Specializing in the design and delivery of transformative, experiential education.

Garden as Teacher of Transformation


Here I am, doing it again: coming back to my small, south-facing patio in East Vancouver to have a look at my garden.  After living in a north-facing place for almost 10 years, I can’t get enough of the sun, or of the small simple garden I have going this summer.

The transformative educator in me is so nourished and excited by tracking how each plant is navigating its space, access to sunlight, placement on the patio and proximity to one other.   One of the tomato plants got a bug going on it, which cost a few branches that wilted and died quick deaths before my intervention of a soapy spray took effect.  And yet it’s like it never happened.  That plant adapted easily, never stopping its growth or fruit production.  The roles played by the now dead branches have been picked up by others, and stimulated new growth elsewhere.  I find a lot of inspiration in this simple yet profound action of balance. 

It’s amazing to me how much water these plants are drinking.  Everyday I seem to offer a bit more water than the day before, yet no member of my humble garden community shows any sign of ill health by over saturation.  Then I remind myself how much intense growth and production is happening in this motley array of ceramic and plastic plant pots.  Transformation requires a lot of energy inputs, positive and open intentions and tons of the right kind of fuel.  This reminds me why participants in my courses and workshops often report feeling both exhilarated and tired simultaneously. 

The field of social ecology stresses how all Life processes are self-organizing.  The operative term for this process is auto-poesis.  I have lived in cities the majority of my life, growing up in Calgary and now, suddenly realizing I’ve been 30 years in Vancouver!  However, when I need to understand a complex issue or process I still look to nature so often for guidance.   I often ask myself the question “What does nature do, how do Life processes address what I am trying to grasp here in the human community?” and some level of clarity almost always comes, fairly quickly too. 

In trying to solve complex human issues, both individual and collective, I see more and more that many of us are making a fruitful return to this direction of reflection, taking our cues from the other than human world.   In fact, where else exactly would we look?