The GANG Garden, Ecovillage: What are the three requirements for long term success? A story from today.

If you recall, we took down a beautiful mimosa tree that we thought had died over the harsh winter; but it hadn’t died, we discovered afterwards.

The GANG Garden: death, life, death, life

Or maybe it had. Not sure. A local horticulturist told me about ten days ago that none of the local mimosa trees had leafed out this spring.

Oops! Then, two evenings ago, I decided that, as a co-founder of the Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage, I would attend an evening potluck for another local intentional community initiative, Bloomington Co-housing, to celebrate passage of their project by the City Council. And while there I discovered that a mimosa on their property had leafed out. Granted, it was in a very protected area. But. . . Okay. Back to “feeling guilty” for having murdered, or at least too-hastily cut down, our precious mimosa.

Speaking of yucky feelings, that same afternoon, Danny the co-founder of Dandelion, the third (and final, so far) (all of them still “forming”) cooperative living initiative within Bloomington, rode up on his bike. I invited him in for a cup of tea. Like our envisioned neighborhood-turned-ecovillage, Danny told me of the struggles Dandelion has been having. We talked about the importance of absorbing and integrating all the shadow-stuff that comes up when manifesting visionary community projects like ours. Those clear and strong visions — as they interact with both squirrely (especially idealistic young) people, and entrenched attitudes (of especially older people), plus the sometimes seemingly nonsensical vagaries of city and cultural codes — tend to get cloudy. Some visions even fade away in the mists of might-have-been. And then we are tempted to turn cynical. And pretend that “nothing ever changes,” when we know full well that another more caring, cooperative, sharing world is possible. We’ve seen it; we can taste it. It’s there, in front of us. All we have to do is reach — and keep reaching, no matter what.

At the co-housing event that evening, while talking with one prospective member of their community, I exclaimed in a strong, low tone that in my long history of experimentation with various cultural and political edges, I’ve learned that the three most important qualities needed to affect social change in the long run are vision, determination, and flexibility.

Oh! I didn’t even realize that I thought this, until I said it.

And now, on reflection I’d say yes, all three, and I would add, equally.

I mention this encounter because just today a situation developed here which required all three in me in order not to get “discouraged,” and in fact, not only that, but in order to process a feeling of “shame.”

Hmmm. Shame? Why that? For that is what I noticed in myself, after an encounter on the phone with the man, a contractor who is replacing a “tear down” house about four blocks away in this neighborhood. I had walked by the job with puppy Shadow one morning, and expressed interest in the dirt they had excavated for the new basement. Told him about the Green Acres Neighborhood Garden, and how we were making a large new hugelkulture bed —

Image: richsoil.com

Image: richsoil.com

— about four blocks from his construction site. He seemed very friendly, and told me he would make sure that I got some dirt.

A week ago or so, he called and said he had the excavator there and could bring me one large scoopfull. Unfortunately, I had to say that we weren’t ready yet, that our chain saw to cut the wood was being repaired. Asked him about Monday or Tuesday this week. Said we’d be ready by then. “I’ll make sure you get some,” he replied.

So. In anticipation of the coming dirt, over the weekend and yesterday we cut up the wood and piled it next to the old stump in my front yard.

Here’s the photo of the stump as “eyesore” from an earlier post.

IMG_0293

And here’s the result now, including the cut up mimosa tree, and chunks of another tree that had hovered too close to the new solar array on the other house of this two-house combo. (We will rebuild the low rock wall on the left now scattered on the grass.)

IMG_0375

Here it is, closer-up, from my porch steps. See the trunk still peeking up?

IMG_0373

At this point, some might call it even a greater “eyesore” now than before. Kind of looks like we’re ready to set a large bonfire, eh?

Just prior to getting dirt on it, we’ll fill up holes with office paper and newspapers, maybe some cardboard. Were we to do that now, it would look really gross. And while I don’t care, I know some neighbors might. After all, we are doing this urban farmstead in town, where different aesthetics prevail — so far. And we do try to be sensitive to others.

Given how the barenaked hugelkulture log pile now looks, needless to say, I was anxious to get that dirt, which we were going to use as a bottom layer, then put composted soil and manure on top of that. To get a large shovelful was such a great idea, because it could just be dumped on top and spread down equally.

So, this afternoon I called his cell phone, and told him, quite excitedly, that we were ready for him. “Oh that? He replied. “The excavator is gone.”

CLICK.

Click! He actually hung up on me. I was astonished. He had seemed so nice, and accommodating, and it was so great to be working with a contractor in the neighborhood to help out our garden project.

But what interests me here is the feeling of “shame” that overcame me. I’ve often noticed this, how a person whom another person treats badly is the one who feels the shame rather than the person who did the deed and should be ashamed of themselves!

It’s really strange how that happens, how the “victim” takes on the feeling that should be the other person’s! So often I’ve seen this, especially in domestic violence situations.

