I have been thinking a lot about edges over the past few months.
From a permaculture perspective, special things happen at edges. Permaculture Principle number 11 states: ‘Use edges and value the marginal’:
The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.David Holmgren
Edges can often seem blurred, unclear, impenetrable. They can be places of mystery, places where we put things and forget about them. And so, they can also become places that we fear.
What I’ve realised is that I put myself on the edges of things a lot. A LOT. Whether it’s finding a task to take me away from the intensity of a group gathering, seeking ‘my place’ on the mountain at the furthest extreme, always choosing to lay my mat at the side and back of a yoga class, or heading for the public toilet cubicle at the end of the row, I recognise I often feel more comfortable when I’m on the edge, or outer side, of things.
So why do I do this? I could say it’s because I like space around me, to move, stretch, lean into. I could say it’s because I like to watch over things – like an eagle sitting still in a tree, I can take the wider view, take it all in, oversee everything (not public toilets, honestly). I could say it’s because, unlike conventional readings of my zodiac sign, Leo, profess, I like to stand back and let others take centre stage. I could even say that it’s because I know that the most interesting things happen at the edges. All of these things are even true.
And, I could say it’s because of fear. Fear of taking up ‘too much space’. Fear of being seen. Fear of being heard. Fear of ‘showing up’. Fear of being ‘found out’ for who I really am. Fear of not knowing what to say. Fear of not ‘fitting in’. Fear of not being ‘enough’.
And all of these things, too, are true.
Edges are always there. They are easy to see, and they are easy to ignore, because often we are standing over here and looking to over there, and we forget to notice all the change that has to happen in order for here and this to actually become there and that. We are often so intent on looking at the horizon, at the next thing, that we can miss all the wild and wonderful things between now and then.
Each and every one of us has edges too. Places we can either take ourselves to, or places where other people or events can nudge us into. They are the places we deny in ourselves, the places we fear, the places we don’t want to talk about, places that, at times, feel so difficult to move past. They are the places that ask too much of us, places that make us want to shrink back into our older, more comfortable, more familiar, safer selves.
And, this safety net can serve as a natural protection at times too. Sometimes we are not quite ready to go to the next place. Sometimes we need to sit awhile, absorbing all that is here, all that is familiar, all that is us, just as we know it, before we move through the edge and into the other. We need to honour those edges – they are not to be taken lightly! Yes, there are deep pots of gold there, buried in all the undergrowth, but sometimes we must dig gently, respectfully, cautious of what else resides there, seen and unseen.
In The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron writes that “Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge again and again” and I know that she is right. Where I’ve come to myself, with all this musing, is that I need to really recognise and respect edges, both in the natural world, and within myself, for what they are. The whens, wheres, whys, and hows of them all. I need to make sure I’m using these edges wisely, that I am neither overlooking them nor spending too much time in them. What I realise is that they can be tempting places, these dark and mysterious edges, when I start to investigate them in detail, and I can easily lose myself in them.