“the lemon balm, the peppermint and the comfrey all have a reputation. They have reputations for being bullies, they have a reputation for being too loud, too big, too much. Oh… maybe that’s why I like them. They are a lot. And that power is very, very appealing.”

On creating containers that allow us and our ideas to flourish while limiting the harm that we and our ideas might do.

Transcript and notes: https://intensivesinstitute.com/captivate-podcast/expectations

Recorded 1 May 2023.


Hi, everyone, thanks for tuning in.

So there's this screen door. In my bedroom, it's a slider, it's part of the patio entrance or the deck or I don't even know. It's a low deck. It's not in very good shape, but it's access to the yard, and that's important. Unfortunately, the screen is not so much screen as a little bit of screening punctuated by great big holes, or perhaps it's holes punctuated by screening. It's that bad, it really is that bad.

And this is Portland, which means that unlike California, you do need screens. You need screens to keep out the mosquitoes mostly, but also the ants, possibly the small creatures that live in the yard, I don't know. It just seems like a better idea to have it closed than open. And so I've been meaning to get around to it for a while. Technically, yes, this is a job that belongs to my landlord and I have asked my landlord to take care of it. But I have heard nothing about it getting taken care of. And here we are.

And so I called the hardware store about a splining tool and some spline and some screen. And now it's just staring at me from the corner, waiting for me to get it done. One of my partners recently saw a remark or read an article that suggested that the problem with bulk buying a safe food, if you're autistic, is that when you bulk buy, it creates a demand, it creates a requirement.

And so it triggers that persistent desire for autonomy thing. The demand avoidance. The thing where if you are told you must do something, you immediately do not do it for six months. And sometimes that's "you don't eat the safe food that you have heretofore been able to eat as soon as you stock up on it." Because we had noticed that the stocking up and then not being able to eat it often went hand in hand. And is it just terrible coincidence over and over again? Or maybe- maybe is it that expectation is a problem?

And so buying the supplies for something can create an expectation, that's a problem. And the only way that I have found to overcome it is either to wait a very long time or to do the thing immediately, like walk in the door, don't take off your shoes do the thing immediately, immediately. But there is another way, and that other ways sort of sneaking up on it.

I'm fond of sneaking up on the dishes. I find that very effective. I'm fond of sneaking up on long projects or things where I've already developed a resistance. And now I'm thinking about that in relation to work, to jobs. Not just if you're self employed, to the things you assign yourself. Which yes, that's a problem. To-do lists can be demand. But also like work, work. How do you? How do we? How do we think about our work in a different way?

I think I've already talked about this on a previous episode but- but what I'm thinking about now are particularly the big projects, which by their very linear nature, do create a sense of must. A sense of should. A sense of I ought. A sense of how fast can I get that off my table. I don't know if this is true just for me, but but I find that once there's a thing that's started I want it over as fast as possible. So that then it's not waiting to be done anymore. Lurking around the corners, just waiting and waiting for me.

Living with another person who understands this is really helpful because sometimes one of us gets that lurking feeling and the other one can sneak up behind the task and tackle it before it can become lurking for both of us. When both of us are being lurked at it can be very hard to overcome. But we still have to do the thing, right? The thing still has to be done.

I will either have soaking wet paper in a couple of days when it rains, and the paper I've covered the hole with gets wet. Or I will have mosquitoes. Or I will do the task. Those are the three options and I don't like the first two. And I don't really mind doing things that are complicated or challenging or difficult. I just like to succeed at them. And this one is fairly new.

I've only resplined a screen a couple of times and I'm not sure I know what I'm doing and what if I do it wrong? And the answer to what if I do wrong as I either rip it out and do it again or I hire someone to do it instead. And still, and yet... it's complicated, right? It's complicated.

It's complicated to want to do big grand things and only to be able really to do things that are the size of my pocket, the thing that I can do in a day, or a minute, or an hour. And then there are the things that I make into bigger projects for- I won't say absolutely no reason at all- for unusual reasons. I wanted to plant some comfrey.

I want to plant some comfrey. Comfrey is a medicinal plant. It's originally from England, it's been growing in North America for a very long time. It is lush, it is good for so many things. It's good for healing across a wide variety of applications. It's good for composting. The rotten leaves of comfrey are some of the most nourishing for most plants.

And it is incredibly, incredibly lively. It will spread itself by seed, and by rhizome. It will take over everything. It will be impossible to eradicate. Farmers and gardeners alike, celebrate it and curse its name in the same breath. Herbalists love it.

I imagine that if one wanted to be truly properly controlled about it, one would plant it in a greenhouse. Just in a greenhouse. Just in containers in a greenhouse. Containers with a solid bottom. Containers that you move every year, just to make sure that the roots aren't going anywhere, so that you can clip it back. I imagine that's how you would do it. I don't have a greenhouse. But I'm not entirely irresponsible. I will be putting it in a container, I will be trying to contain it. Trying not to let it take over everything and everywhere. But also it's a beautiful, lovely lush green plant.

The people... well, I had asked at the local nursery if they had some and they said <sounds of uncomfortable hesitation> by which they meant occasionally. But also know they meant occasionally but do you have to plant it in the ground? They meant occasionally but oh god, are you actually going to do that on purpose.

Now, this season has been full of those partially because I like the idea of a plant that can hold its own. Partially because I have uses for these plants. I believe in interrelationship. And so the things that I want to deliberately add to the ground or to the yard are things that have a mind of their own.

Peppermint to discourage mice and rats from coming under the deck and into the house. Lemon balm already here to discourage the Japanese knotweed, also already here, to offer it some cover and some competition. This thing called purple dead nettle. Already here, moved it to a place where it could thrive better, I hope. Although it seems to be doing just fine in the lawn. Sunflowers, amaranth, those don't tend to take over. And comfrey.

But the lemon balm, the peppermint and the comfrey all have a reputation. They have reputations for being bullies, they have a reputation for being too loud, too big, too much. Oh, and maybe that's why I like them. They are a lot. And that power is very, very appealing. That power is important.

So how shall we do this? In a container. We're going to do this in a container. We're going to do this with a plan with a purpose and with the awareness that that plan and that purpose may not be what happens next. They have power. And sometimes, sometimes it's not what you expect. If you invite that power in, you have to be willing to run with it, to roll with it. To explore it. You can have expectations, but hold them lightly. As Alice Walker said "expect nothing, live frugally on surprise."

I won't say "expect nothing." You can have your expectations. You can build the plan, build the story, develop an idea of what you think might be good. What you hope will work. And then let it go. Imagine what could be and let it go. Give yourself over. Give yourself over to the pace and strength and power of the natural world of these survivor plants.

People think of them as weeds, but they're food, they're medicine, they're companions. They are living beings. They cannot be controlled, they cannot be expected into a particular form. They can be encouraged. And it's possible to be in conversation with them.

The invitation is the beginning of the conversation. Is the beginning of the connection. Is the beginning. You are the plant and you are the gardener. Where is your power, and your connection? And your conversation, and your work together?

Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you soon.