Sunday, July 23, 2017

Practice connections

If there's anything I've learned from our cat's, sudden passing, it's the importance of connection. More so, the practicing of it. The reason it's hard to lose a domesticated animal - even a livestock one, is because we practice a daily ritual of living in unison. Sometimes, up close. Other times, only on the periphery.

When it's not there any more, we fully appreciate the glue that became our daily ritual. Binding one, inexplicably, to the other. This is the whole point of this post. It's not necessarily about losing our cat.

Native Brush Turkey

It's about learning to recognise a profound absence in our existence. Which is difficult to do, if we're not practicing a daily ritual of interconnected living, with other elements. We associate easily to the animals we bring into our lives, but what about those native animals, living on the periphery?

Or the living things, we don't necessarily associate to being sentient? Like plants, microorganisms and water. Do we practice a daily connection to these things? Do we contemplate the roots underground, before we anticipate the crop of fruit we hope to consume?

Native eucalyptus trees

I would like to draw upon some of my indigenous ancestry, to consider a less European, point of view. Aboriginal society selectively desired things in nature, over and above advancing their communities, through agriculture. As noted by K Langloh Parker, in 1905, where she wrote about, The Euahlayi Tribe. The introduction was written by a man, and from it, he says:

"...the natives of the Australian continent are probably the most backward of mankind, having no agriculture, no domestic animals, and no knowledge of metal-working. Their weapons and implements are of wood, stone, and bone, and they have not even the rudest kind of pottery."

From a European perspective, the original inhabitants were considered backward. Because European stories of origin, emerged from dominion over landscape and animals. Dominion, until the next outbreak of famine and disease, forced a treaty with the natural order again. But the problem with civilisations, based on conquering, is they simply got on a boat, found another unadulterated paradise, to start the whole process again.

European origin stories, inevitably found fault with different rulers, different segments of society, and even the natural elements. But never the civilisation's themselves, for having a perverse view of what constitutes a natural birthright.

Native Red Grevillea flower

Let's consider how the original inhabitants of Australia, came to survive with such rudimentary tools, without agriculture. They formed, incredibly sensitive relationships, to their natural environment. Culture emerged from land, animals and people, being interwoven - rather than separated.

The good news is, we don't have to mimic a primitive existence, verbatim, in order to connect better to living things. A more agricultural existence - versus hunter gatherer - or using more sophisticated tools, is not an exclusive question, of ONE domain to rule them all. We do fail however, by not practicing a daily ritual with living elements, as a vital imperative. Because it's our natural inheritance in the environment, which steers us away from unnatural tendencies, towards destruction.

I say, unnatural, because we were given brains with the capacity to decipher conscience and choice, for a reason. We were made to decipher value in what we do, beyond instinct.

Native grass and Westringia bush, with exotic in background

Therefore, it's unnatural to ignore the effects of our global civilization, and passing it off as merely survival. Anyone feeling that tug of conscience, to return to the soil, is yearning to be connected with their natural inheritance again.

We come from the soil, and we will return to become soil again. So we should value what's taken from it, and what goes into it. By practicing that daily connection, we start to observe how we can effect change in our behavour, in positive ways. Change is necessary, if we hope to contribute something meaningful, back into our environment again.

The key is: something meaningful. If all we do, is directly about benefiting us, and not those existing on the periphery, it's easy to fall into the trap that we're more important in the natural order. Sharing, is a meaningful contribution.

Lavender for bees, and bromeliads for amphibians & lizards

So in your garden, plant food for the native animals, as well as food for yourself. Build habitat which connects different areas together. Learn to tolerate more intrusion, into your man-made zones, with wild zones. Because it's a treaty, not outright surrender. Use the natural resources in your garden, with the intent to return a surplus. Rather than stripping away parts, and having it dumped someplace else. And if given the opportunity, teach a child (yours or someone else's) to do the same.

This is how the Aboriginal people of Australia, got to reproduce their gene pool for up to 70,000 years. There is something to the process, of accepting the land given, is worth nurturing as part of the collective identity. I may garden for my family and I, but what I leave behind, will be what contributes to a far bigger picture.

Imagine all our gardens, connected together. Where migration of living organisms, becomes a vital imperative to who we are, and our children's future. It's more than survival. We're connecting to a living environment, and choosing respect for it. That is a choice worth duplicating, in our civilisation today.

How do you enjoy practicing connection, in your landscape? It can be at home, or beyond.


