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The True Observer

By Kirby Browne, Permaculture student, National Environment centre, Thurgoona.

The thing I am most grateful for right now is a wonderful new awareness, a sense of connectedness to everything around me.This is something I experienced as a child, on a sensory levelmany times. Crouched under a low frond in my mum’s fern garden or flat on my back and wondering at the vast dome of sky; but until recently I never understood it on an intellectual level, as a concept I could grasp and explain. My introduction to Permaculture has given me a new perspective; a way of cracking open the shell of my little world. I have been blessed enough to be able to rediscover the art of observation; true and protracted, without intent to disturb or demolish or extract. A gift we all possess but, sadly, have neglected amid the static of modern pursuits.


Should we, perhaps, respond to our intuition, that deep, internal pull towards harmony and replace thoughtless action with thoughtful observation, we would begin to better understand the natural cycles of the climate, the plants and the animals on which we depend for survival. The true observer would witness that nothing exists in isolation to anything else, but that all life depends on a complex set of vital connections.


One Aboriginal culture describes this as a ‘waru’; a complimentary relationship between all organisms. Imagine an old red gum, sturdy and ancient, knotted into the river bank. This generous giant provides shade and habitat, as well as many other ecological benefits relating to wind, rainfall and nutrient turnover. In exchange the non-fixed species like birds, small mammals and insects carry out all the trees seed dispersal, pollination and nutrient needs. The casual observer would see a tree; the true observer sees a swarming, productive web of species, each filling their own niche in space and all existing within the greater patterns of time, birth, growth and decay.


It has been said by many permaculturalists that you should spend as much time looking and wondering and thinking as you do with a pencil and paper or a spade. The most important shift we will make in order to change our circumstances is the shift in perspective. The value of what we do will not be measured in carbon offsets and pricey, trendy, manufactured eco goods, but by our imagination and initiative, how intimately we observe and respond to the world around us.

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