Friday, April 06, 2007

gardens and farms as classrooms

at USF, the jesuits live in the loyola house which includes a beautiful, semi-secret garden. a student in digital journalism, christina k, works at the loyola house and helped to arrange a fieldtrip to the garden. father tom lucas, associate professor of visual arts and the main mastermind and caretaker of the garden, led the tour.

tom began by welcoming us to the garden and explaining its history. he told us about the various plants, flowers, and trees and shared stories about the fountain, the papyrus, and the raccoons. he explained that he designed the garden to be wild, growing, and diverse, not all orderly and manicured. he showed us the art of gloria osuna-perez.

tom is a quote machine, especially when he's talking about the garden. my students, in excellent journalistic form, had pens and notepads and took notes like crazy. my students are not yet journalists; they are learning to be journalists. one thing they have learned is the importance of good quotes from good sources. this fieldtrip, more than any other this semester, generated some great quotes. personally, i liked this one: "gardens give you breathing room. gardens give you mental room." journalist of the week goes to eva who went to USF's head gardener, robert macneil, to get this golden quote: "that garden just has good bones, it was thoughtfully put together."

about ten minutes before class ended, i gathered the students and we sat down in the corner of the garden with the most spectacular view of the city and the bay. some students shared their budding ideas for garden-related blog posts (which, naturally, can be read at usfblogtastic). outside, in the sun, sitting there in the garden, my students actually looked ... healthy. too often, they appear sleep-deprived, malnourished, or anxious - a midterm they're not ready for, a paper due within the hour, homework, jobs, parents, partners, debt. in the garden, though, they were relaxed and receptive. they slowed down.

as we gathered up our digital cameras and notepads, father lucas reminded us about USF's new garden - an organic garden being planned for next year by melinda stone (media studies) and seth wachtel (visual arts). what will it be like to have an organic farm on campus? what will we grow? who will grow it? and who gets the eats?

speaking of gardens, what about farms? in june, i'll be an artist-in-residence at stonelake farm. high in the hills of humboldt, stonelake farm is like a dream - it has a flower garden, a veggie garden, apple trees, hundreds of trees, a river, and a waterfall. there are chickens and goats, including one, tiny, who is pregnant. it has an octagon. it has bridges to cross.

stonelake is off the grid, which means that electricity is hard to find. the last time i was there, time seemed to slow down. maybe that's what my students experienced in the secret garden. maybe that's what tom lucas was referring to when he said "gardens give you mental room." and maybe that's what i'll find this june when i go from professor to student.


sarah said...

really nice post, d. it's true, time slows down and your mind wakes up when sitting in a beautiful spot. gardens are vital and need protecting, especially when concrete is a more bounteous crop. i'm glad father tom lucas introduced your students to the garden. we need to remember to find, support, and revere plots of green--wherever they exist.

Librarian said...

I think we all have our gardens. Our spot that makes us feel like the world is a special place.

Thanks for the post. It has some beautiful thoughts.

pistol pete said...

Very well written and beautifully posted. I'm not really into the outdoors, so it's nice to have them brought inside to my computer screen. Keep up the good blogging.

david silver said...

sarah: "especially when concrete is a more bounteous crop" - indeed.

librarian: i agree with you and really like your defintion of a garden.

pistol pete: thanks for the comments! maybe the post will steer you outdoors!

The Sheck said...

beautifully said. that sense of slowing down and breathing in the air while lying in the grass next to your garden is exactly why I left NYC and moved to Vermont. It sounds like you do need to visit here!

Your post also reminds me of a poster next to my computer about the gardens within:

"Necessary Gardens"
Libraries are necessary gardens, unsurpassed at growing excitement.

Thanks for the thoughts.