The winter solstice passed on the weekend. It passed here in Apollo Bay to perfect weather, cool blue skies and a low sun spinning forth clear light. The moon, a “super moon”, was much closer to the Earth than normal and rose golden at dusk over a dark blue ocean that was surly and ruffled by the easterly breezes. Solstice, the start of the journey back towards the light.
I have in the last couple of years come to realise that a year’s great markers, the solstices and the equinoxes, are not simply cute pagan observances for dreadlocked henge fanciers. They are real, tangible and profoundly meaningful. I have been watching this little corner of the world in which I live for 6 years now, and listened to people, and can feel the first rudimentary stirrings of what I take to be understanding of what it means to live within this cycle. And it fills me with something very much like bliss.
I think I am becoming a permie, a practitioner of permaculture. I am as hesitant to brand myself as such as I once was to brand myself a Taoist, not out of any uncertainty in relation to the ideas, but out of recognition of the sheer amount of theory and practice that lies behind both these concepts and my corresponding lack of deep knowledge of either. It seems highly presumptuous to assume such labels for ones self. Tonight I have been thinking of how aligned permaculture and Taoism are as thought systems. There are obvious correspondences in the fact that they are both based on intricate observations of nature but there are other things as well.
Both thought systems are holistic and the opposite of the mind numbing reductionism that infects so much Western thought (particularly in science) and which I find both counter-intuitive and intellectually unsatisfying, not to mention dangerous. At the same time they are both rigorous systems that require discipline and systematic critical observance from their practitioners. Both largely refuse to make judgements: things are good and bad only within the context of their use. Taoism and permaculture both call upon you to trust and honour your own observations and to question those who would enforce their superiority on you. And they are both powerful tools of revolution as they promote, gently, subtly, as part of their inherent structure, a form of civil disobedience. They are delicate instruments of productive anarchy.
Solstice was spent with the Otways and Coast Permaculture Group in a permablitz. We pulled weeds, built compost bins, did garden work. Food was shared from scones to chocolate to raw goats’ milk. Knowledge was shared. We built a little fire to burn the dreaded kikuyu grass to trial the biodynamic method of “peppering” the grass. The winter sun shone down upon us. My mind, my body and my long neglected spirit are full.
My first attempt at making chocolate. The result was rustic but delicious. This recipe used largely Balinese ingredients, many of which were given to me by the woman who hosted the solstice permablitz. You could use any flavourings you like.
- 1/2 cup chopped cacao butter
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk
- 1 vanilla bean (sliced open and the beans scraped out, pod put to other uses)
- Ground cardamon to taste
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (you can add a little more or less according to your preference)
- Saffron flowers (optional)
Set a bowl over a gently boiling pot of water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom. Add all ingredients except the cacao powder and saffron flowers, stirring until the cacao butter has melted and the coconut sugar dissolved. Remove the bowl from the pan. Add the cacao powder and whisk until glossy and completely combined. If you have chocolate moulds, try pouring the mixture in. I just used a square plastic container. The mixture is delicate and prone to crumbling so use moulds you can turn out easily or pour into a single block that you can cut into squares. When it is nearly completely set, turn out the moulds or cut the block into small squares and toss the chocolates in saffron flowers. Return to the fridge.