Earth empowerment . . . Waitaki Community Gardens site and volunteer co-ordinator Ra McRostie is hosting another Seed to Table course in December. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

What is this mysterious thing called permaculture?

Originally, permaculture was focused primarily on sustainable agriculture, growing food in a way that works with and fortifies nature and her processes — a system of design that uses nature as its muse.

But now, the permaculture system is focused on the wider story of sustainable culture — the natural environment, all beings and our interrelated journey. It is a set of principles created through whole system thinking.

Permaculture isseeing ourselves as part of the whole, the profound, sublime flow, and creating our lives from that perspective.

Regardless of the visions we have for ourselves in the world — greater or lesser — the simple sweet truth is that we are children of the genius that is nature.

What do we all need?

Clean air, water, food, shelter, healthy environments, community, purpose, peace and love, play, freedom, creativity — on and on the list can go.

Can we get what we need in a way that makes sense for ourselves and for the world around us, bearing in mind our place in the web of all things? Is it possible for this to be a self-perpetuating, sustainable and resilient process? Where do we start?

We sit quietly and observe. We observe our surroundings, natural and cultural, with an awareness of our innate connection to the whole and where we feel we fit.

These observations enable us to create ways and means of living that are simple, accessible and growthful, yet still comfortable and delightful. This can be as simple as placing your favourite garden seat in the ideal spot to enjoy the view, be sheltered from the prevailing cold wind, maximise precious winter sun and tend your culinary herbs.

At the other end of the spectrum, imagine running a business with satisfied clients and employees where everyone feels respected and purposeful and you have environmentally sustainable practices.

Your business is doing the right thing for your community, your environment, and the positive evolution of society at large, while earning you money and filling your life with richer opportunities and choices.

These days, I consider all aspects of my life to be under the generous umbrella of permaculture. I don’t always get it right, but I am happily reassured by the ups and downs I observe in nature that, if given the freedom to flourish, often result in unexpected and beautiful growth.

I encourage everyone to step back and enjoy some observation time with a humble and wonder-filled mindset.

Let yourself be affirmed and inspired — and then take action.

Ra McRostie has been gardening for more than 30 years and has a certificate in permaculture design. She is also the Waitaki Community Gardens manager and is running a permaculture course called Seed to Table, focused on soil science, food growing and holistic garden design. The course runs over three Saturday mornings in December. For more information, contact Ra on 021 115-4884.