The Pandemic Profiles
Annabelle Brown and the Wisdom of Gardening Resilience
As I begin talking to Annabelle Brown on what could be any forgettable October morning, she instantly reminds me of the girls I grew up with in Southern California: warm, accepting, and distinctly in touch with their own version of cool. Even through the socially strained and limited setting of zoom, Brown radiates an effortlessly kind and comfortable personality that feels familiar and genuine. This familiarity isn’t unfounded. Brown grew up on a farm in Walnut, California, a neighboring city of where I was raised.
When I ask what it was like attending my high school rival, Diamond Bar High School, Brown can’t really care less, in the best way. Among the assortment of her charming qualities, Brown’s easy-going commitment to the present is admirable, but the strides she mentions towards cementing her future reflect her unique interests and personal drive to keep up with the transforming state of the world with compassion and resilience.
Through an Advanced Placement Environmental Science course in high school, Brown experienced her first meaningful exposure to the study of environmental science which later influenced her decision to double-major in Environmental Science and Political Science when she arrived at Whittier College. The double major makes esen. Brown’s environmental awareness comes from having lived on a farm and she’s motivated to advocate for political action on issues such as climate change and social-justice issues. Although Brown, in her second year, remains somewhat undecided about plans after college, she mentions an internship opportunity on her horizon that would help her gain more exposure to Environmental Law.
Both of Brown’s parents are teachers and politically progressive, a quality that Brown feels thankful for. Amidst the chaos of 2020’s surreal level of partisanship on full display, I too, have a hard time imagining that would transpire in one’s own home. About the upcoming November 3rd presidential election, Brown says, “I will admit it isn’t the best of circumstances, but I feel that it’s up to our generation to bring change in the future. By applying pressure to politicians and staying informed, change is possible. I think the Black Lives Matter rallies really showed how strong this generation is and how much we care.”
I think the Black Lives Matter rallies really showed how strong this generation is and how much we care.
As our conversation shifts, and we confront the looming question posed in almost every interaction post Covid-19 initial lockdown period. I ask Brown to share her memories of the last six months within the context of Covid-19. Brown summons an image from the early days of of the lockdown, a grocery store completely empty of produce and goods due to everyone buying out of panic, unsure how long this will affect us. Others across the country also have this image etched into their brains to recall when forced to remember what life was like then.
Although most grocery stores are now fully stocked and accessible, both the memory and reality of Covid-19 still lingers. Brown is a commuter student, so when schools started closing and everyone was forced home, structurally, little changed for her. Still, the abrupt switch to online learning still posed challenges to Brown. With the influx of more people home all at once in her household, Brown was faced with learning how to adapt to these newfound changes. Speaking to her, though, it becomes increasingly clear that Brown has the capacity and imagination to adapt to any situation with ease.
To help cope with the chaos brought on by Covid-19, Brown shares that bshe started a garden on the farmland she lives on. As Covid-19 began to keep more people inside their homes, Brown found herself spending more time with the animals and plant life on the farm. As Brown lists the various herbs and vegetables she’s planted in her garden, I tell her I’m reminded of an article I read from the New Yorker that offered insight into the therapeutic qualities of gardening, especially during the pandemic. Amazed at how Brown has cultivated what others only dream of starting, I ask her to share what her experience was like starting the garden during a pandemic.
“Well, I started the garden to give me something to do during the stay at home order. I started it on my birthday, so this was around mid March after school had already closed. I made it my daily routine before zoom classes. I’d go out and water my garden and pull weeds. It was really therapeutic and helped me to feel more grounded while everything going on in the world was so chaotic.”
The article I mentioned to her, “The Therapeutic Power of Gardening,” by Rebecca Mead, highlights the collective yearning for growth and life in the face of so much death and destruction brought on in 2020. “Gardening has been a solace to so many, Sue Stuart-Smith suggested to me, because it invokes the prospect of some kind of future, however uncertain and unpredictable it may be,” writes Mead.
I couldn’t help but be struck at how much wisdom and clarity Brown possessed for someone her age. However, the resilience of generation Z continues to amaze me in new and profound ways. I ask Brown about how she feels about living through such a historic time to which she responds that she’s aware and proud that she’ll be a “primary source of history” for this unpredictable and surreal global moment.
As Brown simultaneously embodies both the history and the future, I know she’ll continue to grow.