  1. Chris you are making me think again! I think it is hard to actually practice/carry out connection with one's landscape when time is limited. Observing before interacting certainly helps. Then taking time to ponder on what has been observed and carrying out some research to discover habitat needs of different elements, eg carpenter bees. (I love identifying different bees, honey bees, carpenter bees, the small black native bees, blue banded bees, teddy bear bees.) Connection with the landscape certainly deepens when one is more dependent upon it, for example water capture within the landscape becomes so much more important when there is not town water to rely on.

    Regarding your earlier paragraphs. People are still labelled backward today and people are still as judgmental as they were back in 1905 and earlier. Such judgmental attitudes often serve a purpose - e.g. if you are not capable of looking after yourself we will just have to make those decisions for you. Which incidentally calls to my mind a certain welfare card that politicians are trying to introduce in areas of Australia.

    Major Thomas Mitchell's journal provide an interesting record of land management on the part of Aboriginal Australians. Authors and historians are now reviewing the early records made during Australian colonisation and coming to some very interesting conclusions regarding Australian Aboriginal agriculture and aquaculture.

    1. I love noticing which bees are around too Sherri. I'm appreciative of the European honey bees, for the sake of honey, but find the native bees in their range of different sizes and habitat requirements, fascinating.

      Unfortunately, there are still some racist attitudes out there, still based largely on ignorance. I'm sure the desire is to "help", but the control measures implemented, really only entrench the problems further. Because you cannot fix severed connections in communities, with more control measures. It just alienates the community further.

      But I've also got to say, there are some wonderful people out there, implementing unique government programs, to counter those problems in different ways. So an awareness and willingness to change the way things have always been done, is in motion too. :)

      I can vouch in my ancestry, there was indeed aquaculture - but not as Europeans practice it. Wild harvesting of seasonal fish, migrating upstream, was practiced once a year. So instead of being all the time, it was a seasonal harvest. Many tribes would come together under treaty, to the land (my tribal land) the fish were to be harvested. They would block the exit points with rocks, and then once enough fish were in the main pool, they would block the entry point off.

      So it was wild harvesting of fish in abundance, using manpower, teamwork, ingenuity and rocks. A lot of what formed the indigenous community, was centred around connections. So when Europeans started to pull them apart, and teach them, they were individual units who had to compete with other individual units, to survive - it broke their sense of being. Not entirely, but it took them a long time to figure out, how to adapt with a renewed sense of being, as "they" understood it.

      An indigenous person, is not indigenous, without their community ties. They actually lose themselves, fall through the cracks (develop unhealthy addictions) and need their community, to bring them back again. They have never adapted to individualism well. It manifests as self-destruction, at a rapid pace. Which is why control measures, designed to alienate them from community, will never work as a strategy to help.

    2. Thanks Chris, that is good for me to read. I have a predominately Anglo-Saxon background. I think that I have a strong pull to individualism. So your last paragraph is very good for me to read and gives me a little insight.

    3. You're welcome Sherri. My hope is to build bridges between understanding. Because, like you, I believed I had a predominately Anglo-Saxon background for 38 years of my life. My father was the most recent import from England, when he was 10 years old.

      When I discovered my grandfather, on my mother's side, was indigenous, it gave a window into another existence. I learned a completely different story about connection. It's a beautiful story, and a tragic one. But nonetheless, a place to build bridges from. :)

  2. There are many animals that reside & visit here now, on what used to be a bare suburban block covered in rocky shale and nothing else but a few very hardy weeds. I love to see them - bees, butterflies, spiders, birds, possums, lizards - snakes too - and at the moment a couple of bandicoots based on the tell-tale drill holes in the garden - as I feel as though we share our land with them. Meg:)

    1. It's great when a landscape transforms, and you get to be part of it. Watching the lifeforms returning, is a wonderful reward. You may well have banidcoots, but it could also be kookaburras. They will peck into mulch, with their strong beaks, to pull out beetle larvae. I thought we had bandicoots too, until I saw the kookaburras doing their thing.

      But it's also possible, there are bandicoots too. It sounds like you have a lovely yard for all those animals to come visiting. I always take it as a compliment, when I have so many native visitors. :)

  3. Brilliant post, I have only the smallest of gardens, but I garden organically with the wildlife in mind, this year for the first time I have not been fighting slugs, no blue pellets scattered around the plot, we now have a hedgehog visiting. Hubby feeds the birds daily, and we enjoy watching everything in the garden.

