Planting Pumpkins

Frances is the librarian at Scott Montgomery Elementary. We met with her last week to discuss planting an educational edible garden. When we met Frances it was one of those hot summer days that shot us back to childhood­–particularly because if it was this hot it had to be summer–no school. We are walking through a schoolyard where construction crews are digging up the black top to replace and implant a new playground. Frances had met the mayor at a CCCA meeting a few weeks prior and walked right up to him, after some encouragement, and unselfishly asked for a playground.

The feeling of potential of something about to happen seems to be Frances' constant state. When you meet her you imagine the feeling of beginning school again, that first day when anything can happen. The librarian telling you that you can take any book out you want. The child sees the book and the librarian sees the child with the excitement of a new read/reader both a story to unfold.

We are standing in the middle of the library. Tables and chairs are stacked about. Nothing is in its place–everything is in its place. It is the summer it’s smoking hot outside. We are in an elementary school library with no children, except for Frances’ eight-year boy who is not feeling well and is glued to Henson’s Labyrinth playing on a screen. The librarian’s son silences us as we excitedly make plans for gardens, compost and food–this all makes sense. We plan a garden in hushed tones–a conspiracy to plant a pumpkin patch begins.

This garden had been in the works for weeks now. We planted pumpkin seedlings a few weeks ago, before we had a plan–hoping to find a home for them. At the time of planting we knew we had a short window, in that the seeds have 75 days to germination and cannot wait to be planted in the ground if we want pumpkins by October 31st.

Frances wrote a couple days ago that she contacted the Mayor’s Conservation Corps and they are scheduled to dig with us on Tuesday. Francine also has Home Depot dropping Bags of humus and topsoil over the fence on Monday.

If Frances gets stuff done, its because you don’t have to cross a threshold to volunteer; nothing is complicated or heavy. It's very simple, these kids need to develop relationship skills and Frances realizes that this happens through interaction outside of the system. She sets up readings for boys, readings for girls and reading groups for adults.

A garden is like a book in that after turning over the soil and adding dark rich nutrients there is this wonderful place of potential, a something about to unfold that can only be uncertainty unless planted or read.

We are standing in front of the school measuring where the pumpkins will go. We ask one final time “are you sure this is ok” as if to say, “this is exactly what we have been looking to do” Frances' response is “my principal says just as long as we don’t create any extra work”. There will be work but the beautiful thing about Frances is nothing is extraneous; everything makes sense. Its all a matter of perspective and that perspective is pragmatic optimism.