In the months before I began my YAV year I often found myself daydreaming about what life as a full time gardener would be like. I didn’t know what the off months would look like but I thought I knew how spring would unfold. I expected spring would bring a flurry of activity; a constant battle of hurry up and wait as I anticipate the perfect day to put plants in the ground. In each of my imaginings I pictured myself working alone, sometimes frantic but always getting it all done by myself.
Looking back on my first two weeks of spring in the garden, I’m starting to wonder if what I have always called independence is actually a reluctance to accept help from others.
First let me lay out the events of those two weeks:
It started when my parents came to Little Rock to help me build a hoop house. I spent weeks researching and planning this project. I attended lectures about DIY hoop houses, read online plans, made detailed material lists, and prepped the ground where we were going to build. Now a hoop house is a big project, and even though I prefer to do things on my own, I like to think of myself as a logical person, and I knew that there was no way for me to take this on without help. So who better than my parents to help me? The people who have always loved me and would have no choice but to continue to do so even if the hoop house went south. Good thing, because south it went.
Three days and two trips to the plumbers supply later, we erected the frame of the house. Throughout the first two days of our build, as Plan A, B, and C failed, I had no option but to heed the advice of the many who wanted to help me. Thankfully Plan D stuck. My heart rested somewhere between utterly defeated and indescribably gracious to those who helped me get this project(nearly) completed.
The following Tuesday afternoon I prepared for the Ferncliff staff to come out to the farm and help me paint donor names onto one of our fences. This event had been planned at the suggestion of our Executive Director, who knew that in one hour the staff could finish what would take me weeks. I might be reluctant to accept help, but I’m also a pleaser, so without delay I set a date for the staff to come help me. No surprise, every name was painted in no time, checking a big box off my to-do list.
The forecast for Wednesday was full sun and very low wind; perfect conditions for putting plastic on a hoop house. We have a regular group of volunteers on Wednesday’s that I knew I could recruit to help me pull the huge sheet of greenhouse plastic over the semi-circular hoops. As you might imagine, I was feeling some serious anxiety at the thought of returning to the dreaded hoop house, let alone putting some serious pressure on what I had seen to be mildly fragile PVC. But, thanks only to my hoard of helpers, the whole thing went flawlessly. We were even able to start putting plastic over the ends.
I began Thursday knowing that it was my last work day before we headed out of town on another Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Deployment. By the end of the day the plastic needed to be completed on the hoop house, spring vegetables needed to be put in, and the sprinkler system set up. I’m not sure if the events of the past weeks had successfully broken me in or if stress was getting the better of me, but I decided to call in reinforcements. My amazing housemates showed up for me AGAIN and busted their butts until we got it all done.
Two full weeks of me “getting by with a little help from my friends.”
In our work to create an intentional community at Ferncliff, we spend a lot of time getting to know ourselves through the enneagram. I’ve learned that I am a helper; I help and support others because it makes me feel needed and loved. It turns out that this group I fall into, of naturally good helpers, have a characteristically difficult time asking for and receiving help. I know quite well the joy of assisting someone toward a goal; am I hoarding that joy when I insist on struggling alone in the face of someone who wants to help? Or is it that I have a pride issue? I doubt asking for help will ever come naturally to me, but I would like to think that these past weeks have nudged me in the right direction.
So here’s to the many who have shown me grace when I am stubborn, and to my fellow YAVs who are helping me learn to be better.
What I’m reading:
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larson
- A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
- Sundays in August – Patrick Modiano
- We were able to sneak in a weekend camping on the beaches of Louisiana on the front end of our week working with PDA rebuilding homes. After a busy start to the year it was great to take a few days to soak up some sun and get a few page turners in.
- We were able to see Bill Clinton speak for the 3rd time since our arrival in Little Rock as he opened a new exhibit at the Clinton Library. The exhibit documents the role music has played in politics and vice versa. Proximity to the Clinton Library and occasionally the Clintons themselves has been a fun and totally unexpected perk of serving in Little Rock.
- In January we welcomed an additional housemate. Moving from 4 to 5 around the table for dinner inspired us to redesign our eating space. The aptly named “Over the Hill Gang” built us a corner booth the 5 us built a new-to-us table from reused cedar siding.