When I design a garden creating relations is the way and the goal combined. When I work with people I adhere to the same credo. Especially in the beginning of a group process it demands active facilitation so that we start to grow a collective responsibility for it.
With this in mind I recently started of a co-creation session with a diverse group of people, ranging from schoolkids to public servants. I wanted for everyone to feel connected and to be invited to contribute, regardless of experience or job title. Instead of the usual round of introductions I took a ball of string. I have done this exercise mapping relations in nature, and I thought it might work just as well for human relations. I then invited everyone to pass the rope to someone they knew and introduce each other.
Although it was our first time together, a web of relations started to emerge. As the circle progressed, more and more people mentioned they had gotten to know each other through the garden we are only beginning to create. After that I invited everyone to consider all their relations beyond our group and all the people that could help us in the project and imagine them there.
Not only did this exercise connect us with each other but also to the place we were standing. The garden was no longer something passive, but something that was actively building new relations among people. The garden as a facilitator? I imagine the earth has always connected humans… and ‘boom’ I finally understood the idea of place making, what it really means.
I was reminded of a Lakota saying: to all my relations or ‘mitakuye oyasin.’
Mitakuye Oyasin is often said with gratitude to our ancestors during various Native American ceremonies. It expresses that we are all interconnected and in relationship with everyone and everything, including of course the ground we stand on.
Lakota drawing, unknown artist
Creation as an outcome of being
Whether it’s relationships between people or between us and non-humans, often it is a ‘becoming aware of relations’ that in itself creates change in ourselves and in our surroundings. In that way we are different from plants and animals, they create without awareness, as an outcome of being.
Being is exactly what we humans struggle with as we are constantly busy doing. We are forever running after goals and targets and forget the process of creation. We have this deep felt need to understand what we do before we do it. But by tapping into the wider web of life and relations we can find a different type of understanding.
Personally I find it very empowering to think that we are not standing alone as individuals but as members of a web that extends beyond us, that enhances our limited capacity and vision and even prolongs our limited time on earth. But it may require some letting go of our individual need for control in order to expand ‘beyond ourselves.’
By facilitating relations I feel I’m at least getting closer to achieving that. As a gardener of plants, people and communities I place myself firmly in the web of life, watching it unfold.