Friday, 26 March 2010

Principles of Permaculture

I have begun my Permaculture Design course which will last for six weekends from now until July.

In the first introductory weekend I learnt about 12 principles of Permaculture which can be applied to any system - ecological, horticultural or social:

  • Integrate rather than segregate

  • Observe and Interact

  • Use small and slow solutions

  • Design from patterns to details

  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

  • Use and value renewable resourcesd and services

  • Use edges and value the marginal

  • Obtain a yield

  • Use and value diversity

  • Produce no waste

  • Creatively use and respond to change

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

New Job

I am now almost two weeks into my new job and have so far not regretted moving one bit. Leaving my old work place was very hard because, I think, it was like leaving a small and dark cardboard box in which I had been encased for too long. I had become very emotionally attached to the the people there which was probably some sort of survival mechanism. I know that I had been in that place for a reason: either to learn something new, to be a stepping stone to further my career or perhaps something more subtle - to influence or change something or someone in some way (or to be changed or influenced). I believe there was spiritual reason for me to be in that place but now I almost feel as though I have been released from the rather strange energy that held me there until a few weeks ago.

My new workplace is full of a new and vibrant energy and I am still rather amazed at why I have found myself in such a creative, friendly and welcoming environment. Things may change: there will be challenging work situations and the pressure to be creative and meet deadlines will be tough at times but I feel confident I can grow and be part of the team there. I am surrounded by many very talented designers and illustrators and, as I am always a bit modest about my talents, I can find that a bit overwhelming. I am a bit of a Jack of All Trades when it comes to design and never quite know where I fit.

One of the hardest things to get used to is that I have more free time in the day. I can leave home half an hour later in morning and I get half an hour more at lunchtime. What is also rather pleasant is that there are some footpaths around where I work so I can get out into some fields or parkland and get more exercise and fresh air during the day.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 4

Saturday 6 March 2010
I walk into the valley. I climb down the very steep hillside through the discarded wood and tree stumps of the felled trees to the tiny stream that I can hear way below me. Its source can't be far away, the hilltop rises above me up a narrow and steep-sided valley. A gentle trickle of water, bubbling and gurgling over the shale. I put a hand into the water. it is cold. I cup my hand and lift some water to taste it. It feels soft and smooth with a string earthy taste. I don't swallow it.

It is sheltered down here aware from the cool breeze of the hilltop. The stream is a source of life and energy in the valley. Flowing, following its course, a habitat for the stream-side saxifrages and the damp loving loving mosses that encase the overhanging trees.

What is the central stream that flows through me and my life? What nourishes and sustains me? In this valley is a persistent yet delicate stream- so easily changed by the weather and other environmental or human factors. Yet its function is to carry water through the valley safely. I must take care of the stream in my life. And the sound is continuous, no ebb and flow like the wind. The stream is. It does what is has to do. It is strong and unstoppable. It has to be or else land would flood. It has a continuous physical dynamic to outwork: to flow downhill.

I now have to leave this place and do other things. This has been a a day for writing, for looking at the landscape around me and for framing the big changes that are occurring in my life.

Thank you for this day.

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 3

Saturday 6 March 2010
Landscape. How I love that word. It is a word I use a lot in the context of my journeying and the environment that is laid out for me in my daily walk through life. I'm up on Black Hill now, just a couple of miles from Hopton Titterhill, and looking westwards. Before me is the wonderful hilly landscape of the Welsh borderland between Knighton and Clun. The sun has penetrated the hazy clouds in a few places, otherwise the light is subdued and shadowless. Today I am just going where I feel lead, no distinct plan of action as such. Now I am sitting by the roadside overlooking a revealed valley. Only since a year or so ago has this view been seen once again after many years of being obscured by a tall conifer plantation. The conifers have been felled and now the view has returned again and I could sit here for hours.

What does this view have to tell me about my journey? Revealing, or revelation. Something that was hidden for a long time but which can now be seen. It used to be there in one form or another - before the conifers were planted. Perhaps the view that I see of my life was also, too visible, once a time ago. A momentary glint in the eye of the Divine that set my life alive in the knowledge that it would, one day, be revealed. Now this phase in my life is opening up and I admire the view.

The sound of the wingbeat of a crow brushes across the hillside. A buzzard calls, far below me. I am on the edge of a view - at a vantage point. I am not in the view itself, that will come later.

