Self-Care Challenge (Day 270): Planting a Tribute

Purple and green grape vine leaves

On day 270 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I planted a grape vine to honor the life of a man I’ve never met.

It’s hard to explain how someone I’ve never even had a single conversation with could have such a profound impact on my life. I had always hoped for a serendipitous visit with Bill Mollison, the father of the global permaculture movement, but sadly he passed away on Saturday, leaving countless everyday people like me around the world feeling a great sense of loss.

Permaculture, which stands for “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture,” depending on who you ask, is an integrated design philosophy. It is a tool that can be used to solve problems, using nature as a guide.

In a 1980 interview with Mother Earth News, Bill described permaculture as “a completely self-contained agricultural ecosystem that is designed to minimize maintenance input and maximize product yield.”

You see, nestled within the principles of the philosophy that Mollison co-developed with David Holmgren in the 70’s is what many of us refer to as common sense – except we’ve gotten so busy that we hardly consult with nature anymore to help us solve problems. One of my favorite Mollison quotes highlights this quite well:

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,
the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”
― Bill Mollison

For the past couple days, I’ve been scrolling through comments and memories posted to Bill’s memorial page from people living in countries and villages across the globe. He touched so many lives over the five decades he spent teaching and sharing his vision of a sustainable future. It was–and still is–a message of hope, a message that each of us can do something, even if it’s a small gesture, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

“I believe deeply that people are the only critical resources needed by the people.”
― Bill Mollison

Fortunately, those of us who are willing to challenge our own beliefs about the way we see the world are indeed changing the world. One of the things I love the most about permaculture is that it focuses on the positive. Sure, all of us grumble from time to time, venting our frustrations about the way the world works, but as a whole this movement offers hope.

“…the greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.”
― Bill Mollison

Taking care of the earth is taking care of ourselves, our families, and our communities. That’s self-care, just on a global level. It invites us to take ownership and responsibility for our actions, and the impact those actions have on the world.

And it can be stunningly beautiful.

“There are simple things that anybody can do to look after themselves.”
― Bill Mollison

In many ways, permaculture is the why behind traditional knowledge. It’s deeply rooted in scientific principles (Bill was a biologist, among many other things) and there’s an element of ethics involved too.

“…science without ethics is sociopathy.”
― Bill Mollison

True to his life’s work, his farewell wish was for everyone to plant a tree in his honor. I went a bit rogue and selected a Purple Leaf Grape vine (vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’), something I felt best symbolized the ever-growing interest in (and need for) permaculture. And while some may say this particular grape has an unpleasant taste, it certainly commands attention with its brightly colored leaves. How fitting.

After carefully placing the plant in my backseat, I started thinking about where I might put it. As I drove and thought, the leaves incessantly tapped my shoulder as if to say, “I’m still here…now continue growing and climbing.”

I wish I could have spoken with him and shared some of my ideas, many of which have deep connections to permaculture, and I would have loved to hear his thoughts.

There is much work to be done, but there is hope yet.


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