On Monday December 19, 2016 at approximately 11:45am I entered Constantine and Kathy’s home and was greeted with eggs, sausage, bread and butter. I began discussing updates and feelings towards my internship with Community Food Initiatives. These thoughts and feelings were guided towards communication and observations within my experience. There is something exhilarating about leaving one internship and journey to another and have time to reflect over the time previously spent.
Constantine then gave me a radio in order for me to locate Kathy’s whereabouts in the beginnings of her journey of planting ginseng. Although the word ginseng has been tossed around in different conversations throughout my young adult life, I did not know much about it. I arrived to Kathy as she was tossing seeds that had already seemed to begin sprouting within the bag they had been stored in. The area she was tossing towards appeared to be an area that was just gently raked against. The soil was not deeply grooved, as I expected it to be. I guess my expectations came from my basic knowledge and mental image of garden experience.
Kathy explained that there are different ways of course to plant ginseng and this was a good way to incorporate the Earth’s, and particularly this forest’s, input as to the biological community. An example of this input is the idea of the seeds possibly moving or blowing against a different side of this new garden, perhaps by the dog’s through steps or the wind swaying the rake and leaves one way or another. Kathy taught me that ginseng is endangered and I distinctly remember her noting George Washington’s particular interest in ginseng.
Ginseng enjoys sitting on a slope facing East. Kathy asked me if I was oriented to my cardinal directions in this particular area and I replied no. Although I know to use the sun as my tool, my answer came much quicker than my thoughts collected. Although I would discourage myself and/or anyone to answer quickly without giving sufficient thought, I am glad that this particular answer came about in this way because my answer opened up the opportunity for Kathy’s response.
She began by directing my body to face East and to allow my feet to be planted into the Earth, allowing myself to notice that I am a plant of the Earth. Kathy told me that the East was for beginnings, perhaps a type of birth, this is where the sun rises from. We then turned towards the South, a direction for growth. This particular direction resonates with me on a very firm level of understanding. We then turn to the west, a direction for change, perhaps a type of death.
Finally, we turn toward the North, a direction for community. Kathy’s guidance reminded me of a tradition that has been a part of my life since I have had memory. Every Winter Solstice in Evergreen Hills, we would meet as a neighborhood at someone’s home for a bonfire celebration and a dedicatory speech to our different cardinal directions. This was a tradition that ignited a form of spirituality that I would believe in and trust in, since I began collecting memory from this practice. After providing thanks to these four directions, Kathy asked me to follow behind her footsteps with my footsteps in order to give a final pat down and salutation to the Earth before moving on to the next potential ginseng garden. Kathy said that this was how I could help her; the dogs joined us to help just as I was.
Previous to my departure outside to join Kathy, Constantine made a special effort to explain the transfer of chain of command that was going to occur once he gave me a radio to join Kathy. This particular clarity is an aspect that I have learned is vital through my introductory education of Incident Command Systems and Holistic Management. I have learned the vital aspect of this clarity through many different types of experiences regarding effects of confused roles within a system. The effects of this confusion consist of wasted resources, opportunities, and time. Thus, tasks and product are not completed to their full potential of efficiency and accuracy. The catalyst for change in these situations is lack of quality.
I would have not been able to articulate these feelings and scenarios in the way that I was able to above without beginning to study Holistic Management. I did not imagine that learning of this structure would apply to so many different aspects of my life and other lives as much as it truly does. The tools given by the structure reshape language and manner of attentiveness towards a broader view and long term solutions. This view and these solutions can apply to everything from business structures to personal relationships.
Although I still have a lot left to learn towards Holistic Management, I have been able to identify aspects of myself that led me to my holistic goal and my vision. I did not imagine that I would be able to incorporate so much of myself into a structure like such. I have been learning the importance of knowing oneself in a life’s journey and Holistic Management seemed to come at an ideal time for learning ways to apply oneself in order to manifest the impact on a problem and solution.
This internship has been quite inviting to my passion towards my journey through my social work education. Part of that invitation includes an environment that is quite mindful of self-care and professional development. Social work can be a broad journey and it has been for me thus far. After exploring social work on a micro and macro level, I have found my strengths within my thinking process to be guided toward thinking at a macro level. Athens Own seems to share excitement with me through my macro level thinking, leading to some lightbulb burning conversations.
The first and one of the most striking conversations consisted of social sustainability efforts, perhaps the solar plexus of my passion. A light example of this type of thinking is to explore ways that a particular social structure could operate in a more sustainable manner, in order to achieve long term goals and visions of those individuals. If one way is not working, then what does work? There are ways to use our human energy in inefficient and efficient ways and the ways that are used always have short term and long term effects. Perhaps the differences between those long term and short term effects exist on a vast scale. My interest level is high in allowing attention to be brought to the perspective of the social conduits of perceptions and how those perceptions affect the rest of the world around them. Could these insights and experiences be channeled in a different way, in a way that affects the involved systems in an efficient long term means?
