Restoring more than the landscape: a personal account of healing, growth and respect
A year ago my family and I moved to Patagonia, Arizona from the mountains of Colorado. For me it was a return home to the Sonoran Desert; for my family it meant an opportunity for a simpler, more affordable lifestyle. Life threw us a curveball, though. A week after our move and the day before the sale of our home in Colorado was set to close, natural disaster struck and our house sale fell through. My responsibilities as a full-time college student and mother suddenly became secondary to fielding urgent calls from realtors and insurance agents. Deep Dirt Institute’s Women Grow Food (WGF) permaculture program provided a remarkably effective antidote to this anxiety and chaos.
Women Grow Food meets weekly for hands-on permaculture training at Deep Dirt Institute’s campus, Deep Dirt Farm, and is led by a quite amazing woman named Kate Tirion. Being immersed in Kate’s world of permaculture was foreign at first but it quickly became a place where I felt appreciated and nurtured. Women Grow Food created a space for sharing knowledge and for rewarding hard work. For me it also offered a place for healing. It took eight long months to resolve our house drama in Colorado, and during that time my work with Women Grow Food helped restore both my physical and emotional strength. Through Women Grow Food I learned more about Deep Dirt Institute (DDI) and its partnership with Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN), and how the two work collaboratively to restore the Sky Islands Region.
When Borderlands Restoration Network announced the opportunity to learn more about wildland restoration through their month-long summer field school, I was thrilled to apply. Students in the school come from many different places, backgrounds and ages, creating opportunities to gain new and different perspectives. This summer the first week of class focused on U.S./Mexico border issues, a topic that can be as divisive as they come. It was a powerfully engaging week, and covered subjects ranging from the genocidal conquest of the Americas to Border Patrol policies and climate refugees. Tears were shed and not all of us agreed on what was “right” or “wrong”.
One especially powerful experience was visiting the border wall itself. In silence we sat in its towering shadow. We contemplated the wall’s existence and what it meant to each of us and to the surrounding physical and social environment. In this moment the work of Deep Dirt Institute and Borderlands Restoration Network fell into place for me: the ecological restoration movement is not just one of healing landscapes made up of animals, plants and earth—it is also a movement to heal the environment within. Restoring landscapes and knowing how to sustainably grow food is core to being human. But as we heal the wounded lands around us we also heal the wounds we have inflicted on each other and within ourselves. New growth can begin.
The remaining weeks of the field school afforded many more opportunities to learn and grow. We planted agaves, restored local watersheds and listened to wisdom from many different sources. For me, being in the field school reignited a desire I have always felt to initiate change for the better in my community, and it taught me new ways to respect people who are very different from me. As the saying goes, respect is earned, not given. I am grateful for the opportunity to begin the hard work of gaining respect and creating change alongside Deep Dirt Institute and Borderlands Restoration Network.