A.V. Walters

It’s become somewhat of a seasonal ritual. It started way back in school when we’d cripple ourselves training for track and field. Later, when that idiocy abated, my spring enthusiasm would takeover and I’d break out of my winter lethargy with a ten-hour day of heavy digging, in preparation for planting the garden. Of course, over the next few days, my body would pay for it. It’s always the same, and I never learn. But like I said, it’s a ritual.

Here in Two Rock, it stays cooler longer, so we have a late planting date, and the worst of the digging gets done by Elmer’s plow. (Granted, digging in the buckets later is still no cakewalk, but I’m always up for it.) So, I’ve managed to substitute my disabling, spring digging ritual with an equally disabling, spring volunteering ritual. And, like the Garden, it’s all well worth it.

Petaluma has a local chapter of Rebuilding Together—an organization that helps our low-income, elderly or disabled neighbors. We make repairs and improvements that helps make it possible for them to continue living in their own homes. It’s a great organization. There are two main workdays each year– in the spring the volunteers help individuals and in the fall, we plant trees around town or work on our public parks. I’ve been at it for five years now; it’s a ritual that has stepped in to fill the void left by track and field practice. Usually I’m put on a crew that works to tame out-of-control gardens. (Though, I’ve done everything from painting and laying floors to installing a garbage disposal.) It’s an all-day work-fest with a score or more of other volunteers per work site. We all work like crazy people, and at the end of the day a life and home are transformed. There’s enormous satisfaction in it. (A couple of days later, when I can bend over again to tie my shoes, I feel even better about it.)

You should see our volunteers. Our crew, this spring, included a guy in his eighties. He had his work gloves on and was manning a wheelbarrow, delivering mulch. There were a handful of septuagenarians, and then the rest of us, mostly in our forties and fifties. It’s incredible to see all these strangers (and some familiar faces from past Rebuilding days) come together and, without any kind of rehearsal and surprisingly, little direction, fall into a comfortable and steady work rhythm. We’re like bees—each busy and productive, compounded by the activities of the whole group. You can’t believe how much work can be accomplished with so many hands pulling together! If you would like to participate in that kind of community, I can highly recommend you contact your local Rebuilding Together chapter. Spring is a lovely time to help in a positive transformation.

So, now I’m broken in for the season. This weekend I can start digging in my buckets, getting ready for a late, but frost-free, planting. I can hardly wait. (We’ve even talked about adding a fourth garden plot!)Winter has faded and my neighbors on the farm are coming out of their homes, rubbing the winter out of their eyes like bears emerging from hibernation. And what’s on their minds? “Where are we going to put the tomatoes this year?” “Did you know the Seed Bank has organic vegetable starts?” We’ve managed to cultivate a crop of eager gardeners. It’s exciting.

My only question about all of this is, where are the young people? Clearly, we’re not reaching out to share and nurture the values that connect us to our community, the seasons, our bountiful gardens and, most of all, each other. Suggestions, anyone?