Karlos’s Story – Finding my Tribe

karlos-butterflyWhen I was a young child, my grandmother observed me holding a butterfly and commented “Your kindness is appreciated”.   Her words affirmed my essence and I held onto them because she voiced something I felt deep inside.  I loved my grandmother. She saw me in a certain way and that implanted something in me; she shaped my identity.  As a youth, I enjoyed wildflower pressing and creating nature-art.   I was connected to nature and considered studying Environmental Studies at university, but my values were eroded by the dream of a middle class life with a good steady job that could support a couple of kids, a house in the suburbs and two cars.  I chose a career in IT that offered a higher salary to sustain the lifestyle I wanted. By middle age, I felt alone, lost and out of sorts in a high tech world.  The incongruence between my core values and my way of life created a perfect storm – a storm that I see reflected in society’s struggle to balance ecology and the economy.

I searched for meaning in the human potential movement.  I began asking the existential question: who am I?  I ended my marriage of 28 years and changed jobs.  To cope with all the changes in my life, I turned to yoga and meditation.  I searched for purpose by walking the land of my ancestors – the land where my beloved grandmother had lived and gardened.  I found spiritual grounding in that garden surrounded by forest.  I call it Sophie’s Garden.  The forest became my church – a place to go for renewal.  I healed my mind and body by restoring my connection with the community of nature, but I yearned for a human community.  I dreamed of developing a place where people come to experience community, to eat local organic food and to become acquainted with local medicinal plants.  When I described this place to a friend, he said that it sounded like ‘permaculture’.

I googled ‘permaculture’ and discovered a philosophy and language that spoke to my heart.  A video by Bill Wilson, a permaculturist, describes his connection with nature.  Here was a person who relates to nature that way I do.  I felt compelled to learn more and enrolled in a two week course to obtain my permaculture certification.  At Midwest Permaculture in Wisconsin, I experienced a sense of community with the other participants.  At Occidental Arts and Ecology Centre, I explored intentional community and learned how to blend economy with ecology. I found my tribe!  Finding my people was like coming home.

4_8_IMAGE_Art_Pueblos_Indigenas_interiorI returned to Manitoba with the intention to integrate organic market gardening and building a community.  Slowly, I am unfolding toward this purpose.  Will I be able to find my tribe in Manitoba?  At a start-up farmer’s market at Redwood & Main, I met Sally, who facilitates workshops for the Farm Mentorship Program.  By participating in her workshops on managing a market garden, I developed a network of small organic market gardeners… people like me.

Currently I am engaged in the most challenging creative work I have ever undertaken: to integrate food and permaculture systems with conscious community.  Sometimes I get discouraged by the resistance of conservative rural Manitoba.  Another challenge is self-sufficiency. I am learning to overcome my fear that I will not be able to be self-sustaining by working with the land and selling my produce.

I respect activists who fight the oil industry and Monsanto, but I am not a warrior with a passion for fighting enemies. I want to create openness for transformation toward a new paradigm.  I am waiting for the next Nelson Mandela or Gandhi to show up and lead us forward to a new vision.  It could be Pope Francis.  I am ready to follow a leader who inspires us to create a new reality by working together. I don’t know anyone with that skill set, but I wait patiently and hopefully for someone like Elon Musk who does not fight the oil industry like Neil Young (bless his heart); he invents technologies that will render the oil industry obsolete.  I am inspired by the wise man who said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.   To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”karlos_whiteshell