A Learning Journey
As we grow our work and test our methods on social and physical landscapes, we discover that conceptual tools are vital to conceiving what we can accomplish together. One of the most important of these is the metaphor of rivers and streams and their confluences, meanders, and floodplains. Metaphors are figures of speech that bridge concepts not usually connected, such as the idea that the world is a stage. In our work, the metaphor of the stream and its attributes becomes a figure of practice, one that inspires notions of connectivity and flow in the abstract, but opens onto a way to orient ourselves to place in tangible ways too.
Imagine yourself at the top of a watershed called the Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute, a broad and diverse valley surrounded by hills and drained by a series of water courses. You seek a way to explore and move across this landscape in creative and inspiring ways that fit your dreams and goals, and you begin your journey by choosing one of four major streams, the Watershed Restoration Stream. As you wander along its course you soon discover that this Stream is fed by many others such as Hydrology, Soils, and Fire, and that one of the confluences of these smaller streams is a rich and complex node, called Patagonia's Water Futures. Here a number of different ideas, efforts and techniques join to form something much larger and more powerful than the individual streams alone.
Further down, there is a much larger confluence, and you look back and discover that another major Stream, called Native Plant Materials, is part of this system too. You head back up the watershed along this course and learn that, like the last, this Stream is fed by smaller tributaries such as Seed Lab, Propagation, and Field Trials. You're beginning to get the sense that these connect with one another in powerful, integrated ways, and that you may choose which to enjoy, when to rest at the deep pools along the way, and when to throw yourself headlong across the watershed, picking up as many tributaries, pools, riffles and eddies as you can. You find the Foodshed Restoration Stream and its network of farming, permaculture, ranching and food forest tributaries, and you begin to see that it holds the waters of the Watershed Restoration and Native Plant streams as well. But it too joins the others in the ecosystem of ideas and practices here. Each of these feeds the Community and the Restoration Economy Stream and the social interests, concerns and futures of borderland communities that pool and swirl with potentials and spread across the floodplain, where opportunities to care for place alongside others on both sides of the border are nourished with the rich organic material and moisture that germinate ideas and stimulate relationships that lead to restoration action.