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The intimacy of Growing SOIL

Meanderings of the delicate and sensual connection with SOIL

This morning I found myself writing an email to a beautiful friend of mine. As I shared with her some thoughts I had around SOIL, words began to flow about the intimacy that I feel when am in “GROWTH” of S.O.I.L (Sacred Organic Interconnected Life).

I have recently distinguished inside of me, the difference between “owning” land and “stewarding” land. The former indicates that I somehow have control over this living Eco system or that I can change it at will or that I could take it away and use it as I see fit. When in actual fact, or real world, I can do none of these things. SOIL and the Eco systems in which they live, are ALIVE and have an innate intuition of their own. SOIL is a living breathing complex system not unlike humans. The SOIL, plants and animals that make up a given area, all share in the matrix and communicate their needs. If there is a toxic spill on the land, or someone tries to convert the forestland to a golf course, all of the organisms in this area, work together and create the necessary conditions to amend this imbalance. The community comes together and works for the health and benefit of the whole, while each maintain their own unique function.

There is an intimacy in stewarding land. I hear this from the farmers that I have come to know and admire. They become “in tune” with the ebbs and flow of their land. They start to hear the symphony of sounds as the SOIL changes in form, takes on more water, or become malnourished. As I begin to listen to the land where I live, I too begin to hear, see and feel the changes. It has been a struggle for me at times to add or compliment to my land. I have been caught up in the expertise or strategy of it all. As I completed my Permaculture Design Course, it became clear to me that there was at least two ways to incorporate this knowledge. One: the way it was being presented…which was as strategy, mathematic calculations and intellect. OR Two: with a sense of intuition, listening, ancient wisdom and trust. There is so much wonderful information that we as humans, have gathered about the earth and how it functions BUT there is that intangible information that can never be articulated. The secret language that the trees, SOIL and plants speak. That which is intangible, but we see the outcome of each and every day.

Those little intimate miracles that happen. As I observe these little miracles, (a plant grows 2 inches in a day, a “dead” plant comes back to life after a rainfall, the flowers bloom overnight, clay ridden SOIL becomes teeming with worms) I am always humbled. Regardless of my level or stature as a gardener, I can never really KNOW what has transpired to increase the fertility in this land. BUT…I can feel, hear and see the results. It is a beautiful dance of LIFE that goes on each day for me as I observe.

One of the main components of Permaculture is to Observe. Sit back, smell, taste, feel, see and listen for all that is a buzz on the land before you EVER interfere or try to “make” change. This is the distinction that jumped out for me today, “making change”. I would reframe this to read CREATION of Life. An ease and flow will present when we listen and don’t interfere.

I mentioned intimacy earlier….This is what I have discovered today. There is no right or wrong in how I approach “my” land. Often times, the urge to plant and where to plant and what to plant is nothing more than an impulse. It unfolds organically and as it should….but…only when I let go of the strategic and expert habits inside of me, can I hear this. The beauty of SOIL is that it is indeed alive and resilient. There is no right or wrong. If what you do one year doesn’t work out, trust that your land will speak up, you will observe and you can change it again next year. SOIL requires presence, mindfulness, LIFE, joy and magic. That’s all….. NO Different than humans…..When I let go of the “ownership” of land, it makes way for a much more intimate and deeper connection of living in community, and this is what allows for growth and evolution.


Mandy Sandbach