[Türkçe çeviri için yorum bölümüne bkz.]
Last June I received an invitation to give a talk about the Urban Farm in Halandri at a festival dedicated to “Slow Time”. The title of the talk was “What the Halandri Urban Farm has taught me about Time”, at a magical inner terrace which seemed to have escaped time, 2 minutes walk away from the busy heart of Athens (Omonoia Square).
The first thing that the Earth has taught me, is a sense of rhythm. I am consciously not saying Nature, for I, too, am part of nature, I am saying the Earth. Time is rhythm! The seasons follow one another, the earth revolves around the sun without straying away, keeping her time religiously, day and night follow one another… These things might sound obvious, but inside the city (what with heating and air-conditioning, and the capacity to have artificial lighting at any given time) these things can easily be forgotten. Just as it is easy to forget the silence when you are surrounded by noise, or to forget to pause when there is so much activity going on around you (both are aspects of rhythm). Keeping time is keeping the beat!
Plants have their own rhythms. Trying to accelerate them or slow them down, results in stress. Our heart has a rhythm, too, and so has our breathing – but we usually remember it when we get hiccups or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)!
Being and working at the urban farm has made me change my pace, give time to observation and space to the wild plant species that grow there. Every month there is something different growing wild, and different species are at different points in their yearly cycle. Time is cyclical, and spiral: every year our almond trees acquire another ring in their trunks, and a few centimeters in their bodies (for which they never complain, nor do they want to eradicate, like we do!). The urban farm has taught me to give space to my time, and to respect it more.
Time is love. It is a gift given to us every day: no matter how much money we may or may not have in the bank, no matter if we are silly or clever, scientists or manual labourers, children or adults, nice or nasty, every day we are given 24 hours to do what we like with, to spend as we like. Never more, nor less: 24 whole hours! Where we dedicate or spend them shows us where our heart is, what moves us, what we love most, in fact! There is nothing good or bad in this: one may love planting lettuces, another may like playing with children, someone else might enjoy observing insects, or organizing fundraising concerts. Everyone has their own work to do! An apple tree cannot produce oranges. This is a very helpful tip for our self-knowledge, observing ourselves – just as we observe plants, for example – to see how we spend our time during the day, and draw our conclusions (just as we would draw conclusions by observing the life-cycle of a pumpkin).
At the end of the talk, we distributed calendula seeds as a gift from the farm to those who were present. Calendula, or Marigold, apart from being a very bright and joyful flower and a precious medicinal plant, is also related to time. The word comes from the Latin “kalendae” meaning the first day of the month, and it is where our word “calendar” comes from (marigolds apparently produce new flowers on the first days of every month, or so Roman housewives observed).
The Urban Farm at Halandri is a group project dedicated to permaculture and biodynamic farming. It is situated in an almond orchard in the north suburbs of Athens, very easily accessible by metro or bus from the centre. It started in 2011 with a group of biodynamics enthusiasts, and it has developed into a testing ground for various “new” farming practices which make a priority to improve the health of the soil, the plants, and the people, as well as respecting the natural rhythms of the earth. At the same time it is an experiment of intentional community-building. Its members see it a garden of resistance: a space where relationships are cultivated in the spirit of equality, mutual respect, self-sufficiency, and resilience, away from the exploitative consumerist culture prevailing in our society. During the last 3 and a half years of its operation it has hosted various seasonal celebrations, music events, permaculture, biodynamics, and alternative health education projects, and it has been visited by various school groups as part of their natural history or astronomy courses. One of our ongoing projects is keeping (saving) traditional varieties of vegetables, and growing vegetables for seed. We keep a blog of activities and some opinion pieces. Our members pioneered the making of a network of like-minded Athenian urban farms, and are active in various health and social movements.