Okay, so here I was, in that same position, feeling not only victimized but shamed! Not that I “blame” him for what he did. I sense that he just didn’t know how to deal with my disappointment, and so he did what he does when he wants to get rid of a situation, he just clicked off. Unskillful action and attitude, dontchathink? And yet, how often have I done the same thing, or something similar?

As I sat here, noticing the feeling of shame take me over, from the inside out, starting in the stomach. This behavior was something I just “couldn’t stomach;” yet my emotional reaction to it was inside me, and I could feel it creep up to my face as a hot red embarrassment.

Weird. there was no one here to see me, to notice how I had been treated, by this voice on the phone; no one to commiserate with me or else nod their head with an “I told you so, men are evil” or “people can’t be trusted” kind of remark.

Yep! I didn’t even need a witness to feel embarrassed! That’s how deeply ingrained in me is the cultural attitude that attends this kind of unskillful give and take between two people, strangers admittedly, but who have struck up a kind of temporary alliance.

This small incident illustrates the kind of obstacle that we face in doing any long-term visionary project. A tiny obstacle, admittedly, but one that, if I didn’t consciously notice how “it made me feel,” I might have used to stop myself in my tracks, give up the project as unworkable: “nothing will ever change; people are assholes.”

No way. People are not assholes. Not most of them. Though they — correction, weare unskillful much of the time. It’s up to us to change that, by becoming aware of both our interactions and our internal visceral responses when things don’t go as expected, or even when, as here, we receive what feels like a “slap in the face.”

Now what. Obviously, the third quality mentioned above must come into play here. Not just vision, and determination, but flexibility. How shall we obtain this needed fill dirt to get our large hugelkulture bed to the next step in its journey to become a beautiful spiralling herb garden?

I open to the universe and await her reply.

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7 Responses to The GANG Garden, Ecovillage: What are the three requirements for long term success? A story from today.

  1. First of all, what are you doing cutting down trees? The conditions you mentioned don’t hold water. Not for a permaculturist.

    Secondly, contractors running heavy equipment are on a time is money basis. He made that offer based on the time frame that the machine was scheduled to be there for but he certainly wasn’t going to postpone going on to other work waiting on your call.

    Granted he certainly could have been more diplomatic. Yet for him I imagine your free dirt was a spur of the moment gesture and his head moved on to other things such as a business to run with a huge overhead. At $100+ an hour, staying on that job one extra day would have cost him $800-1000.

    Yes I look forward to a kinder, gentler world as well. Understanding others behavior and not personalizing it goes a long way towards that end.

    Reviewing, as you’ve done, one’s own reactions and gut feelings goes a long way towards healing and clearing the conditioned responses.

    BTW, thank you so much for your blog. I have learned so much.

    • That $100/hour: point well taken! Thanks. As for taking down trees, except for the mimosa, they have all been wrenching decisions. The first, the remains of the old stump, about five years ago, a soft maple that was dropping branches, getting holed by woodpeckers and had hardly any remaining leaves. (So many of the original fast-growing maples planted in this subdivision are all about 50 years old, and dropping or being cut down these past few years.) The Elm tree that furnished the first two hugelkulture beds was splitting down the middle with one part dropping over the DeKist house and the other over my house. Similarly, not many leaves left. The one I took down after the solar array? I didn’t realize I would do that until I saw how, if a branch fell, it would go right on the solar panels. In that case not a big tree, one of the “junk trees” that divide these two properties. Grew up on its own, I’m sure. The bigger worry is the pin oak, gigantic, near the border of my DeKist house, but belongs to the neighbors next door. Rebecca and the tenant there took out all sorts of poisonous crap (see this) and there’s more to go . . .

      • And when I say “except for the mimosa,” I think you realize that we inadvertently murdered that tree by not waiting long enough to see if it leafed out this spring after very cold, long winter. . .

  2. ksense says:

    “Men are evil” 😀 Mother-in-law would love that. People just don’t do what they say anymore.

  3. ksense says:

    Maybe your feeling of embarrassment is because you felt duped by someone who presented himself as having integrity. In the age of “everything is a lie” we want to trust people, especially in a one-on-one situation. Inevitably we come across these kinds of people

    • I still think he just didn’t know how to “handle” my disappointment. And got off the phone as quick as he could. Maybe it brought up something in him that he hasn’t yet faced, and may not ever face. So important to recognize old patterns, eh? In my case, I remember once being called a “pert little snip” by a nun whose desk I had rested my elbows upon (with hands to face) when delivering her a message from another classroom (where I was “teacher’s pet”) and so no doubt she was right; I WAS a per little snip. Anyway, not sure why I bring this up. Oh yes, it’s because my younger sister Kathy was in this classroom and remembers the incident and was “mortified” — for me? Or did she take on my “embarrassment.” Actually, I didn’t remember this incident until Kathy reminded me of it, a few years ago. It’s still hazy in my mind. Because I “blocked” it as way too awful to remember?

      Anyway, human interactions can be so juicy with all sorts of remembered and unremembered stuff, eh?

      • ksense says:

        Yep, I met a childhood friend this past weekend who didn’t remember me. I have a ton of memories about him. It threw me off for a few minutes.

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