Continuing with the themes I explored in my two “O” posts, I’m looking at “practice” in the sense of “getting better at, over time, with consistent effort”. Very much like what Calamity Jane talks about in The Incredible Power of Habit. Very much like singing or meditation, cooking or tango. You get better at it, the more you try.
Erica, over at NW Edible, has an old post in-which she defends the enthusiasm of people who are crowing to the blogosphere about how they’ve just made their first batch of lacto-fermented pickles, or yoghurt, or home-made bread, or what-have-you. You know, crowing just like I do all the time (thank you for your patience). But something she says in it resonates a fair bit: The beginner is pushing back against “Normal” (or at least normative) behaviours, and she’s doing at the beginning, when those push-backs are still hard and scary.
So it is with syncing up with your local year-wheel. So it is with getting to know The Neighbours.
You don’t practice cooking by setting out to make a nine-course meal. You practice cooking by making pancakes from actual-scratch, rather than from pancake mix, on the weekend. You practice cooking by making half a dozen hard-cooked eggs and packing them in to work with leftover spaghetti (made, quite possibly, from store-bought sauce that you bravely spiced up with a handful of dried herbs and a clove of pressed garlic). And then you practice cooking some more by skipping the store-bought sauce, and dicing up a couple of tomatoes to go with those herbs and garlic instead. You do it in steps, not leaps.
And that matters.
Connecting with The Land has to happen in stages, and I don’t mean the part where it can take a while (possibly a very looooooooooong while) for the neighbours to be inclined to get to know you back . (Well, okay, that too, but…) I mean that part that you actually have control over.
It happens by taking regular walks and noticing where the moon comes up on the horizon, how it shifts over the course of a year, where the edible wild plants are growing and whether or not you can safely take them home (to eat, to transplant). It happens through noticing where the quiet places are that the houseless folks sleep, and noticing the other quiet places where they don’t, and maybe – slowly, carefully, cautiously – opening up to asking why that is. It happens by paying attention – both in the sense of noticing what’s happening (listening, watching, learning), and in the sense of giving people your attention – literally paying up front – by cleaning, feeding, offering, and walking lightly where you tread.
Step one, as the Permies say, is always Observation. Learn what the site – the yard, the neighbourhood, the house, the scrub-lot – has to tell you through your senses. What do you see, hear, smells, taste (careful now), and feel on your skin? All those Lunar Cycles posts I make? Those are my Observations; my years-long, on-going recording of my neighbourhood (and, to some extent, bioregional) Wheel.
What you do beyond that, how you go about interacting with the rest of the place of-which you are a part, can go in a lot of directions. But slow-and-steady is probably your best bet. Today might be kitchen composting. Tomorrow (or next month, after you’re in the habit of not throwing your biodegradable food waste in the trash) might be kitchen composting and Foodland Ontario produce; or kitchen composting and weekly water offerings made to the tree that grows on the same parcel of land as you do.
Go in steps, but keep on going.
Practice, practice, practice, and see how far you get.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 NOTE: This doesn’t necessarily mean Asking The Spirits – although it’s potentially an option to do so. It might just mean using your eyes and ears and other less Woo senses to determine that, actually, that low hollow spot is a total cold-sink and tends to be soggy on the bottom.
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