We are Nature after all: Shifting the Mindset From Control to Cooperation

Nature is within us and we are within Nature

The OG herself showing us a thing or two.  Washingtonia robusta babies growing out of concrete at Unincorporated Coffee in Altadena, CA.

Image Credit: Shawn Maestretti

I have been celebrating my chosen path in landscape design for years. I LOVE MY JOB! I see the potential in everything and everyone.  

But in recent years I am witnessing the underbelly of a career path that has me riled up. With your permission… May I get loud for a moment? I promise this message will conclude in joyful optimism…as I always end with love and gratitude!

The practices of landscape architecture, landscape design, any engineering, architecture, and “design” professions are all stuck! We’ve painted ourselves into a corner. A space of scraping a degraded band-aid off, and designing a prettier one… covering up the unhealed scab of the original trauma!

First….Nature is within us and we are within Nature. All that we see, do, experience, and are is Nature. All devices, technologies, microplastics, and landscapes ARE NATURE. So why are we so far off of the mark?

To understand what I am getting at…we can begin to discern between landscapes that interrupt Nature’s processes, and further down, landscapes that are aligned with Nature’s processes.

Classic Nuclear Nature…front yard edition.

Image Credit: Pexels.com (pexels-pixabay-210617 (1).jpg)

Most “landscape designs” are a band-aid approach that continues the cycles of trauma to land and waters that once functioned in harmony.

All too often, landscapes in the urban environment are treated like container gardens or movie sets, decorated for a period of time before the living biota outgrows the container or ends up in decline due to root compaction and soil exhaustion . Landscapes are not Machiavellian playgrounds, nor are plants accessories.

Our compartmentalized life

Image Credit: Pexels.com (pexels-michael-tuszynski-1134777-2255938.jpg)

When a landscape (AKA Nature) is forced into submission, it’s easy to further exploit the disconnection between humanity and our source of life itself. It becomes a business model that is temporarily great for landscape designers and contractors to come in and redress the cutouts within the constructed matrix.

Nature is forced into coffins of concrete boxes and templates, raised and lowered to meet the needs of a culture that cares more about their territory than the life-giving processes we happen to be a result of.

There is some landscape in there….

Image Credit: Pexels.com (pexels-rdne-8783583.jpg)

So where am I going with this?  I suppose I care too much about all of this…All too often, I witness landscape designs winning awards and recognition, only to become the inspiration for another overly controlled plot of land. Only with “MORE STYLE” and MORE EXTRACTION. These constructs take precedence over the landscapes that are true and honest to the processes of LIFE.

Just how out of alignment with life are we? It’s amazing to witness the hubris of our time and peer into the suicidal tendencies of humanity’s audacious journey into oblivion.  Modern-day design (which includes the past 100-plus years) is a prime example of what self-sabotage looks like. A slow suicide note being written with all the drama and none of the remorse. And let’s get clear…we are not hurting the earth. She can take it.  We are demonstrating that humanity is a collective of confused, hormonal adolescents.

A brutal addition to the landscape

Image Credit: Pexels.com (pexels-sr-solo-2917798.jpg)

Is this anger that I am experiencing?  Is it disappointment?  Or am I anticipating grief? I have high expectations, and if there is anything that my friend and mentor Leigh Adams has taught me, it is that “all expectations lead to disappointment!” Thank you Leigh!  

An aerial view of Tongva Park in Santa Monica, CA 

Image Credit: Pexels.com (pexels-rdne-8783181.jpg)

So how do we alchemize this from something heavy and fear-based, to a message of empowerment and encouragement?

Sure, it’s easy to throw my hands up and give up, but I care too much and I love too much. Therefore, I choose to enter this from a place of love rather than a fear of losing something. I choose to listen to and co-create with a world and build the future I want to see. 

I’m ready to break the ice…or, better yet, the concrete. Yes, we need roads and safe pathways, for now. So in the spirit of apologies to the Earth and gratitude to the water cycle we owe our existence to, it is my purpose in life to demonstrate ways to break the current mold we are stuck in, allow that water to seep in, remove whatever hardscape I can, and replace it with mulch and plants. A vision for what was already here before the land and waters were colonized…. every square inch and puddle.

A native garden that blew my mind in Sebastopol, CA.  Gardens that inspire me are gardens where plants, soil, water, and life are the main focus.

Image Credit: Shawn Maestretti

And now I must question…with enthusi-sarcasm (😜)…”Why are we investing in landscape designs that are literally killing us??”

How can we stop glorifying landscape control…and start supporting landscape regeneration, recovery, renewal? Choose.

Landscapes are portals to healing generations of trauma. Gardens are sanctuaries where we get to continue this journey of healing. Health and wellness are a benefit from conscientious gardening, design, building…or to put it broadly, engagement.

Changing the climate starts at home.  And home is in the heart!  Why wait for others to make the changes you want to see in the world? Start NOW. 

Build a garden…big or small. Plot or pot. You are the container! Trust Nature…your heart will lead the way!

Shawn Maestretti, Landscape Medium and Recovering Human

My purpose on this planet is to connect YOU to yourself, through the wisdom of the land and the waters.  Why?  Why not?!?!

PS – In case you were questioning whether Nature was truly intelligent based on the current results of human nature, I will propose a theory. What if all of this were part of Nature’s “design” all along.  What if humans we meant to screw up? 

After all…”The sheer beauty of the ultimate realization is that it is always discovered by a mistake.”  – Richard Rudd

Receive paradigm-shifting ideas and life-changing insights directly to your inbox.

Ready to envision a deeper, richer relationship with your environment?