Seven years ago I had a vision: to bring what I saw at SolFest into the urban environment, and to share it. I didn't know about permaculture at the time, there was no "sustainability" movement, and "green" meant a color of crayon (or the Green Party). The fact that I now live in a place that is part home and part demonstration space, is a testament to the power of life coaching (thank you, Nika Quirk!) and God's action in my life. On the one hand, it's been a long haul, and on the other, it's been a blink of an eye.
The day after we returned from Utah, Josh Shupack's Bicycle Permaculture Tour rolled through. Still high on vacation, I got to share Mariposa Grove and Willow House with a group of about 40 interested people. I recognized a few of them, but mostly it was new faces. They'd already been to a half-dozen projects, but there was still excitement (or perhaps that special, spiritual glow people get when they see that the future might not be so grim as the doomsayers want us to believe?) in their faces and questions.
Hank and I fielded questions at the start. I really like talking to people who have pierced the veil of our over-consumptive, pre-packaged society and are eager for the kinds of solutions that will become part of our lives within the next five to twenty years.
"Why are your raised beds different heights?" asks one person.
"Because one of the unnatural aspects of suburban design is that the developer comes through and levels the place and then plops boxes on top of that. Natural places are full of elevation change. Even Walt Disney knew this, and designed small rolling paths throughout DisneyLand. "
"It looks nice."
"Well, sure, because it's more natural and more familiar with the landscape cues embedded in our genes."
Questions came fast: "How well do you get along with your neighbors? Where are your bees? Is your gray water system hooked up? How does the rain catchment work? Is that an electric car? What's guild planting?"
Aaron, Jori and Caitlan pitched in and helped as everyone divided up into smaller groups. Jori scared a few people as he opened up the vegie-oil bus. I guess they weren't expecting him to pop out as they were peering in. Caitlan showed off the herbs garden planted all over the deck. Some people got to look at Aaron's vegie-oil settling system. Others toured the common house and asked questions about the differing economic models between the adjoining properties. I talked about physical systems and some of the integration among those, Hank talked about the social aspects. We touched on small, slow change, problem as the solution, and earth care. I suppose at the background of much of the discussion was people care and and fair share, but I don't think we got explicit about those. Several of the cyclists were clearly reluctant to leave, but they eventually all went on, some home, some to the next stop on the tour.
"Why do you think people were so interested in this?" I asked Hank, waving my hands to indicate our homes. To me, this looks like a barely begun patch of potential paradise, hardly warranting the joyful response we received.
"They'd seen a few places already, true, but I think they saw something unique, here," he said. "We have several people working on different parts of sustainability and community. I think that's the exciting part, for people who come here: they see something that's more diverse than any one person's vision can be."
That's something we certainly do have, here: a diversity of ideas and practices, of concerns and abilities. In all my years' worth of notes about building up a demonstration project, this is an aspect that I'd assigned to a far future project: having it be village-like. What a wonderful, unsuspected surprise for me, to have leapfrogged the singleton effort and landed in community.