I recently attended a two week permaculture design intensive, at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Centernear Sebastopol, CA. Over nine hours of class every day for two weeks including a design project with a randomly assigned group of the students, the class was no vacation! But it was magical. For starters, OAEC is a permaculture paradise. Operated for over 15 years as an active permaculture farm and community, there are incredible gardens and edible landscapes all over. With ecologically designed structures interspersed over the ample grounds, including a few light straw structures, cob benches and aerating fountains, the place is a showcase for how elegant and functional permaculture can be. And the place is populated by an incredible and vibrant group of teachers and educators. Their passion for transformation is palpable. And then there were the classes: Having not been in such an intensive learning environment for many years, I literally drank in the knowledge that was amply communicated to us. Incredible classes on the foundations of permaculture, community and communication as well as a huge assortment of permaculture technologies including landscaping, key line, swales as well as energy efficiency in building design and farming practices. Truly information overload of the best sort. And did I mention my fellow students? We were truly blessed with such a warm, motivated and incredibly fun group of students ranging from 17 years old to over 60. A diverse and incredibly well matched group, I fell in love with all of them.
And literally in the middle of our course, the foundation of our so called free market economy collapsed! I can’t think of a better place to have been than on a permaculture farm! News of the 700 billion dollar bailout was met with swale design and harvesting from organic gardens and the possibility of living a sustainable life. It was a truly breathtaking contrast. And it has since put me into a place of examining the life I am living: I am part of an industrialized world, loving the conveniences and ease of our lives. Yet recognizing that at some level our lives our ultimately unsustainable. And questioning the choices I am making constantly, recognizing my disconnection from community, from the earth. I know that these times are a blessing, giving us all the opportunity for reevaluating our lives, and hopefully, soon, being able to make the right decisions for a more sustainable future.