Abundance is an overused buzzword in the “self-improvement industry”. I’m guilty of overusing it. I had an idea in my head about what I meant by this, but recently had several embodied experiences of just exactly what abundance feels like in the body.
I have been privileged to experience a few financial windfalls in my life. I was extremely grateful for each one and felt supported. I felt the universe was encouraging me and confirming that I was on the right path. But each one came tinged with a feeling of, “This world is madness. Why am I the beneficiary of this windfall, while this single mother down the street from me is working her butt off to make ends meet, while I did nothing and boom, this falls in my lap. Privilege.” Now some might argue that I didn’t do nothing (intended double negative, ie, I did something). “I opened myself up to possibilities, I expressed gratitude, I asked the universe for what I wanted. That single mother? All she did is scrub other people’s toilets. She got what she deserved.” or perhaps “You did work for it. You studied in college which you got you into this situation where you got this windfall.” Sorry. I just can’t follow those trains of thought. (Not to mention that my college tuition was one of my windfalls. Being the daughter of a university professor was a massive boon.) While I’ve been extremely grateful for my windfalls, I’ve also been very uncomfortable.
But on the farm, I have this feeling of abundance that is completely untinged, pure and abundant. Examples:
The Worm Tower Plant Bed
I created a plant bed because I wanted to put in some worm towers. (Anyone who saw me at CGE since 2014 knows how excited I am about worm towers!) So I built the bed, but had no plans for the plants I would put there. I was just excited about worms. I figured I would let the worms do their magic for a bit, while I mull over what to plant. Long story, but I was hesitant to plant any seeds directly because of my previous bad experience with planting seeds directly in the soil and then leaving for Luanda for 2 months (basically nothing survived). I wanted to wait until my plant nursery was finished (see next example), and I had some seedlings to plant. However, I felt some pressure to plant. I felt like the guys who helped me build the bed were eyeing me suspiciously, “What are we planting here? You just going to leave it like this with these shithole buckets here? We did all this work to create this bed and its just going to have these worms?” I decided to be patient.
A couple days later, Cláudio was looking at some nasturtiums that he had planted a few months earlier in some plastic bags. They were far overgrown for the bags. He asked me where I thought we could plant them. “I happen to have just the place.” I told him.
On our way to the farm this trip, Cláudio had also bought a ridiculous number of mangoes for us to eat, mainly for us to use the seeds to start mango trees. I needed to make some potting soil to plant the mango trees in the plastic bags, so I went to my compost 1.0* heap. It had been neglected, so several plants had decided it was a great place to start growing, so I had to do some weeding before I could get to the good stuff. Much to my surprise 6 of these plants were tomatoes! Seedlings that decided not to wait for the plant nursery to be finished, they just started growing where they found healthy soil. I felt so rich! Free tomato seedlings! I did absolutely nothing to grow these 6 tomato plants, but it doesn’t feel like privilege either. I happily transplanted them to my new bed where they became fast friends with the nasturtiums and the worms.
Meanwhile, while I am still busy planting all those mango seeds in the bags, Cláudio then hands me a bag of literally a zillion cashew seeds that his brother sent from Luanda for me to plant too. And he reminds me that I left a bunch of dried sapisapi and papaya seeds last time we were on the farm, that I should plant too. (Its called sapisapi in Angola, and other names in other countries. Its the most delicious fruit that I never heard of before I came to Angola.) I don’t have enough black bags for all these seeds. That’s the thing about fruit trees, every single year, they produce an abundance of fruit. In the case of mango and cashew, each fruit contains a seed. In the case of sapisapi and papaya, each fruit contains an abundance of seeds. So once I used up all the black bags, what am I supposed to do with this abundance of seeds that I’m left with? I decided to plant them all (literally hundreds) into the waiting bed, to become friends with the tomatoes, nasturtiums and worms. Once they start growing, they can be transplanted elsewhere. Starting from a bed with just some shithole worm buckets, I now have a bed with nasturtiums, tomato plants, and potentially hundreds of mango, cashew, sapisapi and papaya trees. And once I got all the seeds in the ground, it started to rain. Abundance of free water from the heavens! If you build the plant bed, the plants will come! It feels like pure abundance, with no tinges of unearned privilege. The Earth simply doing what it does, creating life, growing things, providing, with no discrimination on the basis of the class or anything. Tomato seedlings, zillions of seeds and water from the heaves, free for anyone who finds them.
The Plant Nursery
I first got the idea of building a plant nursery when few of my seedlings were surviving – either not sprouting or getting eaten by something early on in life. I wanted to start the seedlings in a more controlled environment so they had the best chance of survival, and I would be able to see more clearly what the problem was when they didn’t make it. All nurseries I had seen had been hoop houses with shade netting. I had no idea if we would be able to find the hoops here and what it would cost to build such a structure. But I was eager to do something!
