Today, in the final class of Creative Conflict Transformation, we spent some time walking and talking in the park, and then doing some creative writing inspired by Lederach’s question of what happens if we approach our work more as artists, if we think of education as building intuition, if we become better at listening to our sense of vocation and following paths that might bring us closer to ‘home’.
Throughout the module, we had thought about and with metaphors. Today, for me, it felt like the right season to explore a metaphor that we hadn’t really looked at. Before the class, I packaged some homegrown seeds for the students, as a takeaway from the module.
Among my various dreams and works-in-progress is that of becoming a wise gardener – and perhaps that’s a metaphor for how to approach other work too?
My way of gardening is not the most efficient – it involves much pottering and pondering. It involves mulling over some of the big questions in life:
How to do good work and let go of the guilt of it never feeling good enough. How to nurture life and recognise our own lives as embedded in complex webs of relations. How to live and work and learn within cycles that recur but that are also changing in weird ways. How to be committed to specific places, with all their challenges and imperfections. How to recognise and find ways of working with recurring patterns.
How to find the right scale for agency and let go of ambitions to work beyond that. How to keep things close enough to home, and how to turn what is close enough into a space that feels like home.
How to honour the agency of other living things. How to give plants enough time to complete their own processes of growing and ripening seeds. How to wait for the right moment to plant those seeds. How to enjoy being in the moment and yet imagine future possibilities. How to respond when only some of those possibilities work out. How to experience my relationship with weeds as less of a battle, more of a meditation.
How to recycle leftovers or past growth into mulch to support new beginnings. How to know and do the things that can be done now and wait for the next season to have another go at others.
And how, in all of these processes, to notice the beauty of small things – the way blackcurrant cuttings smell like the fruit they might bear, the sounds of worms moving through compost, the company of robins, the stars of wild garlic flowers.
(I was reminded of how special those flowers are over our shared lunch today, when students from Colombia and Sri Lanka were excited at discovering and tasting them for the first time – and this reminds me of another student from Burundi who discovered them last year, on another walk and talk in the woods. It really is worth exploring learning spaces beyond the campus sometimes, for the serendipity of discovering beautiful flowers that taste of garlic, if nothing else…)