Today’s passage from The Dawn of Everything covers new thinking about gardening and the gardeners of the distant past.
What if we shifted the emphasis away from agriculture and domestication to, say, botany or even gardening? At once we find ourselves closer to the realities of Neolithic ecology, which seem little concerned with taming wild nature or squeezing as many calories as possible from a handful of seed grasses. What it really seems to have been about is creating garden plots – artificial, often temporary habitats – in which the ecological scales were tipped in favour of preferred species.
Theirs was not a science of domination and classification, but one of bending and coaxing, nurturing and cajoling, or even tricking the forces of nature, to increase the likelihood of securing a favourable outcome. Their ‘laboratory’ was the real world of plants and animals, whose innate tendencies they exploited through close observation and experimentation.
…we have to imagine a world without laboratories; or rather, a world in which laboratories are potentially everywhere and anywhere.pages 238-239, The Dawn of Everything
In my own garden, there is still a lot of laborious “agriculture” going on. It’s not quite as carefree as they describe the earliest gardens. But we’re tipping the balance toward working more with nature. Taking advantage of self-seeding plants. Attracting pollinators. Moving favorite perennials around when they outgrow their spaces. Leaving root systems in the ground to rot instead of pulling them up during harvest. Scarlet runner beans instead of plastic hummingbird feeders. Something to think about.
I’m also thinking about the garden as inspiration for the nine-patch. The combinations of colors and shapes. I found I had 36 three-inch squares in my stack – enough for four nine-patches. Next step was to try to arrange them in a pleasing manner – or as Graeber/Wengrow put it “to secure a favourable outcome.” These squares are destined to become part of the garden quilt, I think.