Clockwise from above: Morning raindrops; Enjoying the property im the morning light; Noticing the first blossoms of spring. Photos by Eliza Henry-Jones
Too often, we get caught up in our busy lives. We become overwhelmed and never quite catch up with all the tasks we’ve set ourselves. Becoming more aware of our surroundings through mindfulness is one way to reset ourselves and improve our wellbeing.
Observation is an important part of permaculture, but being conscious of how we observe makes a huge difference in how we relate to our properties. It’s too easy to walk through your garden and notice only the things that you have to do. Sometimes, it can be energising, but often it is overwhelming and exhausting.
Moving from a quarter acre, to seven and a half fertile, sunny acres was a dream come true. Yet, with four established orchards and two huge vegetable patches already in place, we quickly fell into a pattern of stress and panic; forever playing catch-up on chores that we didn’t fully understand. When I looked out at our paddocks and orchards and garden beds, I seemed to see only what was waiting to be done. I saw only flaring weeds, too-long grass, beds that needed tending and trees that needed pruning.
One summer night, just near dusk, my husband and I walked around the property. Usually on these walks, we pointed out all the things we still had to do and talked about the things we were behind on. Often we’d come inside feeling elated and a little bit hysterical—overwhelmed with weeding, paddock rotating, pruning and planting. That night we made a rule—no talking about anything we still had to do. Instead, the walk became a celebration of everything we’d achieved.
We noticed things we’d never noticed before. The toppled eucalyptus we had neglected to cut up and remove had managed to cling on and had re-sprouted along its diagonal trunk. We observed the property far more closely than we were able to when we were looking at it as a series of incomplete jobs. We enjoyed the property as it was in that moment—a dazzling suspension of what we’d already done, had yet to do and everything in between that simply was.
Every day, I try to look at our property without thinking about the jobs I need to do. Some days this is easier than others. I try to notice the insects in my garden, not just taking note of pests that are affecting plants or fruit, but how they exist as part of the garden ecosystem. From the cabbage moths to the bees; from the slaters to the ants.
I try to pay attention to the shape of the plants and the colour of their leaves. I try to notice each individual plant that we’ve sowed in our patch and marvel at how far each has come from being a seed. I try to notice each tomato we’ve staked, each bed we’ve added compost to, and each thing we’ve done to nurture our garden system.
There is such value in observing your garden, just as it is. There is beauty there that you might otherwise miss. Light and shadow; patterns and textures. On a more practical level, you may notice minute changes in your garden that you would otherwise have missed. Additionally, by making the time to take mindful walks around your garden, you’re going to improve your wellbeing. Mindfulness has been linked to lowered stress levels, improved sleep, improved emotional regulation and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness refers to an awareness of something— whether that be our own bodies, a piece of music, a breath or the colour of an eggplant leaf. The skills needed to approach your garden in a mindful, positive way can be applied to other areas in your life. You, like me, may readily feel guilty about all the things you haven’t yet done. Once you start accepting your garden as it is and framing it in terms of what you’ve already achieved, it’s easy to frame other areas of your life in a similar way.
For instance, focusing on the ways you’ve supported your friends and family, instead of worrying about the ways you imagine you’ve fallen short. Focusing on what you’ve done to manage your house (whether it’s doing washing or clearing a tabletop) rather than becoming immobilised by the enormity of keeping the house continuously spotless.
By focusing on what we’ve already achieved and accepting various parts of life simply as they are, we will see things in a different light. There is so much we’ve already achieved and so much beauty in what simply is.