The earth is still quite dormant and there are still tiny patches of snow in sheltered hedgerow edges. The valley has yet to wake up to the full energy of spring. Perhaps the biggest challenge I will face in my new job is that of dealing with different and more varied people once again. What can my view tell me about how I should relate to the new people I am about to meet?

Peace: hold your peace and know your own confidence and belonging.
Difference: everyone is different. Nature is diverse. It can be good, it can be cruel. Co-existance is a key to survival.
Sounds: just listen, and don't interfere with the balance of what is before you. Think before you upset the balance.
Creativity: is part of the natural energy of nature.
Light: and therefore energy, will come and go. Some days may be pale and shadowless, others will be bright and full of contrast.

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 2

Saturday 6 March 2010
The early morning light reveals a cloudy sky but touches of salmon cumulous where the sun highlights their form. Beautiful, not human sound, just birdsong and the occasional bleating sheep. The peace of this place is awe-inspiring. The dry morning air is clear as I look out form my vantage point of a pile of fragrant newly sawn pine logs down over a valley and on towards Stow Hill. There is a hint in the clouds that reveals a blueness that might promise sunshine later in the day. The air has a gentle cool breeze that moves only the very most delicate of grasses and cobwebs.

From the darkness of last night I am now venturing into the light - with a slow walk up to the top of Hopton Titterhill. This one viewpoint captures my imagination and I watch as the morning light on the hills before me constantly changes the landscape.

I sit in my stillness, trying to focus my thoughts away from the events of the past weeks. Small patches of yellow-gold sunlight make fleeting visits to the hillside just below me - not to any other hill, but to my hill. They last for only a minute or so then disappear, but their light brings colour and warmth to the greyness of the winter landscape.

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 1

Friday 5 March 2010

It has taken me nearly 5 hours to drive to Hopton Titterhill in South Shropshire. After busy Friday evening traffic, roadworks on the M1 and at Warwick, a stop at a service station and a generally steady, unrushed and hopefully petrol efficient drive I have finally made it. It is around half past midnight. A cloudy sky means that I can't see any stars but at least it means that the temperature will not get too near freezing tonight. I don't really want to sleep in the car when it is that cold.

A cool breeze gently waves through the tress on the hillside around me and the candle flame flickers wildly in its glass holder. At least it is dry and the wooden bench here feels welcoming. I've been looking forward to meeting it for several days and it is good to be back here again at night. The car park is well sheltered from the wind and I don't feel too cold.

Alone; with my drawing pad, pen and a candle. Just Being in this darkness that awaits the new dawn and my welcome to the landscape.

Today was my last day at my current work. Last week was an anxious time as I handed in my notice and, fortunately, this past week has passed by fairly quietly in the sense of 'if that is what he wants to do then so be it'. I can hardly believe it has happened. Now it is time to put the past three years to one side and begin a new path on my journey.

It feels strange to now be at this table. In the flickering candlelight I am surrounded by dense blackness and I can't make out anything of what is around me. The candle just lights me and my immediate surroundings. A long period of waiting and patience has passed by. I remember the kestrel I wrote about last year and how I distinctly felt it was giving me that word: patience. Now I am in the darkness of leaving. Just a candle flame to light me. Just the thought of the new light that will enter my life tomorrow. I have reached the edge - and now darkness. Almost death: the ultimate change. Here I am, dying to the old and awaiting the resurrection. I am in nature's womb - forming, changing, anticipating. The heartbeat of the candle burning to keep me alive and focused. The darkness around me reaches into the trees, into the sky and into the earth. I cannot see out of my womb, I can only hear the environment around me. I can feel it, through the firmness of the earth beneath my feet and the touch of the breeze upon my cheeks. I can smell the soil and the pine trees. Yet I can see nothing. Like my new job, I only have thoughts and ideas that play with the senses. I didn't bring my drum with me as it doesn't like the cold. Perhaps I should have done. An owl hoots in the woodland a distance away.

I look around, away from the candle light and it isn't ever really truly dark. The tress are just perceptively silhouetted against the grey sky. It is a touch windy and I can hear leaves rustling along the ground and occasionally the pages of my pad get lifted up. I must be careful not to get too cold. A new day awaits.