Day 1 Reflections

Into the woods #PDC #wildpoetry

A post shared by Rich Denyer-Bewick (@therichdb) on

So, Day 1 was fun. I’m not going to cram all of it to a discussion in here, but as a basic overview we covered: 

  • introductions
  • learning culture – how we work together
  • review of permaculture: ethics, principles, design process, tools
  • introduction to Action Learning Pathway
  • Wild Poetry exercise
  • Review of ethics in ‘what we brought for lunch’
  • preview of the course outline / activities
  • intro to Open College Network accreditation
  • review of Day 1

One of the bits above, which I enjoyed the most, was the Wild Poetry session. We were led by Mark, for a walk into the woods, in silence. We were asked to begin taking in the sights and sounds as we walked and to become more aware of our surroundings.

On the way, my head was pretty busy going over things we’d been talking about in the morning, but my eye caught a glimpse of this tree stump as I walked past:


I noticed how it had been sawn to the base and how all of these new shoots were springing up all around the circumference. I was struck at how the ‘end’ of this tree, its sawing off, had become the opportunity for all of this new growth. Perhaps it was something that’s been rattling around for me personally for a while, but it really resonated…

It reminded me of one of the permaculture-principles – at the time I couldn’t quite remember it, but I came back home and checked it out:

Understand and work with succession – natural systems are constantly working towards a climax state and then a new cycle of life. Humans constantly grow, learn and change. Design your systems to work with this unstoppable process: use it, accelerate it, don’t fight it.

Once in the woods, we were sent off on our own for ten minutes to find a space and get to know it; sit down, open all of our senses and, do nothing (I like doing nothing). When we were called back, we were asked to write down three words, phrases or lines that summed up some of our experiences and observations. We then split into groups and brought our different lines together, mixed them up and came up with some pretty on the spot poetry.

I was stunned by how good everyone’s work was and how much it resonated with our shared and individual experiences of spending time in the woods. OK, they may not have been masterpieces, but considering we weren’t aware of the brief as, it was introduced step by step, I was still pretty impressed. Here was our group’s creation:

From the monkey mind, to the oneness with nature

From the stump that is cut, to the strong supporting trunk

From the drawing down, to the pushing up

From the cold, insignificant and weak, to the majestic loving warmth of mother nature

This is the paradox, that knocks, at the edges

Well, I thought it was great anyway! What I actually loved about this exercise was that it began to give me the idea that something within nature could very easily inspire creativity – the term mark used was to ‘animate’ nature; give it further life… or that’s how I remembered it anyway. And I liked the idea that this could/would be the basis of permaculture design – work with what’s there; take inspiration from the natural environment, and then create (animate). This exercise also reminded me of how the Shaolin monks also took their inspiration from nature; creating both martial application physical forms inspired by animals and the natural environment, and also using herbs and plants to heal wounds [note – you might get a little bit of martial arts within this blog – it’s a passion of mine].

So, overall I think this was my highlight, aside from feeling very safely held in a supportive learning environment with 20 strangers! That’s no mean feat.

Over and out


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