Gardening, I always thought, was for old ladies suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome; they miss watching children grow so plant sunflowers instead. With a track record of owning plants that committed suicide I expected to become a fusty gardener around 68.
Having prided myself on always having a good title: Vodka Strumpet, Ad Slut, PR Wench, I was alarmed when I didn’t have one for Camp this summer. Last year I was the Camp Blogger but now Facebook does the very fine job of keeping parents up to date.
Dreading having a summer like my first one where I felt detached and, I admit now, quite glum, I panicked about what to do. The Dimple, being a practical chap, suggested helping in the Camp Garden.
Gardening?! He was forgetting I used to be a fabulous, high-heeled Marketing Tart who lived in Manhattan and scoffed at the poor minions who worked in the sunshine. Gardening was dirty, definitely not cool and way too mumsey. Oh, I loved buying fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market on Union Square but had no desire to actually be the farmer.
Then the Dimple had the audacity to suggest we actually grow our own vegetables in our backyard and I knew who he thought the ‘we’ should be. Me!
He would have me baking bread and wearing aprons next.
The Other Camp Mama, however, manages to be fabulous in high heels when she wants to be and barefoot in the garden most mornings. She is the amazing architect of Camp’s Garden and teachers city kids it’s possible to grow food and, like, you know, eat it.
Reverting back to being just The Dimple’s Wife was worse than Mumsey Gardener so I gave it a go.
To my surprise I love getting filthy and learning – thanks to the Other Camp Mama – about dirty old soil, stinky compost, natural pest control (who knew onions were so handy) crop rotation, budding is not just for pot growers, snakes and spiders are good, green ladybugs are bad and moles should be sent to Pluto.
Bob and the ‘Dactyl happily play in the garden with their best buds: the Other Camp three and five-year-old’s while the Mamas work it. And when I say work it’s one to two hours tops, hardly exhausting and actually more like something to do in the morning.Brené Brown*, my favourite Professor of Social Work from Houston University – whose TED talk has been watched by millions – said that what we all want, all strive for, is a sense of belonging; to feel connected and part of something. And shame is when we feel disconnected.
Last summer half way through writing the Camp Blog, and feeling very important, I asked for money. The Camp Director – who never has enough budget – must have sighed when I left her office. The kiwi doesn’t get how this place works yet.
My cheeks burn at the thought now; I wasn’t fully plugged in. Camp has survived for the last 80 years because of volunteers who work for reasons other than cash.
Volunteering, I’ve discovered, has all these perks. No obligation. No stress. No pressure. No boss. No Mission Statements. No meetings. No need to get out of bed if it’s raining. No expectations, just appreciation. That’s it. Being a minion in the sunshine is bliss.
Never mind I’m learning how to grow food, and like, you know, eat it.
Never mind I feel connected, part of something.
Never mind I didn’t have to cook for two months thanks to Marty, the (volunteer) chef.
Never mind I get to hear stories from campers of other worlds and it reminds me life is not always beautiful. Sometimes, as plucky blogger from Momastery says, it’s brutiful. Last week an amazingly brave girl told me she was abused by uncles from age five to eleven. I weeped when she told me. Five?! That’s Bob’s age: so innocent, trusting, curious. The forest is a sanctuary for more than just us.
Yesterday, a bunch of 15 year-old girls were debating, in the garden, the ideal age to have a baby. They settled on 19. I can only hope after being exposed to the bigness of life amongst the Redwoods that their aspirations rise.
My new title is part-time Garden Lush, 26 years ahead of my time – not something I get to say very often. Now I don’t have to worry about Bob and the ‘Dactyl leaving home – with a cold drink in one hand and a hoe in the other, I’ll have the knowledge to tell the Dimple where to dig. By the way, he gave up waiting, donned an apron and baked some bread himself. It was delicious.
*It’s possible Oscar Wilde said this. Regardless, it’s far too witty for me to make up.
**Thanks Tania, my excellent law-sis, for introducing me to Brené.