Continuing Education

That DIY permaculture “class” I posted about a few weeks back took off over at Homegrown. There are about 12 participants reading The Manual, as well as an offspring ‘beginners’ group reading Gaia’s Garden. It’s great.

I have been devouring Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, the 560 page textbook/bible. It is essentially earth science as it relates to ecological food production, coupled with a very methodical approach to the design process. I love it. Bill Mollison is the scientific counterpart to Wendell Berry’s decidedly literary work, and you know how I feel about Wendell. They are both extremely thorough and concise, dense enough to be academic but with heart and pulse (and a healthy cynicism about academics). Putting them together fulfills all my fantasies of intellectual stimulation.

And, guess what? I had fantasies. They were unspoken, nearly unconscious. I was jealous of My Man when he was in school. Not because I wanted to be in law school, hell no! But because the idea of taking one’s knowledge to the next level, of devoting oneself to studies and furthering oneself intellectually, was delicious.

But, I gave up on the idea of finding the things I wanted to learn in a school setting long ago. I love to use my brain, to challenge my brain, but the things I like to use my brain on are the domestic issues never ever discussed in universities. Everything else just seems mundanely boring. I have always been mildly interested in ecology, but never interested enough to put any time into it. Ecology as I’ve read about it before seems so unrelated to me. It was not until now–reading about it in the context of learning to grow food based on natural ecological processes– that it became fascinating.

At first I thought it was because permaculture relates everything back to food and/or design (my two top favorite subjects, hands down!) but there are plenty of food history books that I find boring. After some thought I realized that it’s the fact of being related to something I can do, and furthermore want to do! It’s the possibility of involvement and participation that compels me.

That’s all good, but what I really wanted to share with you today is just how much blissed-out fun I am having learning something big! Considering that the manual is 560 pages of dense, sometimes technical reading, coupled with the self-made ‘final project’ of creating a genuine permaculture design for our property, I have given myself and the Homegrown group 5 months to get through it. It’s like a real college course! And since it builds on what I already know, it is quite literally ‘continuing education.’

I think my ecstatic joy at the learning process might be particularly based on where I’m at right now, mama-wise. I was at a kind of a shifting point, well primed for a learning phase; and having just moved back to our own place, I am ready to re-immerse myself in the project of living sustainably in this environment.

Whatever the reason, my oh my, does it feels wonderful. If anyone else is feeling the need for some continuing education, I highly recommend taking a good book on the subject and turning it into a DIY class. I did this once before, years ago (Tom Brown’s Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, doesn’t that explain in 8 words the shifts my life has made?) and also really loved it. The right book is important, but I think equally important is treating it like a real class. Which means setting aside consistent and adequate time. That’s the hardest part. After that, if the subject is of interest and the book is good, the rest unfolds itself.

One thought on “Continuing Education

  1. I can so relate. I get so cynically mean (on the inside) during the unending discussions of clothes, kids and recipes among my acquaintances. Not that those things aren’t good, but it’s hard to care that much. I found that book at our local library (and the librarian commented that it had spent a lot of time at her house as well, I love that woman) so I’m popping over to join your class as soon as they let me in.

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