written by Paula E. Bird, © 2013
I am writing you from Oregon, where I go annually to play in the Sunriver Music Festival (since 1984). I customarily spend a few quiet days alone on the Oregon coast before heading inland to the festival at the end of the week. I look forward to this solitary time because it gives me an opportunity to unwind, reflect, and be free of animals and humans who compete for my time and attention. I hike, I walk, I go to movies, eat a lot of clam chowder, and I look in windows a lot (I am not a big shopper, but on these annual trips, I do enjoy looking in windows). Once I get to the festival, I visit rivers, lakes, pine forests, and mountains. There is something to be said for the mountaintop experience. There is nothing quite like the perspective that a mountain can give about the significance of one's life.
During this trip, I intend to do quite a bit of reflection about my life, its current state, and the direction in which I wish to go in the future. I generally do this sort of reflection every year, but this year I want to actually come up with "the perfect life." I want to paint a picture in my mind and down on paper of what my life would be if it were "perfect." Perhaps this sounds silly, but for me this sort of reflection has a much stronger meaning to it than merely reflecting on "how things are going," which is what I typically do every year at this time. No, the thinking about what a perfect life would be is the sort of project that fits right in with my current thinking about my land and home life in general.
You see, I have been bitten by the permaculture bug. For those of you who are new to this subject, permaculture is a set of design principles that integrate human existence with its landscape and planet in a way that nurtures and protects the land and the humans who rely on it. I do not want to go too deeply into the entire realm of permaculture philosophy, but suffice it to say that it is a very global concept that affects the entire planet and can be as simple as growing plants on a kitchen windowsill. As I began delving into the entire "perma" culture, I began looking at my ranch and land in a new way. I began reflecting on its possibilities and imagining what a perfect landscape would look like. From those moments of reflection and imagination, I began to envision the plan to follow to build that design and foster that vision.
It was inevitable that I would continue this habit of thinking and imagining and let it spill over into my regular daily life. I began to consider the possibilities that a designed life of perfection would yield to me in terms of peace of mind, beauty, and creative artistry. If I can design a perfect landscape that is self-sustaining and nurturing, why can I not design a perfect life that sustains and nurtures me, and therefore aids me in giving back to others in my teaching, writing, and performing?
So this trip will have a different meaning for me in terms of my annual reflection. Instead of considering how things are going, I will give more focus to how I want my life design to look. I will create a life landscape that provides me with the kind of lifestyle that sustains me emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. I will put my thoughts about lifestyle design on paper so that I can readily see where I need to give my efforts and attention.
As I write this article, I am aware of the obvious next steps after creating my personal lifestyle design. My next steps are to consider the simple habits that I need to create and follow in order to turn my life design into a successful project in the long run. Simple habits are always a good topic to consider at any time. It is the simple habits that we create and then mindlessly follow on a frequent recurring basis that get us where we ultimately wind up. Overweight? Too many habits that led us down the path of wrong choices. Out of shape? Too many habits that excused us from making time to get in shape. Too busy? Burned out? Too many habits that led us, well, you get the idea.
That's where my lifestyle "perma" culture design reflection will come in. This week, why not join me and reflect on what your perfect life would be?