The Power of Community

On Sunday, my Consciousness & Sustainability class met one last time out in the field. We gathered in the Alice Griffith Community Garden in the Hunter's Point neighborhood in San Francisco.

When we arrived in the morning we saw ripe red strawberries, sunflowers, lettuce...a garden tended with love. It made me smile to see such beauty, especially in this neighborhood, which is situated in Candlestick Park's backyard and surrounded by toxic earth.

Brett Harte Elementary School students and Dana, a committed teacher with a beautiful heart, look after the garden. Dana worked with our class on Sunday and told us stories about the 2-acre garden that she and the students grew out of an abandoned and weed-filled lot nearly three years ago. It took hard work, the help of volunteers, and the creation of a community of children who care about the plants and trees to develop the garden into what it is today.

The neighborhood surrounding the garden faces struggles on many levels, and it is heartwarming to know that the garden is there to provide a place where the children of the neighborhood can connect with Nature.

What is difficult to hear is that it's future is uncertain. I don't know the details, but Dana hinted that the path ahead is not smooth or straight and the garden may not always be there. It is unfortunate that a neighborhood that so desperately needs love and life may not always have this garden.

Later in the day we walked to Brett Harte Elementary and helped Dana plant a butterfly garden outside the classrooms. We pulled innumerable weeds out of the plots that would soon become a haven for pollinators. This took muscle, patience, and a lot of time. We chatted, laughed, and enjoyed the sun and cool breeze. Some of us tried our skill with a pick axe...I was content to work with my hands instead.

Then we gently planted wild lilac, salvia, and a plethora of other native plants that will attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. We smiled thinking how the children's laughter would boost the growth of the plants and how the plants, in turn, would bring beauty to the schoolyard and the school community.

After all the plants were in the ground and watered, we gathered in a circle, held hands, and said blessings for the plants. We expressed our gratitude for Mother Earth on Mother's Day. We thanked the sun and the water. We shared our happiness for having been in the class and thanked Blair, our teacher, for the opportunity he gave us to re-engage with Nature. And we thanked Dana for sharing her special space with us.

I am really going to miss these garden days.

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