Increasing relatedness on my city lot


I’ve emphasized below an essential line from Gordon White’s interview with Tyson Yunkaporta:

Gordon White: “What are the hallmarks of indigenous thinking?”

Tyson Yunkaporta: “It’s an externalized psycho-technology that exists in your unique web of relations. Your thinking and your knowledge sits in the relational space between you and others. Not just with humans but with non-humans, places, landforms, and all the people that you’re in relation to. You have this beautiful set of relations sitting there, waiting for you to engage with it. Your prime directive is to increase relatedness in that system that you’re the center of. To beautify the relational space with knowledge you’ve built together.

That lies behind–especially this year–my attempts at native plant gardening and planting for pollinators. A large number of beings inhabit, frequent, or pass through our tiny city lot. Everything from microbes in the soil to earthworms to snails to mushrooms to strawberries to birds to cats. (Haven’t seen any rabbits this year though.) Our one-tenth of an acre consists of a whole network of relations.

Planting for pollinators is an attempt to welcome into our yard some victims of capitalist, industrial agriculture. It is an attempt to increase biodiversity–but that’s too sterile a word, isn’t it? It is an attempt to enlarge the web of relations within our yard.

Native planting is a way of planting for pollinators that attempts to work within an already-established web of relations, that of the species that evolved together within an ecosystem. This is, to be clear, not a moral judgment about plants such that “native” is good and “non-native” is bad. It is simply leveraging existing relationships. Also, “native” is a somewhat arbitrary category: how long should a species live within an ecosystem before it counts as native? In any case, native planting specifically strives to avoid invasive species, i.e., aggressive species that crowd out native species and decrease diversity.

A few days ago I found pleated inkcap mushrooms in my raised beds. I took this as a good sign that the soil–which sits on brick, not the ground–is becoming more complex. More beings inhabiting our yard. An increase in relatedness.

I want to encourage this, so I’m going to make another attempt at composting. Take the food left over from the humans, combine it with grass clippings (finally the lawn becomes useful!) and other bits of what would be considered trash, add in time and solar energy, and you have recaptured nutrients that otherwise would have been dispersed. You have built soil and relationality.

Increase relatedness. Beautify the relational space.

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