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February 6, 2012

Lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps my upbringing did me some favors after all. If I’d been raised in a healthier way, I think there would be lots of questions where I would know (or think I knew) the ‘right’ answer. So I wouldn’t bother digging deeper. I wouldn’t approach the question as if it were a research project, and I probably wouldn’t be open to learning things that (might) confound my expectations.

For instance, there are one or two people currently in my life that I’ve known all my life. They genuinely care about me, and I, them. But I don’t know why they like me. If I could take for granted that of course people I’m related to like me, I probably would’ve never thought about why (or why not). I have considered asking these people what it is they like about me, but I’ve tried that with other people, and those people couldn’t think of anything that they did like, which was traumatizing for me. Plus, it would probably put these people in an awkward spot, which is not my intention. (I’m really not interested in having another round of, “of course your family likes you! It’s just that the ways they show it are toxic and almost killed you, but they really meant well! Maybe you’re being oversensitive!”)

No, my point is, I have had to think long and hard about why anybody does like me. Because any answers are not obvious. And then I can generalize from that, what do healthy relationships feel like from the inside?

And once I think of feeling — how a situation feels to me — I have data, sensory impressions and emotions, to work with.

Now that I’m not automatically discounting my own perceptions, I find there is a wealth of data from interacting with others. I’m just not sure how to interpret it with regards to non-humans. With humans, it’s a simple matter to notice that when I have to interact with Person V, my stomach hurts, and I feel dread and despair. But I don’t think I’ve ever had an unpleasant experience interacting with non-humans. So what am I doing right? Or wrong? What could I do better?

I have to ask the questions, and then I have to experiment, and see what works or doesn’t. And I bet a lot of it is dependent upon the personalities involved, so that I can’t really generalize. Just because the maple tree outside my window seems to enjoy my interactions with it, I can’t really assume that any maple tree I meet will feel the same way about me. Why would they?

So if every relationship is different, then I think I need a lot more relationships. And I think I need to dig deeper into what I’m feeling: who do I really enjoy spending time with? What might be possible reasons for that? Are some of those reasons things I could add to my other relationships?

To reconceptualize how I behave within my relationships, I need more data than I have now. And maybe I need to try not-gardening again.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2012 22:19

    What do you mean by “not-gardening”? Perhaps it was in an earlier post, but I’m really intrigued.

    In terms of relationships with non-human beings, there are definitely some that I enjoy more than others. The house centipedes in my basement do cause that shivery feeling, as if there’s something unearthly about them. I probably cause worse in them, unfortunately for both them and me. However, generally, I try to take the same approach to working with nature as I do with people – find out what it wants. Unlike people, you can’t ask it directly (at least not in my spiritual belief system, I’m not sure about others), but I find science is another way of doing that. That’s why I feel when I use ecologically-based concepts and systems to garden via permaculture that I’m getting much closer to what nature wants than I would if I followed more conventional techniques.

    • February 19, 2012 00:20

      I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of gardening because of how human-centered it is. I had a ‘potager’ (French for ‘kitchen garden’) on my balcony last summer, but none of the plants were intended for food. I wouldn’t mind growing plants for food, if I could figure out a way to approach the venture, philosophically – which I haven’t yet.

      I’ve also been meaning to write about my not-compost box, and maybe I can tie them together somehow.

      I do like the idea of permaculture. Do you write about what you’re doing with it?

      • February 20, 2012 12:28

        I’ve written a little bit about permaculture so far, although I hope to do more in the future. I’ve written the most about using the technique of lasagna gardening (or sheet mulching), which mimics the process of how biomass compiles in a forest or field and then seeds plant themselves in it. I wrote about it here ( and here ( As a result, I had to do very little weeding and used no other fertilizers or pesticides. It also did a terrific job building my soil, which had been worn down by the previous homeowners growing grass and is useful to the ecosystem in general. But it’s still generally a traditional vegetable garden in the structure of it.

        However, I’m starting to look more into forest gardening, which is far closer to a true ecological structure. It focuses on using the plants that are there and planting new ones to serve a number of ecological purposes (like water retention, nutrient circulation, etc) while also maximizing food production. You usually layer nut trees, fruit trees, fruit bushes, nitrogen-fixing plants, medicinal herbs, and mushrooms, among other plants. Ecolocity is working on building forest gardens in DC ( and I’m hoping to convince my husband to put in a couple of trees and a few supporting plants.

        For general information on permaculture, the best book is Gaia’s Garden, which covers all of these issues.

      • February 20, 2012 12:54

        I’ll have to see if I can find that book.

        We live in an apartment, on the 2nd floor, so anything I do will be in pots on the balcony.

      • February 20, 2012 13:01

        That does make it difficult. Permaculture is very landscape-based, so it doesn’t really fit in with super-small scale gardening.

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