Abundance Thinking & Permaculture Design

Autumnal Abundance

Images of the Earth from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The images on the left show the winter and summer solstices. The images on the right show the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Images of the Earth from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The images on the left show the winter and summer solstices. The images on the right show the spring and autumn equinoxes.

We officially launched Inviting Abundance around the Autumnal Equinox of 2017. During the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes, the Earth’s axis “stands” perpendicular to the Sun’s rays, creating 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night across the planet. Will and I (Joanne) wanted to begin such a venture at this time of planetary-solar alignment since we sincerely hope that our work supports our clients in finding (anew) balance, stability, resiliency, and creative curiosity in whatever circumstances caused them to seek us out.

A golden delicious tree laden with fruit at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC in early October 2017.

A golden delicious tree laden with fruit at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC in early October 2017.

The Equinox is also a time of seasonal shift. Glennie Kindred writes of Autumn, “The life force goes into swelling the fruit and the seeds within the fruits. It is a time of nature’s wild abundance and a natural time to give thanks for all the abundance the Earth has given us this year. We give thanks for our personal harvest, our friendships, the adventures we have had, all that we have loved and appreciated, honouring our losses too as part of the whole” (Letting in the Wild Edges, 219).

I appreciate Kindred’s framing of “losses” as something that actively contributes to our wholeness or fullness. Autumn is a time of fullness and overflowing (two meanings of “abundance”), materializing in cornucopias, harvest festivals, and celebratory gatherings. Many people feel motivated at this time of year to share what they have with those who have less. If cultivated and nourished, this self-awareness and community engagement can lead to meaningful relationships that extend well beyond the current season.

Manifesting Abundance with Permaculture

Permaculture design aims to generate and harvest abundance throughout the year. I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate in February 2016, when I was beginning my 2nd trimester of pregnancy with my son Phalen. It was an emotional time for me as I felt guided to permaculture by his older brother Finlay, whose death threw my entire life into question, and I was now physically sharing this learning space with his brother.

Bill Mollison (1928-2016) and David Holmgren (b. 1955)

Bill Mollison (1928-2016) and David Holmgren (b. 1955)

The preparation for the 8-day on-site intensive course at Midwest Permaculture introduced me to some of the primary elements of permaculture design, as originally conceived by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 1970s. If you have never heard or seen the word, “permaculture,” I encourage you to visit Holmgren’s website Permaculture Principles. Permaculture design embraces systems thinking to understand the interconnectivity of life on this planet and forwards specific principles to guide us in enriching our homes, gardens, farms, communities, and cities. While I am not going to delve into the history or practice of permaculture here, a helpful (and succinct) way to think about it might be: designing sustainable home and work environments that utilize edible landscaping, produce little to no waste, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and support wildlife as well as local (human) community initiatives.

From David Holmgren's website,  permacultureprinciples.com/ethics

From David Holmgren's website, permacultureprinciples.com/ethics

Three primary ethics inform permaculture design: Care for People, Care for the Earth, and Fair Share. Ideally, these central ethics guide all decisions when devising and implementing a design, no matter the scale.  Permaculture unfolds from a belief in creating equitable, thriving environments where humans, wildlife, and plants all flourish and where we use/take/consume only what we need. Far from a utopian ideal, permaculture design – as conceived and practiced on 6 continents – starts with the material conditions (climate, rainfall, wind, soil, vegetation, etc.) of a given place and implements slow changes in relation to what already exists. Permaculture works from the premise that bounty – or abundance – is very possible. If we understand this planet as a bountiful place and we do our part to nurture biodiversity, to build up fertility in our soils, and to keep our waters clean, then we allow for natural abundance to flow.

Looby Macnamara's 2012 in-depth study of social permaculture. It contains a lot of great insights and helpful ideas.

Looby Macnamara's 2012 in-depth study of social permaculture. It contains a lot of great insights and helpful ideas.

Permaculture speaks to social as well as environmental practices. Social permaculture focuses on activites that build resiliency within communities of various scales by creating and supporting equitable and just conditions for all peoples. Practices within social permaculture may include bartering or time-share systems, the use of local currencies, support of co-operatively owned businesses and volunteering, and so on. Social permaculturists want to earn an income to support themselves and their families, but they are also activists whose ethical practices are based upon the premise that people, planet, profit, and purpose go hand-in-hand.

An herb spiral with compass points to show its orientation. [themicrogardener.com/4-step-guide-to-building-a-herb-spiral/]

An herb spiral with compass points to show its orientation. [themicrogardener.com/4-step-guide-to-building-a-herb-spiral/]

Desiging for Abundance

Signs of abundance appear in many facets of permaculture design. For example, garden plans might include spirals – which expand as they unfold – and curved edges – to create larger areas for planting fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These shapes encourage an overflowing of vegetation. In terms of social permaculture, abundance thinking undergirds actions that benefit the many over the one. Examples include businesses that provide a living wage for employees and restaurants that donate unused food to food pantries and then compost their scraps. Here we see a dynamic web of conscientious acts that enhance the lives of many living organisms.

In environmental and social projects, abundance manifests through a fullness and overflowing that can lead to sharing our bounty with others. So how does abundance thinking inform our work at Inviting Abundance? We believe that it is vital for each of us to carve out space and time for ourselves to mindfully face the challenges in our lives. It can seem next to impossible to actively and openly confront that which challenges or possibly terrifies us, and yet this confrontation can lead to enormous insight about who we are, what and who we most care about, and how we can continue living with intention, care, and creativity.

This is what we want to help our clients to invite into their lives: an awareness of the abundance that exists within each of us and in the worlds we inhabit. By tuning into the specific conditions of our individual lives, reflecting on the resources that are within and around us, and creatively maneuvering through our next steps, we invite in opportunities for healing, learning, and meaningful growth.

Related Blog Posts: Written by Joanne: Learning Gardens; Written by Will: “Pedagogy”: What’s in a Word?