When I was a little girl, you would be hard pressed to find me not carrying around a stack of coloring books and a box of crayons. I enjoyed the freedom of exploring a picture through color and if inspired to do so, adding on a few new elements to the image and coloring them to blend with the original scene. As I grew to be an adolescent, I began to explore with drawing pencils and black ink pens, which would become my creativity tool of choice for years to come. My first attempt at expressing the intricacies of trees was with a black pen in a sketchbook, scribbling madly to represent the bark and moving in long twists and arches to depict the branches. Throughout college I doodled to relax my brain before a big test. I began to experiment with color in my black and white art with pastels and colored pencils and the sketchbooks began to pile up. As an adult, I still sketch along with coloring mandalas and writing from time to time. I’m alive and carefree when I’m expressing myself creatively. I’ve never worried so much whether anyone appreciated my expressions. It was all about having the ability to express myself creatively.

My love for our natural world and the need to be part of regenerating the ecosystems we are destroying is what brought me to permaculture. The invitation to express those ideas creatively is what captured me and holds me still. When I was given the assignment to work on my final design for my Permaculture Design Certification, I would spend hours at the desk drawing, redrawing, working on scales and color blends not because I wanted the final product to be perfect but because I felt like a kid again. My imagination and creativity were in the driver seat and I was in the back seat enjoying the ride. Opportunities and possibilities were along for the journey and permaculture became this vehicle of freedom and excitement.

As I’ve continued with my permaculture endeavors, I’ve had lots of opportunities to draw, design, and find creative ways to express permaculture design solutions. A few people have chosen to move on to online mapping programs or bring in computerized tools to create their designs. I too have studied with those programs and appreciate they are available for those that need a little extra creative support but the little girl in me feels a bit too confined under the basic shapes, shading and textures these programs provide. I want colored pencils and black felt pens with tips that range from .1 to .001. I want the smooth feel of trace paper and velum under my hands and elbows and flirting with the exciting edge of overshooting a line or coloring outside of the box. I want to express permaculture in all its beauty and diversity and resiliency. I want to design not just a pretty image but an inspiring piece that guides me to design my decisions, my work, my life.

I know for some the bully FEAR sometimes appears when asked to create or design or draw or write but I’ve had the great opportunity to work with those I teach and share with in permaculture circles, helping guide them through their fears as they explore drawing shapes, shading, texture, color, expression. And what I see emerge is a freedom and playfulness from each of them, the very freedom and playfulness that permaculture instills in us.

I’m putting together design packages for those participating in the PDC I teach this spring in Littleton and together we will let our inner children draw, design, create, play and be free. I can’t wait to share this once again with others!

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