Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I have been fascinated by the concept of guilds since Kristin first introduced it to me after/during reading Gaia's Garden, by Toby Hemenway.

So what is a plant guild?

From the Alternative Gardens and Landscapes

Plant Guilds
A plant guild may be easily established in the area under a fruit tree. Each variety of plant in the guild, or community, performs ecological functions such as fixing nitrogen, building soil, or purifying water. Some plants repel pests, help create mulch, or cultivate soil. Guilds are designed based on the functions of each plant, their needs and yields, and the relationships between different plants.

I'm not that much of a gardener, but this concept makes so much sense to me that I celebrate it. It's a society of plants, each with its own purpose and function, with the symbiosis of the whole contributing far more to plenty than the sum of its parts. The idea as I understand it is that there is one main species that defines the guild – the fruit tree, for instance – and the others gather around it and support it, and it supports them. Very different from the monoculture of our current agricultural model, it does not lend itself well to mass harvest via $100,000+ equipment. It only quietly makes life wonderful for a wide diversity of life.

The concept also stretches into other aspects of life, and that is the part that most fascinates me. For instance, social guilds, formed around one dominant personality. (Dominant not in the sense of domineering, but in the sense that one person can define hir social guild.) This can be seen in various forms – in business, for instance, where the boss creates an atmosphere in which some people thrive and others shrivel; in families, where the archtypical matriarch or patriarch drives the personality of the whole even after 'retirement.' I think, in fact, that it manifests in almost any social network you can find, to some extent.

A strong social guild will be one in which the primary personality most feeds those around it. I once worked on a fishing boat, and got to observe the effects of such a guild in a closed environment. We had one skipper who acted in an imperious, domineering manner, and assumed each crewmember had little motivation to pull hir share. Moral was low. The work consistently went overtime, and was poorly done. Then we switched captains. We had the same crewmembers, yet suddenly it was a crack crew. Moral was high, the work quickly and well done, regardless of whether fishing was poor or fish were pouring in.

No difference except a new primary personality, the basic element of the guild around which the others gathered and functioned.

That second skipper – the one who inspired such quality and cheer – is my brother, and in my humble opinion he's the best overall skipper of the Alaskan black c0d/codfish fishing fleet. I've worked with him enough to know. I was a member of his guild for a long time.

Then I met Kristin. For the last 17 years I've enjoyed autonomy and support in my life with her, yet without a doubt that she drives the overall arch of our lives together. Hers is the more dynamic personality, perhaps just because of who she is, perhaps because she's an older sibling and I'm a younger, perhaps both. I've watched her blossom from the young woman she was when I met her to the confident, competent artist-of-her-life she is today. It's pretty cool.

I'm in her guild now, and even though we are no longer a couple, I never want to leave it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


That is really beautiful. You and Kristin...

Plants, creation...
A guild.

It reminds me of what the body of Christ is supposed to look like...

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our