This reflection is part of the class I attend once a week with the Sustainability Fellows Program. This is why I like gardening!
The work at my internship site much more pleasing and life-giving than the work of being a student. The main difference in my work now is that I work less for my myself and more for other people. The weeding, planting, and teaching I do in the garden is geared toward people in the Merrill neighborhood being able to use the space as a source of beauty, life, community and fun. A second difference is that the nature of the work I do is based in the physical world of action. With my knees in the dirt and my face close ot the moved grass, I plant peppers in a new bed. Standing at the front of the plot, I jam my shovel into the ground hearing it strike little pebbles in the soil. The collision sends vibrations up the shovel and lets out an abrasive clang. In classes I use my mind to accomplish tasks like writing papers and analyzing texts.
In contrast to this, during school I function in a world of representations rather than being present with the things themselves. In many ways, this physical work feels more important than schoolwork because I can see these physical changes in the garden and in my own body each day. Sometimes the plants grow greener and put out new leaves, sometimes they wilt over or dry out do much that their leaves crumble when I throw them into the compost pile.
I think physical work is healthier for my body and mental health because when I am encouraged to live in the academic world of representation, I am easily caught in my head and paralyzed by overanalysis and inaction. Now I have the power to be active, to strike out and do things I didn’t think I was able to do before. I’m starting a project to build a Little Free Library for the Merrill garden. We’ll stock one half with kid’s books and the other half with references on cooking and gardening for adults. Here’s to learning how to be a carpenter, a librarian, and a drought-vanquisher for Wisconsin’s July.