No script, no master plan
Imagine you wanted to help a relationship with someone and so you visited a therapist together. You both tell the therapist your problems and pay them a lot of money. Everyone goes home, and in a week you meet up again. Smiling, the therapist hands you each a script with everything you should say and do with each other for the next ten years. If you follow the script exactly, they say, your relationship can’t go wrong.
This example is intentionally silly. Even if a therapist really could tell you the best thing to do or say in future moments you haven’t reached yet – they can’t – the relationship would be one with no life in it. It would have lost any ability to respond to what is actually alive in the moment, based on the advice of an outside party who can’t really know either of you as well as you do and who won’t be able to know what you will each become.
Many of us in the Permaculture design community are realizing that this is sort of what it’s like to give a detailed on-paper master plan for land.
When we draw a detailed map of where every tree, shrub, vine, pond, and structure should go for your whole land, we are writing a script for what two living beings – you and your land – will say to each other.
Asking people to let go of having a detailed plan can be hard. It is easier to make money drawing up expensive detailed designs, handing them over, and then moving on; but in our experience, the most beautiful permaculture sites we’ve visited evolved not from a detailed plan but from a thousand small steps taken each day in deep relationship between the people and place. That goes for our own forest gardens, the forest gardens of our friends, and the ecovillage Matt watched emerge over years.
Permaculture is a moment-to-moment process that must ultimately come from the people living on the land every day. Our job is to be a steady support and guide to your long beautiful relationship with your land. We do this by helping you tune in more deeply to what is already alive on the land and in yourselves in any given moment and, from that place, find the next best steps to take. We also help teach the skills to start gardens, design shelter, and tend land and we continue to be there as a resource and ally as you and the land grow together, day by day, season by season.
Making this shift from planner to guide has been a leap of great faith for us; but because of it, we’ve had the gift of feeling the earth rise to meet us.