learning about friends (medium post draft - part 2)

i love using ecosystems and living things as a way to model human systems. i’ve done a lot of thinking in this lane as it relates to communications (initially taught by danielle coates-connor, then trained by css, and now exploring my own approach) so why should i not try to apply it to my own community?

the system that danielle helped me cut my teeth on is the zone system in permaculture. it essentially helps you think about where to place which plants and how to physically relate to other natural resources so that you have access to what you need at the right frequency. it also helps ensure that the whole system functions harmoniously.

plants that need a lot of tending or plants that you harvest continuously should be on a pathway that you travel daily (zone 1). example: your kitchen garden should be placed on a path near a door you use often. things that need weekly tending could be placed a little farther off the daily path, but still close (zone 2)… and onward and outward. make sense?

so as i’m thinking about next year and my friends… i’m thinking i’m going to actually put my friends into a zone system.

permaculture zone system illustration

caption: illustration of the zone system. a small home icon in the middle of 5 concentric circles, labeled from the inner circle outwards as zones 1 through 5.

my woes are my zone 1 folks. they are people who i am working on excellence with. they hold me, i hold them, and in each relationship, we are helping each other work to be more of the people we’re meant to be. we know how to do that because we’ve invested tons of time into each other, know each other well, and can see how to support each other as well check each other (lovingly) when needed.

good friends will be zone 2. folks i know and love but, for any number of reasons, aren’t people i can see frequently enough to be zone 1.

other friends will be zone 3. folks i like and enjoy spending time with but am probably not going to rearrange my schedule to see.

zone 4 i think is basically everyone else. among other things, i think this is where my weak ties will be.

for a second while i was writing this i thought maybe it would be interesting to make this zone map public. i actually think that’s a terrible idea but maybe i’ll do it anyways.

either way, i’m going to hold a specific block of time during my annual retreat to create this zone map of my friend community. we’ll see how it goes!

ps - thinking of this so explicitly also brings up another dimension (maybe perpendicular to the zones?) of relationship related to learning. i grew up in a community that believed that people were doing the best when they were being taught by some people, learning together with other people, and then teaching some people younger or less experienced. maybe i need to make time to add those people on to my map as well… maybe it looks like:


  1. people i’m learning from
  2. people i’m learning with and we are supporting each other’s learning (woes)
  3. people i’m teaching (young ones, people i mentor/support their learning in a more unidirectional manner although it’s never unidirectional for real).

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