Permaculture : an interlude

Did we go around with serious miens, return to our rooms for further research and study? Naaw! We had fun. The two coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon sessions and the hour long lunch breaks would see us swarm out and begin animated discussions full of laughter. There were sumptuous snacks and endless coffee. In the evenings we would watch videos or more likely, step out to a pub or a cafe.

About five days before the end of the course the class was divided into 7 groups and each was given an assignment to design a Permaculture space for customers whose profiles and requirements differed. The Bull Paddock of Trinity College was our common canvas. We had to survey it, study it and meet our client’s needs. This exercise brought out our understanding of Permaculture principles. Simultaneously, we were preparing for the Big Party to bring down the curtains on the Course. The object was to have fun, as though we had not enough of it thus far. There were conclaves everywhere working on project assignment and rehearsing for the party.

On the last Friday, Oct 3, 08 we presented our projects and explained the logic involved. Bill, Geoff, Gregg and Tony gazed on. Enthusiasm, creativity and diligence were on display. We felt very included as Permaculturists. In the Party that evening it was Bill who carried away the honours. When the songs and dances had been presented, close to 100 people sat on the parquet floor, listening to Bill. He sat on a chair switched around, his elbows on the chair’s back.

Bill began slowly and spoke softly. He was narrating the story of how a whale washed ashore on the beach at Stanley when he was a small boy. A little dog had wandered into the whale’s jaws and disappeared. And three boys -Bill among them- ventured to fish out the dog. It was of course more than just this tale. Bill filled in exquisite details of the time when innocence, hard work and frugality reigned.

We heard with tightening breath, in love with this man who by his life and advocacy had been battling the way of our fully monetized world where everything had a monetary cost but not an environmental one. In the two weeks with him we had not so much been educated as transformed in ways we were not fully aware, except that we knew it was significant. There was sadness now, that we must return to the world out there.

In the fortnight of the Course, we had seldom discussed the world outside, certainly not its ills. Permaculture had completely displaced it. Call us innocents or Bill’s flock. We throve on news deprivation. Now we must re-enter the world. It was not even the bad world we had left two weeks ago. It was worse.

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