Cultivating Fulfillment ​

People always ask if I’ve always had a green thumb, but before coming to school and working in our community garden, I didn’t actually have much prior knowledge about how to grow edible things.

As a kid, I spent a lot of my afternoons in the backyard of my grandparent’s house, puttering around in the soil looking for insects. My grandpa would be doing things like trimming our yellow peach tree, or shaking plump red dates onto a mesh tarp to make these wrinkly, sun-dried jewels that would later sweeten our Chinese soups. He left them spread upon the floor, so I’d lay on top of them when he wasn’t looking, luxuriating in their abundance.

Long story short, I was too much of a goof-ball to have a green thumb.

Here at our garden on campus, I’ve discovered new joys. ​There are few things in this world that are more satisfying than harvesting root vegetables. You grab hold of a feathery green tuft of carrot leaves with your entire fist, and every time you’re rewarded with a strange work of sculptural art. I love those richly deep-purple carrots. It makes me think of a root vegetable wearing magician’s robes. Or unearthing a magnificent crimson beet, sometimes riddled with dark rotten holes, other times perfectly round and massive beyond belief. I love working in the garden because it’s filled with small pleasures and surprises.

I also love the work I do because it presents new challenges. Sometimes the drip irrigation erupts into an urban geyser; other times our friendly neighborhood gopher goes completely hometown-buffet on all the Napa cabbages. We have to solve our own problems, and it takes acuity, resilience, and creativity. Constantly I am being challenged to take what I’ve learned in theory, then apply it to a problem existing in an environment as dynamic as the garden, with variables as changing as the weather.

I feel like I have the best job on campus. It’s satisfying, it’s knowledge-expanding, and best of all, community members always stop by to ask us questions and admire the plants.

It’s like rolling around in dates every day.

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