I have found that these situations can be found within a business, whether for profit or non-profit. Holistic Management assists in providing many examples of applications of structure that can assist in the completion of tasks in a sustainable manner. The addition of personalities, experiences, and feelings is where I find my communication to come through naturally with my constant mindfulness of my desired quality of life. These human aspects can alter any process within a business through disconnection of communication and from not taking much time and effort to assess a situation from different points of view. A Holistic Management learning process preludes with an exercise regarding thinking outside of the box. Not to sound cliché, but this is a good phrase and way of thinking to begin with for this type of processing and communication.
A major part of my vision consists of creating an open space for healing by setting intentions towards connection and self-reflection by starting with personal vulnerability. This is a result of assessing my desired quality of life which heavily involves having open space for healing. I have begun to learn that this kind of space can look and feel many different ways, it could be found in a business setting, a family setting, or a perfectly intentional setting. Holistic Management and Athens Own have taught me that this atmosphere can exist in a business setting and I think that that is a very important lesson to take from Holistic Management. One can manifest their goals, visions, and quality of life by simply maintaining a mindfulness of those images and what those images involve.
Constantine recently introduced me to an example of macro social sustainability in action that is happening because it simply just is. This group is called The Pantsuit Nation and I have been introduced to this group via Facebook. “Pantsuit Nation exists to harness the power of collective storytelling. Stories shared on our public page from the Facebook group are only shared with enthusiastic permission from the author,” the description of the group reports. This is exactly what is occurring within this group, stories are being shared from across the country, currently involving almost 4,000,000 individuals.
This is an example of shared catharsis using genuine personal experience. This is a way to introduce stories that can be used for learning and relation. There is a hidden invitation within this group, an invitation to open one’s spirit by sharing and listening in response to chaos that the world might share with us. I see social sustainability in the way that these individuals have decided to respond to actions and speech of the world that can be seen as intolerable and defeating. Success in sharing is happening very quickly within this group, this is a hub for healing and maintaining spirit. There is a lot to be learned from this group and other groups alike.
Now that I have been led to apply myself to a manner of systems thinking, I have been able to firmly grasp the importance of taking the patient effort to identify the systems of the atmosphere and environment around me, as well as the systems of the pursuit I decide to take toward my vision. My hope is for my next steps to involve more investigation and involvement with social sustainability in action. I want to find these actions in all sorts of different realms of experience, everywhere from a for profit business atmosphere, all the way to any intentional space created in lieu of a different way of communicating for the betterment of the world around those individuals. I want to begin to contribute more facilitating of these types of dynamics within the realms I am provided, practicing using all resources available to me to my best potential.
As I followed in Kathy’s footsteps, following her, the rake, and the replaced leaves, I initiated a mindful thanks and good bye for now to the new ginseng garden. We then carried on to a different area of the forest, paying special attention to the different water flow patterns on the land. This was a good time for Kathy to teach me of these patterns because of the recent rains that came through the area. She showed me the impacts of the water flow from just those few rains and she also showed me the lasting impacts of erosion from quite a few different causes. An example of one of these causes is past logging, examples of loggers not paying particular attention to how their equipment affected the land.
Kathy showed me how the dams she has built help guide the water to flow one way or another and how those particular ways affect the entire biological community of the forest. We spent time assessing details provided by the land as to how the water flowed through different barriers, such as leaf piles and silt piles. The details were seen first by Kathy, and as she pointed land messages out to me, I knew that I could see the messages as well. Attentiveness to these messages is a new lesson for me; however, a lot of this process evokes a strong sense of familiarity within me. Perhaps this familiarity stems from a macro social work process; a broad form of communication with the land sends us towards patient attention towards the details which is where the feelings of the forest are inhabited.
There is a striking spot in the forest where Kathy and I came to stop. There is a landmark view that is difficult to describe with just English language and/or a written description. You might just have to see it yourself sometime. This is where a new ginseng garden will reside. Kathy began to teach me how to rake in the form of a circle, perhaps a sacred circle that evoked a pattern that is familiar to my inner child. She reminded me to be communicative with this area, especially since there was bright green, thriving Sicily and bright green, thriving stink bugs.
I paid attention to the cardinal directions of our current location and I checked with my gut while Kathy also checked with her gut. Although it has always felt like a familiar nature for me to check my feelings, this gut check is a final and quite important part of the decision making process presented with Holistic Management. If our gut says no, perhaps our instincts are noticing something that our eyes and ears are not. We were asking the forest and this biological community if it felt okay and/or felt good about us adding a change to the community. I wish I could have asked exactly how the community felt about it and have heard an exact response. Although, perhaps we do know! Maybe we feel the exact answer in a twitch or a fidget, maybe a thought.
Now that our guts felt sure of this location, I offered thanks to each of our cardinal directions and then began to rake. Kathy asked me to share with her the name of the garden when it came to thought. Thus, this garden is now called ‘A Child’s Garden’. Once Kathy and I returned to the house, she showed me an approximate location of where ‘A Child’s Garden’ on one of her maps. This was a very neat moment in the day, to see a different perspective of a shared creation between Kathy, the biological community of Broadwell Hill Sanctuary, and I.