Ah, Garden Glub. We are so in our rhythm right now. School has been in session for a few months, the weather is warm and gorgeous, we’ve got our regulars, and we’ve been harvesting up a storm.
As the official “garden lady” at my kid’s elementary school, I pretty much get to run the garden club how I want. Yes, our scheduled meeting is every Friday for about an hour or two, but within that time frame, anything can happen, which is exactly how I like it.
Most everyone likes it this way, too. We have about 20-25 kids show up each week (plus some parents) to weed, rake, water, dig, sweep, plant, harvest fruits and veggies and even pick a few edible flowers to take home with them (we currently have a sea of violas in every color – gorgeous).
I like it this way. I like the open flow. I like to see what happens. Because the minute I ‘plan,’ I’m putting a restriction on it, which is the opposite of the experience I believe I, and (most) everyone else wants to have.
But then there was that one parent who had been sniffing around a bit and making a lot of ‘suggestions’ about lesson plans, routines, schedules. For a brief moment, I took the bait, and yesterday as I was getting ready to head out to the garden, I got bit worried about the structure of our afternoon, hoping it would be ‘academic’ enough.
And then I stopped myself: what a joke!
These are five, eight and eleven year old kids! They want to play in the dirt, get wet, pick a few strawberries and peas and call it a day. Why do we have to overcomplicate things? This is not college botany. This is an experience from which a lesson will naturally, gently flow.
It’s about inspiring something from the inside, instead of forcing it from the outside.
So, with that, I decided to apply my recent Return to Simplicity attitude to Garden Club, and it turned out to be one of the nicest afternoons ever. We ate the last of the sugar snap peas, harvested Mizuna leaves and flowers, found a butterfly on one of the plants that hung out on a kids’ finger for about five minutes (much to the awe of the crowd), dug for worms, turned one of the raised beds for next week’s planting and had the pleasure of planting some sweet potatoes that a kid had sprouted and proudly brought from home.
Of course I weave lessons about the garden into the experience, but not in a stringent, formal way. Sugar snap peas were a big hit yesterday (our vine would reach eight feet tall if it hadn’t toppled over). We talked about the pea seed, the plant that grew from it, the flowers which sprouted from the vines, which turned into delicious peas, which we then devoured and saved a few to be re-planted into the earth. We have many young seed savers in this group. It’s pretty adorable.
All the while, the moms were chatting, laughing and hanging out on the edge of the garden. Smiling one moment, yelling at their kid to stop throwing dirt the next. I love that too. They know their kids are happy for an hour and they can just relax for a moment, without having to rush home and plan what to do next. The ‘what to do next’ is the bane of parenthood, and I like that, for whatever reason, all time stands still in the garden. Such a gift.
I’m also grateful for the inadvertent challenge from the more ‘academic’ parent. It was a reminder that when we follow our instincts, keep things simple and trust what we know inside, things always turn out beautifully. Like a sunny L.A. afternoon full of happy kids who tell me Garden Club is one of their favorite parts of their school week.