part 2

pattern language + permeability: oil + wax in the journal of small work*

homemade, food-grade, toxin free salves, infused herbal balms, shoe polish, stove polish, furniture polish, water resistant waxed fabrics emerge from learning the core recipe of oil + wax. so, the second journal of small work* builds on the ideas of the first.

if continuous improvement, those incremental changes that help us keep our balance while consistently taking daily action, combined with the stacking of multiple functions that make tremendously creative use of what we’re already doing, is all about compounding efficiency, then the next principles deepen and widen the effectiveness of the small work* of ecological action.


this journal looks at pattern language. as a method of re-skilling rapidly, it’s unparalleled. mired in the details as we seek harmony with living systems, we can instead learn overarching patterns. core recipes. with fluency in a pattern, we can then apply it as appropriate to the detailed problems of shifting how we live to resilient, sustainable, indeed, regenerative states.

as always, i illustrate and elaborate on possibilities. i find the form of oil + wax and its provision of balms, salves, medicinal infusions to polishes and water resistance that avoid waste, frankly gratifying.

to this concept of learning pattern language, add the principle of permeability, of profound interconnection. to add this piece is to create synergies, multiplying our small actions exponentially, so the whole is much, much more than the sum of its parts. here i play with how shifting our mindset to keen awareness of profound interconnection of all living systems alters the decisions we make. we can address the intense separations that underly how we’ve read the world and our places in it, then come into a different, at once new and ancient relationship that acknowledges, as our own sciences now prove, that down to a minute level, we are in infinite exchange. add this tremendously permeable, reciprocal nature to a pattern language and we become effective in healing, restoring, reinventing how we exist. in an existential crisis this is essential work.

i hope you love, use and share the journal of small work*. do let me know your thoughts on what i’ve made for you. what pattern will you add next? your small work inspires us all to action.

for more writing that informs this small work* follow along on patreon. come talk to me as i write socially. subscribe to the postcards to hear when the next episode of the journal of small work* is out, as well as the companion podcasts and new letters on regenerative living. with tremendous thanks to our patrons for their support. it means so much. contribute to the production of new episodes of the small work* here. i hope you love the new series.

x elisa rathje

*A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction is a 1977 book on architecture, urban design, and community livability. It was authored by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein of the Center for Environmental Structure of Berkeley, California, with writing credits also to Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King and Shlomo Angel.

*Permaculture One: A Perennial Agricultural System for Human, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren