Observe and Interact*

Hello T,

Well, now I’ve spent 10 days or so in Leeds. It has proved to be the most structured and routine-defined part of my life since I left university. I get up in the mornings, cycle to the office with my pannier carrying my lunch box, notebook, and waterproof trousers (what every cycling office worker needs). I spend most of the day reading, writing, listening, or talking about permaculture in different manifestations and representations with the lovely people there. I then cycle home along the canal, it’s a slightly longer route but its beauty makes up for it. Also, it’s slightly more exciting. We cycle on the old tow paths used by the horses pulling barges. There are quite a few low bridges to cycle under, meaning that the path becomes a lot narrower and twists sharply around the bridge foundations – and so everyone has to ring their bell, (or shout plingelingeling loudly) to avoid collision.

I am finding that I quite enjoy this routine, and that having a certain routine does have its advantages. For one thing, observation becomes a lot easier. I enjoy having the added time 2015-10-17 13.48.04dimension to my observations, where I can reference to the past and notice change. As such, from one day to the next, I have been able to notice the minute changes in colour of the leaves that autumn brings about. This form of observation is a lot harder when you’re always on the move. The only thing I constantly have around me is my self, the perception of which is so influenced by the present that it is immensely difficult to do any time based comparison. It is an aspect of travelling life I hadn’t quite realised before, and definitely something to keep working on.

I have just stayed a couple of nights in LILAC, a cohousing community here in Leeds, visiting some friends. It consists of 20 households, in houses or apartments, placed around gardens, a pond, and a common house. In this way people have their own space but also access to a big shared kitchen and eating area where they have communal meals twice a week. They also share resources such as tools in a shared workshop. There are no streets or cars on site (which apparently was difficult to get through the planning process, of course a council would insist that everyone needs to be able to drive right up to their front door). Oh, and best of all, they have productive growing space where every household has a little allotment, just next door– luxury. Two nights is not enough to get a proper impression of the place, but what struck me was how much easier and more enjoyable life gets if we actually observe our needs and wants, and place our interventions to address them within that same realm of observation. Last night there was a music night in the common house of LILAC. Residents could glance out of their window over to the common house, see that the music was happening, and stroll over in their slippers pretty much. Somehow this felt less stressful, less forced, and consuming less energy than having to look up events online, remember when they start, plan for that specific time, and find appropriate transport there and back etc. Its about observing what is going on in your vicinity and interacting with that.

Oh, and on that note, I thought this might interest you. The Guardian are looking for input on what they should be covering next in their Keep it in the Ground- campaign, as well as for what they should be reporting on during COP21. You should be able to give them your ideas and comments here. Just another way of remaining aware of what we observe in the world, and interacting with those observations.


*Observe and Interact – the first design principle of permaculture. It’s the idea that through good observation we can be aware of what works and what doesn’t work in a sustainable system. We can use these observations to make sure that any intervention we do is well thought through, appropriate, doesn’t use any more energy than is required, and doesn’t have any unintended consequences. It also means that we take personal responsibility by acting on, reacting to and interacting with these observations.


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