Our Heart Gardens (Was: Heart Gardens)

by Shannon McArthur

Life isn’t what you plan and it isn’t what you think… OK, maybe yours is, but mine isn’t! The things I decide to do quite often are the lessons I learn from while Spirit is setting up the thing that I’m meant to do. (She has a lot of weaving to do!) My best advice is to not get too attached to your plans, but to give them all you’ve got – because you never know!

After a marathon 3 days of listening and relating and digging deep… Well no, actually, the piece I’m going to share with you was written after the celebration on the evening of the first day and the results of the next two days are yet to be realized, but you now get the drift of what I’ve been doing! The CommUnity Innovation Lab at the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) was an excellent meeting of minds – the communities of the residents that came will benefit greatly from their experience. We were exposed to many innovative ideas and processes that will help us make thoughtful far-reaching changes happen easier and faster.

I attended the Lab because of an illusive idea that came together because of an ecourse by Chief Phil Lane Jr. through the Shift Network called Indigenous Wisdom for Compassionate Living and Unified Action. I’ve always been drawn to the First Nations culture and I share their respect for the Earth and Her gifts. Helping others to receive Her gifts more easily and for Her to be healthy so She can continue giving is why my heart beats! Trying to find that way has pulled me and pushed me and the lessons have sharpened me and helped me refine the idea that has come clearer – and so I put it out to you here. (I feel like I’m coming out of the closet! Please be gentle!)  This is what I posted on the private notice board for participants’ Stories.

A Proposal by Shannon McArthur to CIL, Kamloops – February 3, 2015

A question was asked by one of our Native Elders of the panel assembled to talk about ways to Integrate and Celebrate Western and First Nation’s Values and Successes. He quoted another Elder from a time long ago, “Those are a lot of pretty words. Now what are we going to do?”

Another question was how to be successful in speaking with First Nations people – one answer was not to suggest integration. I have a problem with that but not how one might think. I don’t want them to integrate with us, I want to learn how First Nations lived in the thousands of years BEFORE they were colonized. My people have been disconnected from the land for hundreds of years. I know we have a problem and I believe the First Nations can teach us good ways.

We do have things to bring to the table – we have technology, manpower and a deep need to find a better way. If we don’t find a better way we will be homeless – and dead because Earth is the only home there is. What answer can we offer for our home?

What do we have to work with? – Whatever we can drum up!
Who’s available? – Everyone who is not working…
What do we do with them? – Engage their interest, create opportunities, feed them
How? – Indoor organic gardens, culture and knowledge

Long ago, First Nations villages were centred around a longhouse. Women worked together while they watched the kids. Everybody had something to do and shared their meals. In that society there was no poverty, nobody ever had to be alone and nobody was ever out of work.

A network of a new kind of longhouses in re-purposed malls, churches and warehouses can actively respond to many of the challenges we face. Mass transit, as part of the solution, will have better ridership and can improve security, frequency and dependability. It could even become a tourist attraction.

People would drop in to be with others, learn and work together on easy tasks associated primarily with growing organic produce, in a large central area surrounded by living walls of the plants they tend. And while they work, they can be entertained or educated by a diversity of people, in person or online shared on big screens.

Benefits of the garden being indoors include year-round healthy food and enclosing the good smell of fertile earth – not only pleasant, it has medicine in it… just 15 minutes exposure to the rich smell of fertile earth can relieve symptoms of Clinical Depression all day – with no adverse side-effects and no overdoses! We can all enjoy and benefit from it!

Other elements that may be needed, or wanted, within each Heart Garden include:

  • kitchens and restaurants
  • artisan studios so students and mentors can find each other
  • places to learn more about things introduced in the common area
  • somewhere to keep the big version of the totem pole while it is being carved
  • child, elder and challenged care
  • government services access
  • rehearsal space
  • a sweat lodge or sauna and baths
  • nurses’ consultation and
  • alternative health practitioners whose free services help those in need while they attract new clients, or to practice before moving into their own businesses
  • composting, soil mixing, and workshops are needed to make the planters
  • exercise machines to convert our daily exercise into power (POP, Power of People!!)
  • offices for planning and administration – internal government would be by council, elected and informed by sharing circles involving all participants of the Garden.

Stand-alone offshoots of the Heart network could include POP facilities, shops for produce or products created in the Gardens and to increase awareness of them, baths and meeting places in Seniors’ Homes, and composting facilities.

As 24/7/365 facilities, Heart Gardens can improve accessibility to help for the vulnerable and give shift-workers and insomniacs a good place to go. Elders who want to be part of things without exposing themselves to difficult situations will be welcome. Benefits will be to our food supply and security, poverty and hunger, access to/delivery of services, homelessness, transportation, safety, daily health and maintenance, outreach and engagement of children, teens, the elderly and the marginal, culture continuity and diversity, child-care and engagement of new moms, addictions, family violence, isolation, and mental health.

If you see yourself as part of this in any way, I want to hear from you!

That’s it… I signed it and posted it…  and I’m posting it here too, knowing that my actions are part of a trend, a movement toward taking care of each other using the resources we already have. We can choose to manage them in a way proven over thousands of years, by the love of our mothers, the knowledge of our elders and with the support of All Our Relations.

I call upon you to reply, join the conversation – let’s talk about this! Can you see the possibilities? What effect would this have in your community? Let’s grow some love in Our Heart Gardens where we can take care of each other…