At some point in the remote past right there where you live and right here where I live there was a healthy, intact ecosystem. Unless you live in a desert or tundra landscape there would have been animals from the large to the microscopic, insects, birds, fish, fungi and many different trees and plants; and all of these living beings were bound tightly together within the immeasurable complexities of a fully functioning, self-maintaining, beautiful, energetic, powerful and resilient ecosystem.
However right now, for many of us living in urban or even suburban areas when we look out of the window – at home or at work – apart from the people, there is often very little life to be seen. Gardens are diminishing in size and ever more paving and fencing is replacing greenery, people perceive gardening as a battle and time consuming and increasingly prefer to have a space to relax in that needs very little maintenance. Even in rural areas the amount of actual life that can be seen in most places is immeasurably reduced and simplified in comparison to the distant past.
We are born into this world as it is and therefore we take it for granted that this is normal. Our lives are totally embedded in human-centric landscapes intended to serve our purposes and scant thought is or has ever been given to the other life that used to thrive anywhere. This largely destroyed and almost lost web of life has been damaged by land clearances, mining and quarrying and landfilling with wastes of all kinds, by industry and building, by farming, by chemicals and pollution and more; and all of this as a result of human activity in our attempts to make a better world.
But the world cannot be a better world for us alone, it has to be a better world for all of life.
Our world needs to be healed and now is the most opportune of times for many of us to participate in this healing. It is not about trying to reinstate or recreate what was here in the past – even if we knew for certain what happened in the past there has been far too much change and damage to return. What life is crying out for now needs to be utterly practical and very, very effective.
The initiative for starting the healing must come from us – because we are the ones that keep on preventing nature from getting on with this work. This is not just for farmers, large landowners, governments and conservationists, environmentalists and charities – this is for all of us who have in our care a garden or another patch of land. However this is not about conventional gardening but about finding a way to integrate ourselves within the local ecosystem in such a way that radically reorganises our understanding and perception of the world around us.
Looking out of the window what we see is no more or less than our own reflection as in a mirror. Whether as individuals or as part of our collective society our choices and lifestyles are the fundamental causes of the brokenness of nature. By the same token, to work for the healing of the natural world – to support and nurture life, beauty and abundance is also to reflect some of that healing back to ourselves.
And actually it is not even difficult! It is deceptively simple as long as you have the willingness to let go of past preconceptions, to learn and to be involved in a different way. I know from over a decade of experience of learning to relinquish control of the garden and to take nature’s cues about how to proceed that she has immense potential and will indeed lead the way that is appropriate. I have seen nature move into my seven year old garden in Wales transforming a bare and boring lawn into a beautiful, healthy and abundant haven.
Nature is asking of us, giving us, the opportunity for action that will make a real difference and her energy, fecundity and power is available to us, we just need to learn to listen.
As 2020 unfolds I will be publishing a series of posts to complement my forthcoming book ‘the garden of equal delights’ which encompasses the themes of ecosystems and of healing and much more besides. Through the book and my blog and any other means available to me I hope to enable other people with what we would all recognise as normal back gardens (yards in the USA) to heal their own patch of land and to restore its links with adjacent ecosystems. The global situation is so very, very serious that every little bit of land brought back to health is significant.
Right now at the start of the new year in the northern hemisphere we are enfolded in winter – the time for taking stock and planning for the future – and in that context my next post will be about thinking of what to sow or plant as practical and effective starting points.