A reply to my nest-pattern post by an American friend living in an urban environment prompted me to think what patterns would be applicable to urban situations. Emma told me she was wrestling with the nest pattern in terms of where she lived: in a dense, complex urban habitat: complex and biodiverse in people terms.
It made me think of my years working in the city on permaculture projects and what patterns I would be drawn to if I was back in Newcastle, where I spent five years developing what was to evolve into Scotswood Natural Community Garden (SNCG). When it started out I called it the Drift Permaculture Project in recognition of the clay drift mine in the district of Scotswood which is the actual site of the project.
Nowadays the garden has a splendid natural entrance made by a skilled woodcarver. It uses the honeycomb pattern to make a great backdrop to a bee-friendly wildflower garden. It strikes me that the honeycomb pattern (the lobes present in lobed fruit such as raspberries and brambles is an example of this) is an excellent pattern for urban permaculturists, and was – coincidentally – the one I adopted to develop the drift permaculture project.
Check out the SNCG website to see what it has evolved into, and ponder that it all began using a pattern language. For me, the honeycomb perfectly sums up successful urban permaculture projects based on the slow and steady building of local networks and relationships with existing organisations and individuals, who see how the project can benefit and fit into the vision for a regenerated, resurgent district where greenspace is seen as a valuable asset to be nurtured and enhanced. Both new and existing projects, groups and organisations form the lobes of the fruit or the cells in the honeycomb.
Small groups build into a larger movement of regeneration for the local district and even for the whole town or city. They join together to become multi-faceted, more flexible than one unit, modular, and if individual parts are sacrificed the rest is undamaged.
When I left the project I had to let go and hope it would survive. Even if it didn’t, I needed to trust that I’d developed the project using a resilient pattern which meant that it had contributed to a greater whole, and that whole was ultimately what mattered. Practising permaculture involves letting go of ego!
Thanks to Looby Macnamara, permaculture writer and teacher, whose book People and Permaculture taught me to include the lobe/honeycomb pattern in my own pattern language (see p.15 of the said book).