Solstice Reflections on the Persistence of the Wild

One of dozens of sunflowers who appeared in the backyard garden.

One of dozens of sunflowers who appeared in the backyard garden.

Summer Solstice 2019, Microstead Report. Read other microstead reports here.

In the last quarter, my gardens have blossomed into something I again find significant pride in. My root baskets are full of turnips, beets, strawberries, onions, and garlic. I’ve harvested yarrow and rosemary, lavender, basil, and more. And for the summer, I’ve introduced okra, edamame, peppers, and a few other herbs as well.

I’ve still found myself behind on goals I hoped to accomplish—mainly: installing a rainwater collection system. But I’ve also found myself less and less attracted to accomplishing everything so independently. Watching some sections of my raised beds thrive while others rest reminds me that it’s virtually impossible for me alone to grow everything I need to survive, especially in such a small space. This has been one of the major reorientations of my work lately that shifts my goals going forward. I’m not settled on what the outcome will be. Perhaps I only focus on growing a few kitchen herbs and vegetables next season, while reaching out to local farmers to fill in other gaps.

But whatever the result, this spring’s lesson has been interdependence.

In so much of my work—from putting out the bee hotels (nearly all of which are full now) and the bee bath, to planting specific plants to attract and nurture pollinators—I have been attempting to assert myself into the lives of the wild animals I wish to work with in this space. Yet at the same time, I have been mostly oblivious to how the wildlife has been relating to this space apart from those interactions I initiate.

As I have let parts of my backyard give way to the impulses of the wild, I have found myself suddenly contributing to the growth of wild cabbage and carrot, wild mustard and mugwort, fennel, beautiful deep blue dayflowers, and of course the towering sunflowers—themselves a work of inter-species artistry between the birds who feast on their seeds and the bees who pollinate them. This entire world exists working with this space apart from me.

The experience of observing this dynamic hits at the core of rewilding and anarcha-primitivist critiques of the permaculture gestalt. Even in my adherence to a vegan ethic, I have still approached this land as a human. I have still designed the gardens through human eyes, and through a human gaze upon even the wild bees I cherish. All this time, my eco-illiteracy has prevented me from seeing how the work of the birds and chipmunks has been towards the same ends.

Moving forward, I want to spend less time cultivating this space and more time observing. More than any design goal, more than design thinking, this is the perspective I want to root in. In that spirit, I’m abandoning the more structured format of my microstead reports this time around.

There’s a collaboration happening in this space. It’s not my project alone anymore.

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Pat Mosley (LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage therapist and life coach in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His work is especially focused on creating permaculture in his community, which sometimes looks like providing bodywork, and other times looks like writing or designing gardens for people and bees.

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