    1. Whenever I think of hedgehogs, I always think of Beatrix Potter's, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. I'm sure the real thing, is a lot more interesting though. It's great you don't have to take an artificial approach to pest control any more. Now you have such wonderful visitors to view, doing all the interventions for you. :)

  4. Yes, brilliant post, Chris. Connections to the natural world are what we're losing, in bucketfuls.

    There's a property near me that I pass regularly. It's a hectare, like mine and it has a huge house near the front street. The rest of the property, and I mean ALL of it, is mown grass. There isn't a single plant, shrub or tree, even close to the house anywhere. The only shrubbery is in the roadside verge (and that belongs to the local council). I can't imagine what it would be like to live there, in such emptiness. Most times when I pass, the owner is wheeling around on his ride-on mower. It's been like this for years. It flabbergasts me. The people who live there must be totally empty of spirit.

    1. I like a bit of lawn, but a monoculture of anything, can't be good. It certainly teaches what a connection to landscape, doesn't feel like. There has to be a lot of things, to form a community.

      Although grass can be interesting, when it's allowed to grow, with weeds, in a prairie-like situation. The beneficial insects those attract, are amazing!! So yeah, love the grass, but people need to give it some friends, to see how amazing it can be. :)

  5. Not only have I enjoyed this post about connections Chris, I've loved reading your responses to the comments above. In bio-dynamics, the connectedness of all things is very much what glues it all together. It comes easier to some people than others. Some just don't get it at all. On another subject altogether, I made sourdough using your instructions instead of the method I've been using, and have had wonderful success. Thank you so much for the detailed tutorial. It's now my new way of sourdough baking and am going back to your tutorial over and over so I'll know it word for word soon. :)

    1. Thanks Sally, I appreciate the warm feedback, on talking about connections and the sourdough tutorials. When my blog lost a bunch of pictures recently, those tutorials were the first I set about replacing. Because there's nothing like making a successful loaf of sourdough! I'm really glad it works for you. :)

  6. I really enjoyed this post and the comments as well. I practice connection in a couple of ways. I like to learn the names of the flora that grows around me even if its not edible to me. I learn as much as it can about it as well, such as when to expect to see it after a long winter and I "befriend" it in specific areas. I feel that this helps me tune into a natural rythm with the habitat.
    Of course, being a bee doctor is helpful too. This spring, our bees arrived later than usual though the gnats were out in droves. There was a delay in the southern states where they were wintered. I noticed that even though all kinds of insects were waking, I had not seen a single pollinator. The hum of bees is also a part of my existance and their absence left a very noticable gap. It was like realizing tnat tne orchestra sounded great until noticing tnat there was no violinist. So by being a bee doctor I feel tnat I help bring a balance locally. Everything we do here falls around that one aspect.
    And then there are rituals, which I won't get into here but I think these are necessary for humans to forge- even if they are just made up on the spot- because most of us don't have the connection. Forest breathing might be a good start.

    1. It's that local connection, isn't it? There's a frequency we can learn to turn into, which differs from region to region. It's great you notice that about the bees. For me, it's the birds. I'm always listening for what calls are happening, from the minute I step out the door. I'm not even thinking what I have to do. I step out the door, and I have my internal sonar listening for bird calls.

      Because bird calls can tell you a lot. If there's many birds shrilling together, it means a predator is about. You can even tell where to look where the predator is, by the gathered birds and occasional swooping. Most of the time though, I just hear there regular happy calls, which tells me everything is okay in the world.

      If the birds disappear - no sight, nor sound of them, that's when I start to worry. Because it means a big storm event is approaching. I know it's time to batten down the hatches and be prepared to stay inside. But you're right. Birds, bees and flowers, can all tell us what's happening. When we notice the absence, then we're really paying attention - perhaps enough to do something about it. To join the links in the habitat again. :)

    2. Interesting. Now that you mention it, growing up in San Francisco with all the earthquake activity , we are somewhat desensitized to smaller rumblings- which happen daily. However, anyboy who lives there long enough can tell you at least a week before a larger quake. We notice a stillness in the air and its very, very hushed. No birds sing.
      I have experienced quakes in Chicago too but none of these same things forewarned me. I think its because the quakes in the midwest so far have not been that big relatively speaking. Its interesting what nature decides is an "event", compared to what we might think, isn't it?

    3. I'm glad you can verify the link between a lack of bird song, and the build-up to a large natural event. It was first passed onto me, as an indigenous observation. Watch for the birds. They will tell you what's coming, and whether you should leave that area - like them.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.