Diary: 'My nemesis'

IssueJune - July 2024
Comment by Cath

Gardening brings out the aggressor in me – I root out bindweed and thistles with a focus and single-minded determination lacking in all other parts of my life.

The simple judgement call of getting rid of things we don’t want (in that place) is easy to repeat.

I rest my decision-making brain and follow the roots beyond the vegetable beds, gaining more pleasure the more root I get out, shouting out to other humans when I pull out particularly deep or long roots.

I find it hard to stop, having developed a Pavlovian response: see it, weed it out – I can’t stop, there’s still some here….

‘I’ll be there in a minute, coming soon’. Oops, late due to bindweeding.

I enthusiastically tell new gardeners about how satisfying bindweeding is, I describe bindweed as ‘my nemesis’ and cast it in the role of attacker, an adversary with huge resources, against which we must always be on the lookout, pulling out any new shoots, devoting a part of every day to keeping it at bay by killing it, and accidentally or just carelessly killing things that are close to it or look like it.

What has happened to my brain, to have put whole species in the role of enemy?

An enemy to be not just defeated, but entirely wiped out?

At some cost to my own time and to other beings.

I find it curious (and perhaps concerning) that my anti-speciesist views and pro-diversity rhetoric are so easily set aside or ignored.

Of course, I can justify my actions to some degree – we have our food supply and our pretty flowers to protect, our plan for what should be in our garden.

However, I would say that, objectively, the garden would benefit more if I spent my time on more constructive and nurturing activity.

Frankly, it gives me insight into some other people’s feelings and behaviour in regard to other humans.

The other night, in a field in Scotland, someone asked me: ‘Is that the Northern Lights, or just clouds?’ ‘Clouds, mate’, I said, and spat out my toothpaste.

Unsatisfied with my answer, they asked someone else, and louder so that more people heard – someone came over excitedly, saying: ‘I’ve been watching for about an hour and it’s definitely the Northern Lights’.

Someone else held up their phone to demonstrate how you could see the colours with clever camera settings.

I pondered my quick and certain (and demonstrably silly) response.

Where was my consideration of the permaculture principle of observation? Why did I find it so easy to assert knowledge when I had none?

Admittedly, there was an element of comedy value in my reply, but was it also a power-play? The predictable behaviour of a middle-aged and time-served member of a social group to a new and young member?

Or simply an AI-like response, saying the words that have most often been said? Hopefully the person in question learnt that my wisdom is not a given.

My new life is in a growing commune, we discuss politics and how we want to live and behave a lot.

Every Tuesday evening, we run an open introductory session on different aspects of the commune – in other words, every week we explain to more people our values and principles and how we put them into practice.

On a monthly basis, we hold ourselves and each other to account in a critique/self-critique practice – which we got from the Kurdish freedom movement – called Tekmil (common to liberatory movements globally since the ’60s).

We are aiming to become more thoughtful and effective humans, so hopefully my tendency to glibness/murderous garden behaviour will be curbed.

A lovely result of being a new, well-networked, highly political project is a stream of exciting visitors, many of whom bring challenging questions and ideas.

As well as lots of people seeking socially-engaged community or relationship with the land, we are increasingly gaining supporters and friends from a couple of highly politicised social scenes – we’re becoming a social hub, where folks know they can stay to decompress for a day or two, do some gardening, some cooking, some learning and some theorising.

So much so, that we’ll likely buy a very damp second house round the corner, where I might replace bindweed with cement-based mortar as a more politically-acceptable object of my aggression.

Wish us luck!

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