Scaling back can nourish what is meaningful to us, rather than deprive us.
In the last few years, our garden has been growing fewer veggies. This summer, I charted the sun and shade at two-hour intervals during the day, roughly one month before the solstice and two months afterwards. In late August, our garden looked like a woodland with dappled sun. Most of the beds had four or two hours of sun. No wonder the tomatoes have not been looking happy.
When we first moved to our home in 2010, there was more sun and we had more time and energy than we do now. Over the years, the big trees that were already here grew taller, the plants that were the best adapted grew like crazy, and our bodies have needed more gentleness. Permaculture has taught me to observe and accept feedback. Things are different than they were a decade ago; it is wise and efficient to make the most of current conditions.
I'm learning to work with what I have now, rather than fight things. We plan to trim the hedge on the southwest side of our lot. However, trying to trim the top of a large black walnut or birch tree wouldn't make sense; that would probably require a crane and they'd grow back quickly.
So my partner, Bastou, and I both see that it's time to scale back our veggie garden. We can sow cover crops next spring until we have a clear plan. We'll likely plant some of the shadiest beds with delicious shade-loving perennials, like hostas and Solomon's seal.
All of this points me to a bigger life question: where do I really want to put my energy?
Before my dad died, almost five years ago, I found myself “busy all the time.” I taught courses regularly and designed new workshops. I organised events, facilitated meetings, took minutes, and created posters. Bastou and I grew most of our own food. We hosted and attended parties.
But grieving took away much of my energy. I barely had enough for the basics: working part-time on one contract, doing a bit of housework, and being in contact with my immediate family and a handful of close friends.
Grief and the garden have since made me wiser. I am learning to focus more on what really matters to me and less on activities that don't contribute much in the bigger scheme of things.
I've been working on a book for almost six years, and I'm hoping to have it in print in the summer of 2020. It's called "Embers of Hope: Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction & Climate Chaos."
"Embers" is like a young tree in the garden of my life. As it's grown, I've slowly pruned back or moved smaller things to give it more space. And there is only so much space, so I have to make choices.
Trying to pack less into my calendar allows me to work on my book and hopefully bring it to fruition. And trying to pack less into our veggie garden will hopefully allow us to attend more to the other wonderful things blooming in our lives.
I invite you to reflect on your life too. Where might you scale back, in order to make space for things that are important to you? How might you live a more meaningful and nourishing life?