by Elizabeth McGehee
As humans, we are endlessly fostering relationships between ourselves and those who surrounds us. This process is an innate part of our collective social being; it is how we thrive and find our own identities by communicating with one another.
And while it is through social relationships that we find the means to define our “social selves”, we constitute our physical existence in relation to our environment, to the material world in which we live. As humans create – cultivate, industrialize, digitalize – we realize our existence, we transcend ourselves, by testing our limits and paving our way into the future.
We must, however, think critically about how these relationships affect us depending on which “kind” of material which we choose to relate to. And it is safe to assume that, in today’s society, we have forgotten about the most important tangible element with which to have a relationship, and that is Mother Earth.
A man named Krishna reminds us of this grave misfortune as we follow in his path, winding beneath a forest of towering banana trees which comprise a portion of his 6-acre “Solitude Farm”. He is dynamic, very literally down-to-earth, and speaks with passion when talking about nature and permaculture, a form of sustainable agriculture. It is through teaching us about this method that Krishna leaves us feeling hopeful despite knowing that we have lost touch with nature.
We must reject industrialized farming, he says, and recognize the beautifully complex and unmodified gifts of nature. We must cultivate these gifts in a way that values and appreciates them – in a way that is natural and nourishing to the earth. By doing this, we can simultaneously nourish ourselves in the purest, most wholeful way possible, because “it is our birthright to be well”, says Krishna.
In following the model of permaculture as a means of being well, we must start at the very literal roots of the process. “Soil comes first” Krishna explains, as it is the basis for a civilization. To have healthy people, we must have healthy plants, and this is only possible if we have healthy soil. By composting and refraining from clearing natural debris, soil becomes rich and porous, creating a sustainable basis for plants to grow continuously, eventually creating a self-sustaining ecosystem. Permaculture avoids modes of organization used in regular farming, so nature is left undisturbed to flourish on its own.
We must value each and every part of the plants once they have grown. We must make use of the roots, the stems, the bark, the leaves, the petals. In saying this, Krishna mentions Ayurveda, an ancient traditional Hindu system of medicine dating back to 5000 b.c., whose therapeutic remedies “developed through daily life experiences with the mutual relationship between mankind and nature”.
Krishna picked a small blue flower whose botanical name is Clitoria Ternatea. The roots, seeds, leaves, and petals have diverse Ayurvedic properties and are used for medicinal purposes. It can be applied externally, made into a paste and applied to calm inflammations or used as a natural “anti-age” cream. When consumed, (extracted into a tea, eaten raw, or frying the seeds) it cleanses the bladder and relieves indigestion. The “medhya” herbs improve vision, as well as memory and learning abilities; it can also be used to help treat children with impaired cognitive functions in developmental stages. One can gather from the flower’s name that it’s properties might be beneficial for a woman’s reproductive organ; this assumption is spot on, as it helps to lighten a heavy period, prevent or treat uterus prolapse by strengthening pelvic muscles and ligaments, and sooth vaginal infections.
So as nature provides us with these miraculous gifts, we must show our devotion by using them to their full potential, letting nothing go to waste. By doing this, we have a chance to restore our relationship with Mother Nature. We have a chance to remember that every little leaf and every drop of water connect to something much greater – and that is our source of life. Mother Nature does not speak or walk, but she drinks, breathes, flows, soaks in the sun, and grows to live like we do. And without her, there would simply be no “we”.
We ended our visit with a delicious and diverse “farm-to-plate” lunch. Each day, they serve a “Thali” dish, which is comprised of small portions of food—different salads, chutneys, masala, rices, and dahl—straight from Solitude Farms—and, the ever-present staple of Indian dishes, a warm and fluffy piece of naan.