Four days into our bike trip down the west coast of the US and I am already spending hours marveling at the right side of the line and what lies over it – simultaneously trying to stay safe in the verge as logging trucks haul pass. My Surly Long Haul Trucker is in another league. With these hours in our self imposed bike lane I’ve started to reflect on the margins: those juicy and delicious zones in ecosystems where diversity thrives and transitions occur. In contrast to those lush spaces these road verges just have a few dead snakes, the odd lost caterpillar, broken glass, and in the Olympic Forest – tree bark blown off logging trucks. That rather boring array itself becomes interesting whilst biking (I am currently keeping a tally of dead snakes) but it’s not what is in the margin that has me thinking: It’s that we are of course on the margins now of the transport system.
And it is that I keep finding myself in situations where I am on the margins – seed systems in Cuba taught me that. Reflection on this has me know that I seek them out: I’m a margin hunter as a traveller, writer and researcher. So here I am finding that the food systems I am exploring are in fact on the margins as well. And what is riding along these roadsides teaching me?
Well, number one is that you need the mainstream to have the margin, afterall, if we had no highway there would be no margin for us to bike on. I would love a good bike lane right now though, so perhaps second is that we can learn to create our own pathway that totally ignores the mainstream and is somewhat safer. Number 3 is that we can get creative with how we reinvent our margins – my personal favourite is old railway trails turned into bike lanes – the obsolete become the future. But this isn’t simply an ode to bike lanes. This is a reflection on how the ideas of marginality can inspire us in our other systems or circles we spin in and for me at the moment that is exploring an alternative food system.