Gardening at Camp

garden

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am not a gardener.  My mom used to joke that she had a “black thumb” and I think I inherited that from her.  I occasionally get plants from students and I love them and do my best to keep them alive, but I am not always successful.  Last year, my friend Peggy who is a florist, sent the most spectacular purple orchid to the funeral home in memory of my mom.  There were so many flowers sent there and we were able to do what we wanted with them when the services were over.  Since the mausoleum where my mother is buried doesn’t allow real flowers inside, we knew they could not go there so my family and I chose the ones we loved most and kept those.  I can’t remember what we did with the rest. There was some talk of donating them but that day is such a blur I can’t recall.

I chose to keep that stunning orchid and I actually kept it alive for months.  Peggy gave me some tips for sustaining it. I remember crying the day that it lost it’s last flower.  I googled how to preserve it and keep it so that it would bloom again but it never did.  I still have the glass vase and the branch, (which is obviously dead) sitting on a shelf.  I can’t bear to get rid of it.  There is nothing to it anymore.  It has made its way from the dining room, where it bloomed for so long, to the kitchen, where it sat on the window sill after it died and now to the counter right near the trash.  I just can bring myself to do it yet.

At Camp Maple, where I am working this summer, there is a small interior garden in the building.  It is in a courtyard in the center of the building.  If you have never been in the building, you’d never know it was there.  Last week, the women that maintain the garden asked us if we wanted to let our campers help out with the garden.  Our campers are all boys and have different needs and intricacies so weren’t sure how they would react to this.  We told them that we’d try it out and see how it went.  Today was the day.  The counselors discussed it ahead of time and made a plan that we’d see how it went and see how long the boys would be able to last in the garden.  We would stay as long as they could handle it.

It turned out to be the best day so far!  The three women who run the program were patient and kind with them.  They took them from area to area explaining the different plants that were growing.  They each planted beans which shouldn’t take much time to sprout.  We weeded the cobblestones, watered the vegetables and added to the compost that they have created.  One of the boys found a caterpillar that was just beginning to create it’s chrysalis.  This fascinated all of them.  Each of those boys was engaged the entire time we were in there.  They asked if they could come back again tomorrow.

In that hour, as I sat there weeding with the boys, I felt a calm come over me.  I think the boys did too.  They entered that garden and explored on their own.  It seemed to make them calm and comfortable as they worked around the courtyard. While they were gardening, they were practicing social interaction not just with each other, but with grownups as well.  They had the chance to play in the dirt and the mud as they squeezed the soil between their fingers so it was a great tactile activity for them.

All of the counselors noticed the change in temperament and attitude that came across the boys while we were in there.  We have decided to go back again tomorrow.  It might be a fun way to start or end each day.  The best part is that they will be able to watch the progress they are making in that garden as they come to camp each day for the next five weeks and that will give them a great sense of accomplishment.

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