And so it was that one sunny Saturday morning in March, after months of planning and preparing, I woke up to the first day of our Permaculture Design Course. The weeks and days leading up to it were intensely busy (in case you’ve been wondering about my absence from this space) but in the end, all the details came together perfectly. A full course of 24 participants, a curriculum we facilitators were feeling really excited and solid about, and a venue so perfect we couldn’t have dreamed anything better: City Roots urban farm just down the street from me and my co-facilitator Matt.
Our course’s “home site” is the farm’s brand new events greenhouse, where we are appropriately surrounded by kale and tomato seedlings, and just across the way from the tilapias in the aquaponics system and the new chicks in their brooder. In the afternoons, if the glare in the greenhouse gets too intense, we move to a covered outdoor classroom right next to the farm’s no-till rye fields. Standing there that first afternoon teaching the session on natural patterns, I could point to nature’s patterns right there around us — a tree, a cloud, the movement of the wind — to illustrate my point.
With two weekends behind us now, the course is in full swing. The participants are an inspiring bunch — coming from diverse backgrounds and interests and bringing to the course such good energy and enthusiasm and unique talents.
One of the highlights of the course so far has been our natural building session, with four hands-on stations for learning different natural building techniques: cob wall and garden bench building led by our tireless Emily McCravy, natural paints beautifully taught by Kelley Adair, as well as slip straw wall insulation and clay plastering. Music was playing, the sun was shining, everyone got their hands and feet dirty. In other words, a good time.
As a co-facilitator of the course, I have the great pleasure of sitting in on the sessions taught by Nick Tittle and Matt Kip, and I always find myself learning something new. One of my favorite new concepts lately has been the idea of “zones of brilliance” that Nick introduced, drawing on Javan Bernakevitch of Permaculture BC. The idea is to take the notion of zones used in permaculture land design and use it as a tool for life design: finding the “zones” in your life where you shine, by asking the questions:
What are my inherent natural gifts?
What am I perennially passionate about?
What pattern of problem do I see that needs solving in my community?
I have long been curious about the applicability of permaculture principles to our inner lives, and this seems to me one of the more compelling approaches. You can catch Javan himself talking about it here and here. I myself need to let it sink in some more, but I dare say this entire course experience is one grand opportunity to explore my zones of brilliance.