Every saturday during the month of June meant volunteering at some environmentally or socially motivated site. This was because hands-on work was part of our course on Consumerism and Sustainability... It is a big deal here in Oregon.
People all over the state-- at least those who can afford it-- focus on buying groceries from locally owned stores filled with local, organic produce. They sort their garbage. They recycle. They use paper, not plastic. They donate towards charities that support squirrels and old growth forests. They even fight passionately to preserve a certain spotted owl. Not to be over- wit(ty) , but such does woo even the most hardened of consumerist hearts. Ergo, it was this ethos that they figured needed to be passed on to us hardened, consumerist scholarship students.
Our first quest [this blog being a bit delayed in its postings, apologies] was thus to clean/weed out the unwanted green stuff at Jackson Bottom Wetlands. The trip commenced with sleepy grumbles about an ethereal span of breakfast time whose components consisted of frozen-- and I mean ice age frozen-- yoghurt & stolid muffins baked during the Revolution. And yes, I mean the Russian one.
We were then buckled into our seats. Sniggers rose out of the back regarding whose bottom we were going to go clean out, and such. Children.
We reached there in the misty coldness of a Portland June morning. There were other volunteers there, all bundled up and garden-gloved. We were cheerfully shown water, shovels, cookies and grass cutters... Not necessarily in that order, mind you.
And here we are just before we started- Mary, kneeling on the left. Mary the Invincible, she is the patron saint of us scholarship students, the one who helps us with paperwork, the one who finds us friendship families, who then work as extended units of the college taking us around Portland, and showing us parades, restaurants, picnics and gorges. Standing behind her is Christy [our faithful student guide, and the driver the school car a.k.a the Walrus, coz its so huge], Adel [from Syria, gaunt, red-sweatered and grumpy. The muffins were still an issue], Bilal [from Morocco, glazed over as he was concentrating on the arabic music streaming from my ipod], Zainab [kneeling next to Mary, from Bahrain, and passionate about human rights issues and politics], Yours truly next to Bilal [beginning to miss my ipod], Ben(azir) [next to me, and still unused to the cold] and finally Debbie Anholt, far right, and the professor who taught us that course.
We set to work soon enough. The ground was assailed by bloody rakes, gashed open with spades... weed-roots screamed as we pulled them out of the scalp of the earth. Slender-waisted grass wept and swayed as we unceremoniously attempted snipping them short. The scene was that of gory and inept-- though thankfully unequal-- battle.
The troops acting like a bunch of pillaging vikings, laughing and posing amidst the carnage, like so:
Oh, the pity... the horror of it.
Do note that Bilal and I are holding our Weapons of Weed Destruction (WWD) far above the actual battlefield. I must confess that apart from bouts of spirited evacuation of the enemy, this is pretty much the level at which they stayed held. Sort of like U.N peace keeping forces in Africa, we remained onlookers at this great plantnic cleansing.
Do also note that I had retrieved my ipod by this time. Victory, thou soundeth sweeth.
[Hate that lisp. Comes upon me at the strangest timeth.]
Weeding we did. Flowering shrub-seed sowing we did. Earth worm hunting, garden snake finding, and looking out for eagles-- who use the wetlands for nesting-- followed. Breaks of cookies and water occured. Jackson Bottom used to be a dumpsite that is now being turned into a safe biosphere for bird and plant life. Thus though this weeding and planting is noble work, it is also unending. There is much to do, everyday. It is an environmentalist's Iraq: they cannot pull out now, but must go on.
At least the eagles and waterbirds seem to be benefitting from this toil. Aas well as the beavers and ants and earthworms and all other gentle creatures that can be found in The Wind in the Willows.
We returned muddy, and grass scented. Grass still, in whatever its form, conveys a sense of brooding, happy at times, othertimes sombre.
No ecstatic highs this time... though fyi, Oregon is one of the few states that has legalized medical use of marijuana. Doctor, I feel a pain coming on. Roll me a J. And such. But to go on-
No ecstatic highs. Ezekiel's right though: weeds show us the earth's cycle of mortality... it takes very little to get a dandelion to grow. I would let everything grow, though. Grass and weed together, thistle and fuschia shrub.
But then as Volodimir Barabash , that sweet Canadian-Ukranian says,
" Myself, I hold no grudge against the weed.
Especially, since I don't own a lawn."- To a Dandelion, that little golden devil