How the mulch stole my purpose.

Recently I found myself oddly disconnected from part of my purpose, connecting. I can’t emphasise enough how much I love connecting, with people and places and information. Not long ago I asked fellow connectors to suggest a title for my LinkedIn page as I was stumped and suggestions included ‘serial connector’ and ‘sustainable dot-joiner’. And yet suddenly, there I was one morning, sitting at the kitchen table thinking about two upcoming events in Wellington (my home town = perfect opportunities to connect) which normally would have me fizzing with excitement. But there was not a single fizz in sight.

Not even a bubble.

The thought of engaging in conversation, absorbing new information, connecting dots, left me, if not cold, then most certainly luke warm. Because what I really wanted to do was put mulch on the garden.

Gardening and I are newly acquainted. My grandmother was an exceptional and devoted gardener but until very recently, it appeared to have skipped not just one but two generations. Initially it was a case of being thrown in the deep end i.e. finding myself in possession of 12 acres. I was not a little daunted and I can’t say I was in my element dealing with weeds. But then I discovered mulch.

Not long after moving here, the wonderful Kath Irvine from the Edible Backyard came to visit and her advice was to spend time clearing out, sheltering from the south and opening it up to the north, before I really considered planting anything other than herbs. So a few months later, Bruce, the arborist followed in her footsteps and consequently I now have two enormous piles of mulch.

They took me by surprise, these piles of mulch. I didn’t expect to like them so much. Big mounds of plant matter which look like Autumn and smell like Spring. I had no idea I would lose myself in the process of pulling up weeds or weed mat, piling in deep dark rich organic soil and then inch upon inch, wheelbarrows full, of mulch.

The sense of satisfaction is almost visceral. I have an active mind, I find it hard not to think, but something about mulch makes me want to not think and instead, just Be. Present. To stop and smell the lemon blossom, to put my face up to the sun, drink in its warmth and for a few full moments  absorb its light as much as it’s warmth.

Synchronistically, my infatuation with mulch has  happened at the same time as I’ve been sitting with the question ‘What does it really mean to Be In Nature?’ For two reasons, one is that the recently founded Biomimicry Aotearoa network is now based (at least initially) at Peka Peka and the philosophy at the centre of practice of biomimicry is reconnecting with Nature. Secondly, in the process of testing a series of retreats/workshops here, it increasingly feels to me as if key aspect of the offering is being in nature, being a part of it.  I want to learn how to facilitate that, amplify it. And while no doubt some desk research and learning from knowledgeable people will follow, at the moment I’m simply trying to feel it.

While preparing for the last biomimicry workshop of the year, I listened to a lecture by Dayna Baumeister (one of the co-founders of Biomimicry 3.8) in which she describes biomimicry as ‘an emerging discipline of an ancient practice’. Spending time with my hands gathering mulch and my feet in the Earth feels like the beginning of remembering an ancient practice.

So yes, the mulch stole my purpose. For a few days it stopped me from connecting with people and information and new places, but then it gave me my purpose back. Enriched, enlivened, restored. As we wind down for the Christmas holidays, I hope you have space to disconnect from the busyness and business of your life and that you spend some time with your ‘mulch’, whatever that might be.