My role model was an extraordinary Polish woman, another Krysia, who'd survived the WWII era under great adversity, migrating in the late 1940's. She tended her very small Melbourne backyard with incredible care - my constant visits always started with a peak in the garden to see what she had brought to life. Herbs, vegetables, a fig tree, flowers and more unusual plantings vied for their time in the sun. Her kitchen a few steps away, the table always abundant and set for visitors, such were the things that coloured my sense of normality during my 12 years in this city. She and so many of her generation learnt as young children how to save seeds, how to grow things from seed and how to rely on their capacity to produce food.
Krysia's stories of being hungry and seeking food from where-ever were sobering 50 years later as we tucked into plates of delicious offerings with encouragement to take more! And then there were the stories of her friends who would visit. So many lessons about cooking and community from her shaped these years even though childhood had steeped me in understandings of communal sharing and the gift of food.
So when the other younger Krysia gave me her guerilla seed envelope it lodged a thought in my mind that germinated ever so slowly. I still have the small package she gave me....it represents so much more to me than it did then.
What made the difference?
Leaving this life surrounded by such strong focus on garden to table for a start. Leaving behind cultural diversity flowing out of 100s of stores of purveyors of ethnic cuisine, interesting cafes, fresh food market places dotted everywhere, traditions of inviting people to your table and sharing home-prepared food....frequent invitations that is!
Moving to where gardens were not so common, ethnic diversity had not been celebrated openly despite changes creeping in, where there were supermarkets and malls, not small businesses with diverse offerings, where qrowers markets were slow taking off and pizza in franchise boxes was often the food of choice at casual celebrations. Normal came to look very different from what it had in the previous location.
It was not so much losing access to the abundance of great food that mattered. At first one thinks that its about that...but I did find new sources of goodness and things to be excited by. However it was deeply concerning seeing the horrendous gap between farm and plate, between knowledge and marketing driven industrialised food culture, between food heritage and the loss of relationship with it. Post-Industrial landscapes and less noticeable cultural bounty, the absence of prolific gardens everywhere and the dominant shopping mall phenomenon paved the way for thinking critically about what was missing, here where I was living and in the bigger Global picture. I guess I had found myself surrounded with what was actually the more dominant contemporary experience of food culture and relationship to the environment and it was as sobering as any of Krysia's stories.
The seed bomb idea has far more resonance now in the light of all this... for me its time has truly arrived. There are many related ideas circulating at the moment and certainly guerrilla gardening introduced possibilities for interventions and such that have broadened the understanding of citizen involvement in community and the environment where they live.
seed bombs found some time ago through www.inhabitat.com - great xmas gift size for the person who has everything!