The walk of seeds that did not germinate and the one that germinated: on slowness, co-agency and care.

After 2 months from our collective guerrilla sowing intervention we went back to check what had grown and what had not. One pumpkin. Of all the seeds and seed balls that we had scattered, thrown and smashed only one pumpkin had germinated and survived the lack of water of an extremely dry Spring. That will be one resilient pumpkin.

 

This post though is not about the failed experiment – not much to say apart from establishing that it failed, as we suspected it would for lack of rain – but about the kind of walking and slowing down that the presence and absence of plants produce.

 

Our phone app recorded in detail all our movements. The map shows knots, straight and wavy lines, tangles, loops. Our walking was shaped by plants, present or absent. Plants made us slow down, stop, kneel, retrace our steps, linger. Plants decided on the temporality of this project: they have their own life, and pace and seasonality, and as researchers we need to adapt, follow and entrust ourselves to this process. We see this not simply as an act of slowness but an act of care and of resistance. The literature on slowness as resistance to the ever increasing demands of neoliberal governmentality is growing: writings on slow food, slow cities, and slow academia all point to slowness as a necessity and as embodied tactics to resist the fragmentation of work-time and life-time.

 

Walking with seeds, and plants, is walking slowly: observing and interacting with what grows – or what doesn’t grow as it happened in this case – on the side of the road is looking for possibilities: the pace, turns and stops don’t depend on the walker. In our project plants, seasons, humans, natural elements, soil, birds, rats, other urban animals, pollution, the physical geography and chemical makeup of streets, and rubbish were all co-agents. To delegate the timeframe to these co-agents was liberating, because it opened up a time and space for care.

 

The fundamental permaculture principles are care of other people, care of the earth and fair share. At the beginning of our research we wondered if we could also care for each other as part of the research process itself. We are inspired by the work of feminist geographers, in particular by the call for an ethics of care as a political act, as it is argued in the collaborative article For Slow Scholarship. In this sense, slowness and co-agency meant to be present to the possibility of a broader sense of care. Even if only one seed germinated.