Then I stumbled across the Tropical Permaculture Guidebook. I can’t recommend this book highly enough! Its available for free download and its all about making use of the local abundance. They recommend building a nursery out of locally available materials and so we are! Here is the current state of the nursery:
The only materials in the nursery that are not from the farm are the nails. Grass roof, local sticks, even separated palm fronds used as string. We will be buying chicken wire to complete the fence, but other than that and the nails, the plant nursery will be made from all locally and freely available materials. We will even be building the tables ourselves. We will buy seedling trays, as I’ve been very disappointed by homemade versions of seedling trays that I’ve attempted. Making a plant nursery for almost free, and very local, truly feels like pure abundance.
My Scarcity Conditioning
Very often our employees on the farm, or some of the people farming on the land will give us sweet potatoes, cassava, onions, passion fruits, peanuts or whatever they have in abundance, as I mentioned in my gift economy post. While I am incredibly grateful, I realized that my scarcity conditioning views stockpiles of food as a “to-do list” – a challenge. I can’t let it go to waste! One day I tried to explain to a woman who was giving us peanuts that we already had plenty of peanuts. I couldn’t tell if it was a language issue – perhaps she wasn’t understanding my broken Portuguese. Or maybe it was a cultural issue, perhaps she had no reference point for “We have enough peanuts.” Either way, she did not understand my refusal of her peanuts. Likewise, Cláudio likes cooking huge quantities of food for the two of us and I feel compelled to eat it. I can’t let it go to waste! I get annoyed and frustrated with him for cooking so much. “Its just the two of us! Who are you expecting?” He isn’t expecting anyone, but he wants us to have plenty, and in the event someone does show up, we have enough for unexpected guests as well.
I’ve also noticed a fascinating difference between how Cláudio and I view fresh produce. If I ask Cláudio to buy avocados, he will often buy 5 or more. This causes me stress because I can’t possibly eat them all before they go bad! When I grocery shop, I only buy as much as I think I can eat before it goes bad, or before the next time I go shopping. When its time to select the avocado that we will eat now, I go for the one that is on the verge of going bad. Cláudio chooses the one that is the perfect amount ripeness. To me, that one will still be okay tomorrow, but the one that is almost bad will be inedible tomorrow. By eating the almost bad one today, we can eat the perfectly ripe one tomorrow (of course tomorrow it will be almost bad also, but at least no avocados will go to waste). I finally figured out that the reason he buys so many is not that he expects us to eat all of them. Its precisely because he expects some of them to go bad that he buys so many. We have more to choose from. Each time we want to eat an avocado, we can always select one that is perfectly ripe.
This was a massive ah-ha moment for me that I’m still struggling to process. Part of me is still convinced that this is wasteful. But wasteful is only a concept that exists in scarcity. If the Earth provides us with more avocados than a person can possibly eat, and some of them get composted back to the Earth, is that wasteful? Yes, yes, I am well aware that there are many people on this Earth who can not afford avocados, or even sufficient food in general. So clearly allowing avocados to go bad is wasteful. But! The Earth actually does provide enough food for all of its 7.6 billion people. When an avocado tree is bursting forth with avocados, that is abundance. But somewhere between the heavenly feeling of lying underneath an avocado tree exuberating in the abundance and taking the avocados to the market, giving them a price and turning them into a commodity, scarcity is created. Scarcity is a creation of our capitalist-market system that turns natures bounty into a limited finite commodity. Scarcity is not inherent in growing food. And that’s what’s so appealing about growing one’s own food – feeling that raw abundance, without market driven scarcity interfering, tasting the freedom in the food, feeling the vibrancy with which the Earth is constantly supporting life.
There is a felt sense in the body with these forms of abundance, which is completely different from the feeling of abundance when I receive a financial windfall. Its not just the privilege issues. I believe its also the money as an intermediary issue. Money is only valuable as a form of exchange. On its own, its useless. Trust me, in the zombie apocalypse, I don’t know exactly what you will need stockpiles of, but its not money. And the body knows this. Receiving free volunteer tomato plants just when you were wishing you had some plant seedlings, planting a plethora of tree seeds, receiving rain and building a plant nursery from free materials gives the body a felt sense of abundance and support. The universe is providing and taking care of me in a very real, tangible, embodied way. That’s a delicious abundance!
*When we first got to the farm, I was desperate for us to start composting. We had a lot on our plate, I didn’t know much about composting, so we dug a hole, threw our food waste in there and I call it compost 1.0. A few months later, as I read more about composting, I realized that wasn’t the smartest move, so we that let one go, dug a new hole threw our food waste, dry grass, and cow and chicken manure in and I call it compost 2.0. Finally, I started reading more about hot composting or thermal composting, and am eager to give compost 3.0 a try as soon as the plant nursery is ready. But compost 1.0 and 2.0 both have decent compost in them, so I’m using them in the meantime.