That which offers no resistance overcomes the hardest substances. That which offers no resistance can enter where there is no space. Few in the world can comprehend the teaching without words or understand the value of non-action.
The winter is a wondrous time of active inaction. We can hunker down and go through the seed catalogs that mushroom this time of year. We let our imaginations run free and get our orders in while supplies are lasting. The garden lies there, soaking up rain and snow and revealing the skeletal remains of the previous summer.
But something else is possible in this time of reflection. We can review the lessons that the garden has brought us this year. Observing the garden with unbiased eyes shows where the light is falling and how intensely it is doing so. We remember the coolness in the shade. We notice what is wetter and drier due to water coming off the root or channeling in heavy rainfall (if you are so lucky!). We note plants so happy that they are spreading and plants so challenged they retreat. We sense the garden’s flow, that natural force we align and flow with.
In permaculture, this awareness is the first principle of Observe and Interact. Your garden works on long time scales of seasons, years, decades, and changing climate. Here at 40 degrees north, we are experiencing the weather of Pueblo, Colorado (38 degrees North), and fully expecting our environment to be more like Albuquerque (35 degrees North) by this century’s end. We expect 17 inches of rain per year, Albuquerque expects 11 inches per year.
Here is a fun explanation of the principle of Observe and Interact:
There is the Observe principle, and then there is the Interact principle. The best explanation of the first principles of permaculture is the documentary on The Biggest Little Farm. If you have not seen it, you owe it to yourself as a gardener to savor the lessons learned on the farm. Here is a link to the 10-minute trailer: