Sap In The Roots: Slowing Down for the Winter
You’ve probably noticed that we have a divorced relationship from winter in our culture, mostly caused by an economy and fractured society that demands consistent production regardless of natural cycles, and offers little sympathy or support for a life that slows down in winter. Winter is cold and snowy and bleak, and other than holiday sales it is mainly an inconvenience to be mitigated rather than a necessary part of a bio-cultural cycle to honor and enjoy.
So why do we offer our PDC course in the winter?
In many ways, it makes more sense to me than in the growing season because it’s mostly story-telling, “classroom” teaching, delivery and digestion of transformative concepts and information which in a land-based culture we have much more time for in the winter. Of course, because this is Permaculture in Action we always include hands-on projects and even those are chosen for the season.
The indigenous winter life-style of story and dreaming
The old-time people here, the Tsalagi, spent winters in special earth-bermed long-houses (often in different valleys and with totally different building styles from their tree bark shingled summer lodges) dug into the ground, where most of their time was spent stoking the fire, eating carefully preserved foods, telling stories, and deeply dreaming like I imagine bears or firefly larvae might do.
Imagine when spring came! Imagine the feeling of re-growth and a new world budding forth, the people emerging from the ground just as the nettles and ramps and bears and maple buds did the same, ready to plant this year’s seeds in the humus of last year’s growing, now digested by the underground fire of stories and deeply transformative rest, supported by the whole community that had just spent the winter underground together.
As an aspiring indigenous person (AIP), I long to truly be owned by this place, to actually be an organ contributing to these watersheds, soils, weathers and fertility cycles, instead of just residing here as a long-term tourist. As I live and teach the Permaculture principles and increasingly integrate a land-based lifestyle I experience moments where I feel the rythms of this temperate Great Eastern forest. I realize that I must be paying enough attention, at least for a moment, to help take care of the earth around me and to receive the generous suckling that the earth is always offering. In these moments my spinning mind gives up the reins for a couple stanzas and my heart kicks in, confirming that I have the choice to belong here if I let go of the modern obsession with perfection and just focus on growing beauty as a human.
So, a Permaculture Design Certification class in the winter is a different kind of animal than one in the warm season. We did it last year and it was great. This year with the different format, we’ll be hunkering down for 4 days at a time at Earthaven Ecovillage to enjoy the winter forest and the feeling of having, at least for a moment, a tribe with which to share stories (maybe sappy stories?) down in the roots.