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A Trip South: On the road of wisdom

Posted: December 14, 2012 - 1:00am
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"East End Eden" is the permaculture farm, in Ojai, Calif. visited by members of A Trip South.  Courtesy of Stefan Navarrete
Courtesy of Stefan Navarrete
"East End Eden" is the permaculture farm, in Ojai, Calif. visited by members of A Trip South.

I don’t often consider people younger than me to be “wise”. There are a lot of smart kids, sharp dudes and intelligent ladies out there, but wisdom seems to be more a trait of age than any other factor.

Wisdom is a way of being that is gained through years and years of experience, the weathered individual that has been sculpted by the rains of time and the winds of change. Wisdom is a strong word that I use respectfully and do not throw around carelessly.

But after meeting Jones Jones, I had to reconsider my standards.

At 21 years old, the scraggly, almost scrawny kid from Ojai, Calif. looks like any of the other organic dirtbags in town.

A deeply progressive and forward thinking community, Ojai is swarming with good ideas and people of action. When some of the most respected citizens in town recommended that we check out Jones’ property, we knew that we had to meet the kid. After a timely encounter at the weekly farmers market, we had a date.

Upon arriving to the property, I was immediately taken by the pre-existing environment that Jones had chosen to develop. Huge sandstone aggregate boulders filled the canyon floor on an east-west line, inspiring scrambles and climbs upon the animate faces and sun soaked ridges. Beyond the creaking of oaks and swishing of olive trees, there were the shouts of goats, chickens and ducks. Although there were not any horses, the smell of straw carried through the air, coming from the ground cover of the surrounding gardens and the pond-creating, mushroom-growing bales that directed the flow of the rainwater drain. Developed with healthy intentions, Jones’ farm emanated a strong aura of symbiosis, a beautiful example of young permaculture in progress.

Permaculture, for those who don’t know, is essentially a lifelong experiment in ecological management. A permaculturist attempts to set up a thriving ecosystem that uses different life forms to sustain itself while producing goods and services that are beneficial to the human needs of the resident managers. The goal is to create a closed loop system, where the outputs are balanced by the inputs to a point where there is no need for importing or exporting materials to or from the local property.

“With any good experienced permaculture designer, the first order of business is sitting and watching. Seeing what the land shows you.” Jones told us, as we sat by the reservoir pond he had dug at the top of the property.

“I’ve been able to watch what’s already been here, and in its progression look at these things and think ‘how can I improve their living conditions?’ And create an ecology that integrates them, benefits me, and benefits all the other plants and animals in this native ecology.”

Calling the place “East End Eden Permaculture Farm” a major focus of the development, beyond providing the complete nutritional needs of the residents, is to educate the local population of Ojai, along with other interested travelers, on the techniques and values of permanent agriculture.

“We’re Earth stewards. We’re gifted with this intelligence to be able to understand complex plant assemblies on any given ecology where you’re a part of, where you come from. I see it as our job to tend the Garden of Eden. We need to be aware. We are the embodiment of the consciousness of the plants and the animals that surround us and how they interact with each other. We’re to tend that and move it forward in its diversification.”

My traveling comrades and I willingly volunteered a day of work on the farm, happy to learn from the young visionary.

After helping install fence posts for a goat run, we hurried to the Patagonia, Inc. headquarters down the road in Ventura to attend a film premiere. My mind was still swimming with Jones’s words as we arrived at the event.

The day at the farm made me begin to reassess whether I was on the best path I could be on. Why am I traveling the world when I could be back home, working towards sustainable fulfillment? It’s a question that likely would have haunted me longer had I not gone to the film showing.

The situation was all too perfect. It was a project by Woodshed Films, a local crew that made 180 Degrees South, the adventure travel film that inspired our journey more than any other media influence. Not only was the world premiere of a new product by our favorite filmmakers coinciding exactly with the time that we were in the area, the subject of the film was the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline on the British Columbia coast, an issue that we had become intimately connected to on our kayak trip through the region. Additionally, we had heard rumors that the filmmakers were working on a new project in which they had been traveling by bicycle, and had interviewed the same organic farmers that we had also recorded a few days earlier. Surprised by the serendipity, it was evident that we had to meet these guys.

The event was flawless, very entertaining and highly effective at sharing the complexity of the pipeline issue. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation gave an excellent presentation and the film was awesome. Groundswell was a perfectly executed blend of stewardship, surfing and stoke.

Afterward we got our generic, Southern California style, meet-your-favorite-celebrities experience. Woodshed Films is comprised of the Malloy brothers, Chris, Keith and Dan. As a filmmaker, I have incredible respect for the lifestyle that the Malloys are able to pull off. As professional surfers/documentors/fun-havers, the brothers get to travel to incredible places, experience the most epic elements of those places, and then make beautiful art to share with the world. It was thrilling to meet them and exchange stories, and it seemed that we shared a lot in common, including an affinity for great facial hair. We were stoked on them, they were stoked on us; it was great. But the night was not over, and somehow we managed to have yet another, equally exciting encounter.

Yvon Chouinard is a man that many people would consider to be truly wise. The founder of two outdoor equipment companies, Black Diamond and Patagonia, he’s a legend in the action sports industry. Perhaps the most unique CEO in the world of business, Yvon is infamous for his mellow attitude and emphasis on happiness over profit for all of his employees. A pioneer and leader in environmentally and socially responsible business practices, he is a human being of undeniable wisdom. His plain appearance, open spirit, and approachable demeanor did nothing but affirm the preconceptions that we had before meeting him. We left with plans for a lunch date and a promise for further support on the rest of our journey.

By the end of the night, I was overwhelmed with how many amazing people I had just encountered. Each person had blown me away with inspiration, inviting so many dreams, entertaining so many possibilities of what I could do with my future. One of these interactions on its own may have influenced me to further pursue a certain type of lifestyle, that of the ecological intelligence architect, that of the action athlete artist, or that of the enlightened adventurer philanthropist. Yet because I met all five of these people in one day, it was hard to give the weight of significance to one interaction over the others.

I rested my heavy, jam-packed, overflowing head at the end of the night, overwhelmed but inspired.

Upon reflection, it became easier to accept that while I would love to be more like each of those five impressive individuals, I never would have met them in the first place if I had not been traveling the way that I am. The stars seem to align quite effortlessly when you follow the flow of the universe. Thus, it seems that the only proper direction for the time being is south. Allowing the road of wisdom to guide the way.

• Kanaan Bausler is a member of A Trip South. Read more about the group’s adventures at atripsouth.com.

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