Lately, it's become clearer to me that the way you become connected to your community is to participate in it. I'm beginning to emerge from the barefoot, pregnant, nursing, and potty training fog and feel I can think of things other than survival and bodily fluids. Two of my children actually qualify as pre-teens, and I know they're really ready to understand how they fit into the bigger picture. It's obvious that the little guys pick up on it too. Instinctually, I think we all know we have a responsibility as caretakers of our world. These ideas are as old as the Garden of Eden.
In that vein, I decided it was a good idea for me and the kids to participate in the city Arbor Day tree planting event today. It was to be held at a huge new chunk of land the city had acquired from a dairy when it went out of business. It's a gigantic flood plain area right on the river, and is in need of trees for salmon habitat and erosion control. I told my friend/cousin/might-as-well be-sister Josie about it, and immediately she was in. She has four kids, and I have five, so wherever we go, we attract a little bit of attention.
We met at her house downtown, packed the jogger, and headed down to the park, kids giddy with the sense of adventure and exploration that was thick in the air. We walked through the woods to the big plain, and immediately, my So-into-Cameras eye switched on. Here was nature right down the hill from our little city...nature I hadn't ever explored in my 12 years of living here! The grass was thick and just low enough for the stroller, but just high enough for adventure. The wide spaces demanded that the kids must run. There was a tractor giving wagon rides to the planting site, but they knew they had to run. Eventually, the lure of the tractor was too great, and the swarm of kids surrounded the poor woman who tried to avoid them as nimbly as one can in a tractor.
When we arrived at our destination, we saw a spread of delicious snacks. Therefore, we knew this was going to be a winner of an event, possibly solely because of this wise choice on the part of the Arbor Day people. It was decided that free food always makes people linger and appreciate an event, no matter whether they are 2 or 32. After everyone descended "like locusts" as Josie said, they were satisfied and prepared to listen. They listened intently to a little lesson on shovel safety. You should not throw the shovel at your foot, and do not swing it around and whack your neighbor. Next, it was the nitty gritty of tree planting: hole twice the size of the pot; plant tree exactly where pot is, give the roots of the tree a rough massage, like you'd give your dog, and put it in ground you've chopped up nicely, then, put back dirt, minus weeds, up to the level of the grass, and you have a happy tree.
We had great teams of kids. There were our two five year old girls, who admired the beauty of the trees and fatness of the worms, but focused well enough to plant 4 trees. The two 7 year old boys contemplated and worked very hard to make their hole and tree perfect. The older boys were very industrious and a great team. The youngest boys worked with Josie, very concerned and interested in all she did. The oldest girls were so quiet and intent on their work, we barely noticed them. By the time we decided it was time for a potty break...which required quite a tractor ride, we had planted 15 trees!
What a sweet thought it was that these children would come to this park as older children, preteens, teenagers and then adults with their own children. Eventually, they would sit in the shade of their trees. This park had become their own, and it was good.