True North


If a seed has to grow with a rock on top of it, or in deep shade, or without enough water, it won’t unfold into a healthy full-sized plant. It will try–hard–because the drive to become what you were meant to be is incredibly powerful. But at best it will become a sort of ghost of what it could be: pale, undersized, drooping… In the age of ecology, we ourselves are the only creature we would ever expect to flourish in an environment that does not give us what we need! We wouldn’t order a spider to spin an exquisite web in empty space, or a seed to sprout on a bare desk top. And yet that is exactly what we have been demanding of ourselves.” (Barbara Sher, Wishcraft, 1979).

This summer I’ve written a number of times that my interests in permaculture are first, our surrounding social and cultural environment – our healthy human interactions with each other. Raye Hodgson, whose writing about permaculture is beautifully informative wrote, “At the core is the realization that our relationships with our environment directly affect our relationships with each other.”  I would add that our relationships with each other also directly affect our relationships with the environment. Penny Krebiehl* likes to say pointing at herself, “we are 00” the starting point of all permaculture design which uses zone 0, our human living space, as the beginning point of design.

In Cultivating Peace, James O’Dea writes “We identify everything in the world around us in the light of our experiences and cognitive categories and in accord with our worldview, the superstructure of meanings that we hold to. New paradigms have a tough time breaking through… we can become imprisoned by what we think we see and know.” 

In nature cooperation is the rule…

So maybe you can see how I see shared housing

My 10 weeks of a most wonderful “summer camp” living with Penny and learning and practicing permaculture ethics and values ended last Saturday with one last watering of the Big Garden and chatting with fellow gardeners. On Sunday evening Penny hosted a backyard fireside chat and sing-along goodbye fete and fest. Zack played guitar and sang, Gary set off fireworks and Levi, a parkour player, “did a trick for me” summersaulting over the fire – twice! Yikes!

The week before I was preparing to leave I stayed with a group of women friends with whom I house shared a few times during the summer. We had a rambling conversation about sharing.

The most important value was addressed first – When we are really sharing space we are in relationship – sharing with generosity, responsiveness, and elasticity vs. sharing on our own turf when it is convenient. To do this honestly we need a sense of humor and a sense of perspective and courtesy, often putting ourselves in the place of the other person. Our intuition wires need to be working along with our responsibility to create a space for open communication.

Marlene who permanently rents a room in Virginia’s house told us there also needs to be a values exchange.

She continued, “I’ve learned from Virginia. I never composted or recycled until I moved in with her. But I have also influenced her. I care for her. I want her to stay on her path… Recently after she was disappointed about the outcome of something she was deeply involved in, I told her “you are not getting the nourishing food you need – you are getting the $*%.”

We also need to recognize a Favor Bank:  We not only put in deposits but must be willing to take out (favors).

This discussion reminds me of the idea of hospice which comes from the Latin hospic, which means both host and guest. Whether we are sharing our home or living in another’s home we must be both host and guest. **  Hmm, reminds me of gardening or even living on the planet Earth.

“There is no use trying,” Alice laughed, ” one can’t believe impossible things.” I daresay you haven’t had much practice”, said the (White) Queen. “When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” –Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland.

I’m currently in Marquette with my Silly Old Fool. Stay tuned…

“All endings are also beginnings.
We just don’t know it at the time.”

*Penny Krebiehl, Traverse City, MI.,

**see the story below Delivered by Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner at Union Theological Seminary, Noon Chapel, October 20th, 2005 about the Jewish festival of sukkot corresponding with harvest festivals throughout the world.

There can be no encounter with ancestors unless there is a genuine attitude in this life that welcomes in those who are our neighbors – even those who annoy us. The merit of the ancestors only comes when we enact the principle of hospitality and openness in our lives here and now.

Let this sukkah be a symbol for our hearts this season, open to the sky, and open to the stranger who might walk through the door. May we rush to provide an empty seat for the ushpizin.

About Marian Methner, B.S., D.Min.

Polydox: accepting that we are many labels, I am mother of 4, mother in law (love) of 4 and grandmother of 5. My life is a collection of bits and starts. I was recently on the road for over a year exploring ideas of living in shared housing. A recent summer course in Permaculture design, solidifed my interest in "social permaculture" or ways we interact not only with our Earthly environment but also with each other. I am back Bellingham, Washington, in a small rental house, owned by my ex husband, talk about shared housing, practicing living in community with family, and friends. My doctoral dissertation A Map to Living Open Heartedly, centers around making art as a way to healing. Paradoxiclly, a recent diagnoses of heart failure (cardiomyopathy) expands this exploration...
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4 Responses to True North

  1. Casey says:

    Thanks for sharing, Ma. Wishing you a continued happy, healthy, adventuresome journey. xo

  2. Louise says:

    Love the quote from Barbara Sher and your journey, Love, Louise

  3. I think a new book by Parker Palmer would really resonate with you. Healing the Heart of Democracy, The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. He is in good company with your thoughts and the people you quote. Nancy

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