By Natalie Pax, Phase I Fellow
“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” - Anne Lamott
In ecology, the term “edge effect” refers to the point where two different habitats converge, creating an ecosystem of more species diversity and biological density than any one of the two habitats alone. This convergence creates diverse “edges” where materials and energy are constantly in flux and more species can live and thrive than in other locations.
Just over two weeks ago, nine different individuals came together to begin the AMI Phase I Fellowship, creating our own “edges” of converging lives. We come from different states, different backgrounds, different passions, but have one thing in common: sharing the next six months together in the Allegheny Mountains. Here, we will grow together and celebrate our differences in the process of learning how to build sustainable relationships to each other and the earth. Together, we will learn to cultivate delicious food that nurtures people and builds a sense of community.
Permaculture is a design process that acknowledges the “edge effect” in nature and emphasizes gardens that mimic the natural earth, creating biodiverse and creative zones. It also promotes the act of observing, and paying attention to one’s surroundings to understand the land and the different communities that live upon it.
Throughout the first few weeks of the Fellowship orientation, there has been a common theme: to pay attention and observe. From wanders in the woods to checking on the chickens at night to the mushroom cultivation workshop, the same message resonates as we continue to explore ourselves and the beautiful mountains of Virginia. One can learn so much just by taking the time to slow down, listen, and observe. It is so important to seek the “edges” where different people, ideas, and creative energies come together and to pay attention to one’s surroundings and find (or create) a sense of place and community.
I look forward to carrying this message throughout the journey of the AMI Fellowship, where I can learn from the land, the farm, and from everyone that I encounter in the mountains of Virginia and beyond. There is beauty in the birds’ song, the mountaintop, the fungi in the soil, and the smile of a stranger. All one needs to do is to observe, appreciate, and carry forth that diverse, creative energy.