Growth characterizes life. It is the sign, the performance of living being. By this way, we see life to be a sort of interaction, maybe a system or series of them, or perhaps a chaotic emergence from a disorderly jumble. Regardless, we can take this meaning, this basic criterion, and use it to expand our vision of life and the living.
A garden is a place of life– of course it is, for things grow in it. Plants do: during this midsummer week, we are enjoying tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, snow peas, lettuce, kale, chard, squash, and much more, all of it mere seed months ago; so do insects: our garden, host to those both pesky and prosperous, at least to food-directed attentions; so, too, do people: students, faculty, staff, friends, community members, committed volunteers and passers-by. The Garden radiates life, in forms and facets I could endlessly describe, and would always fail to communicate.
I grow in the Garden. I am the Community Garden Manager. My given name is Brian. I find dawn in me, there, when dawn is upon me there; some days are a perpetual morning. However, I write not to speak of me, but to speak of the Community Garden. It also lives; it grows, marks its living by change; it interacts with those around it in myriad manners.
It interacts with Skidmore’s Dining Services, as daily crates of vegetables are hand-delivered to smiling chefs; it interacts with youth, as those from Camp Northwoods, the Apple Blossom Bunch, the Greenberg Child Care Center, Skidmore’s Pre-College Program, and those under no aegis, accompanied by family or friends, work or play or explore in the space. The Garden interacts with the sky, as rain pours forth into its rows and troughs, and with the land around it, exchanging matter via flows which no fence can stymie; it also interacts with itself, its component pieces achieving in spontaneity something like divine choreography.
I attest, also, that it grows. The Garden once fell upon a different plot of land. Last season it made its way, both through human ardor and much on its own, to a new location, larger than the previous; it now sits on the Wieking Green, connected by appendage to the central nervous system of the campus. Once flat green grass, curved and angular mounds of brown came to populate the area; trellis structures were erected, a shed imported, a fence installed.
This year, after a winter hard and hoary, the Garden grows still. An arbor is in construction, to host climbing crops, welcome visitors, and offer them a place to repose. The Garden has extended its offerings beyond vegetables, now also composed of shiitake mushroom logs, inoculated by volunteers but growing for themselves. It grows, also, to touch new people, and to show them new things, thereby growing itself again as they return effort, energy, ideas to it.
And yet through this there is a persistence, an essence of the Skidmore Community Garden I will not now strive to intimate to you. The essence is diaphanous, but it has tangible elements. It appears various for how variously we might glance toward it. But an inkling that occurs to me, as I look back over my seven months as Manager, three years as a volunteer, and five as a gardener in one form or another, is the persistence of an idea; through the Community Garden’s developments and modulations, its growths this year and in years past, a basic thread runs. Its strands are community, education, edification, honesty, sustainability, humility, joy, togetherness, a balance of difference and sameness in all its respects; its strands split into more, and more detail, the more I make to unweave and winnow them apart. They multiply beyond my command, this essence does, living like some weed more vital than any crop I have sown. But you’ll have to stop by the garden to see what I mean.
To learn more, find out how to get involved, ask a question, offer an idea, or for anything else, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Brian Fredericks ’16