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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wildflower Seeds & Rusty Nails

Well, the semester has officially started at Weimar College and so has a new aspect of my experience. . .manual labor. You know, it really isn't as bad as it sounds or appears! It's sort of like exercising, you know you have to do it, you really don't want to do, but once you start, and especially once you're done, you're glad you did it!

As part of the "new" college, all staff and faculty have been assigned to work together with the students for a couple of hours a day, Monday through Thursday. (ahem, somehow Laura didn't get on that list. . .) While we are technically supposed to be supervising the students, most of us have no clue what we are doing, so it's a learning curve all around, which is actually kind of fun. I'm on a team with Dr. Jensen, Rebecca C, Shaina and Kylee and we're called the "farm beautification team" which basically means we're the floaters, the drifters, the sorters and the organizers!

Our tasks so far have been interesting and varied. Monday I put on my jeans and t-shirt and happily sailed to the front of the college building to receive my first assignment. Our first project was to clean up the prayer garden. While everyone else was busily raking pine needles away to reveal the carpeted grass beneath, I was handed a pair of clippers which I used to work on hacking away at some rather rebellious ivy. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was not a naturally-born gardener and the end of my day saw me staring at a much-pruned area that also boasted large gaping holes scattered about. Oh well, at least it's on the side that people don't see very often?

Tuesday I had to skip because of duties in the office, but Wednesday I headed up to the farm in 103 degree weather where, thankfully, our assignment for the afternoon kept us in the shade and in the shed. We spent our time sorting all kinds of bits and pieces as we attempted to make some sense out of a shed full of items I had never seen before in my life, let alone could identify, and organize it so that others who knew what everything was could access them easily. It was interesting when we dumped out the #10 can full of nails to sort them and out came a matted clump of rusty nails. Needless to say, those went in the trash can.

Today we finished up the shed and then transitioned to picking wildflower seeds. I spent a couple of enjoyable hours in the sun, getting my vitamin D, listening to the conversation around me, and rubbing dried flower heads between my fingers so I could sift out the dark seeds. At the end of our laborious labor, Dr. Jensen and I managed to fill a 3 inch plastic bag with our seeds. We're a long way off from filling a #10 can!!!

I have learned several things from my experience up on the farm, even though it's been so short. I've learned that it isn't about getting things done, but it is about doing the things that need to be done. As a type A overachieving perfectionistic choleric-sanguine eldest child (that's quite a mouthful!), I tend to multitask. . .all the time. I go into a task head on, figure out how to get it done and do it well, and then proceed to accomplish it. . .in as little time as possible and as efficiently as I can. That system does not work up on the farm.

Projects on the farm are done at a more leisurely pace. We are not taught to rush through something quickly so we can move on to the next task, rather we are being taught to relish the experience, to build friendships with those around us, and to do the task to the best of our ability. I'm finding that when I'm working in nature, I tend to forget all the things that are running through my mind constantly when I'm planted in my office, phone ringing, a constant stream of people in my office demanding my attention, and a mile-long to-do list that insists on taking every spare minute. Instead, I tune in to the natural rhythm of nature as I relax and realize that I won't be penalized if I don't get something done straight away, I don't have to worry about forgetting some important task, and all I have to do is focus on the task at hand, however small it may appear. It's almost as if I'm learning how to work all over again!

I know not every day will be easy or fun. So far I've encountered prickly "wild grape" plants intertwined with the ivy and dried rat droppings in the shed, the dust and dirt makes for great sneezing attacks, and I'm discovering some muscles I never realized I had. But hey, I'm getting paid to exercise and to de-stress, so it couldn't be much better than this!

I love the feeling you get after a couple of hours of good manual labour. I love to work hard and see a task being accomplished. I love an excuse to get my fingers dirty and I love being out in the fresh air and therapeutic sun. And I'm already looking forward to what we're going to do next week. . .

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