came down, we gained a side yard vegetable garden, solar electric and solar hot air. When the city-owned boulevard trees grew too tall, we lost half of our side yard garden and we lost the ability to plant late season crops.
People are a major change agent. Because I live on a corner lot, my space is vulnerable to theft and I’ve certainly experienced a lot of it. As a poor single mom, it was devastating when my children’s bikes were stolen and the first gift from my husband — a concrete lion for my front stairs – was taken in the middle of the day. We didn’t have the money to replace them, at least not for a long time.
It makes one want to give up. Or get angry – I’m more of an anger person than a giving up person. I continued to invest in the things that would bring us happiness – like a hammock, which I chained to a tree. I invested more in things that went into the ground rather than on top of it, thinking it would not be as attractive to thieves.
That’s only partly true. In 2014, someone stole my boulevard plants the day after I put them in the ground. In 2013, someone stole my entire pepper harvest. That was the worst betrayal.
I spent a good bit of time trying to figure out how I could both invite the community in and also create a boundary. I wanted to say yes to engagement but also, “Respect my space!” (I’ve since learned of the term creative placemaking, and I am learning more about how people respond to place.)
We decided to install a fence. Several neighbors came by to say they were unhappy to see us putting up a fence. They loved to see the garden. I feel the same way, but when I explained why and that it would not be a privacy fence, they understood. We’ll see if we’ve found the right balance.
Children are major change agents: When they hit their mid teens, our kids had nothing more to say to us so we built a patio and firepit. Every evening my husband would sit by the firepit smoking a pipe (which he no longer does) and the kids would come out to chat. Usually there was no fire. But on weekends their friends would come over and we’d have a fire and maybe do some cooking outdoors or hang out until midnight. This was the most important space and the most important time – words could be spoken.
City regulations are major change agents: Sitting around a fire late into the evening is no longer possible. The city changed its rules about fires in response to air quality concerns. I feel that as a loss, although not such a big loss now that the kids are grown and gone. Sitting around a fire in the evening is a special experience of bonding and social connection and I haven’t found a way yet to creatively respond to that loss.
So here we are at the end of the year and this blog post is ending on a far different note than I expected when I started it. On the face of it, permaculture principle 12 sounds all hopeful and positive, but change often comes from difficult situations and is accompanied by feelings of anger and sadness and loss. How do we deal with that?
I think we go back to permaculture principle 1: We stop. We observe. We interact with the new space and the new reality. Then we take an action – and we wait to see what happens next.
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Leslie, you have creatively responded to change. Your fence looks beautiful, and you’ll be able to eat more of your own produce. I’ve never lost a single thing from my front yard garden and am just a block away from you. It’s so strange – maybe it’s because my herbs and veggies are integrated into my flower garden and not as conspicuous??
When we lived in Chicago, we bought and put up a basketball hoop for our son. A day later it was gone, sawed off of the garage with some kind of wire cutters. We learned that every hoop in the neighborhood had been taken, probably the work of one night. I told myself that the thieves were maybe selling them in a poor neighborhood where kids could not afford hoops, and so our hoop would not go to waste. It was a comfort for me, but not much for our young son, who was a budding basketball star.
The up side of climate change – it’s creating a lot more community cohesiveness and action by citizens.