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My Fellow Fellows

Whitney Mcdermott

Perhaps today isn't the best to be writing a blog.  My mind seems a bit foggy and unfocused.  Amidst many other things, I am at once filled with gratitude, nostalgia, and at the other excitement and uncertainty.  Perhaps it is the time of year or the coming end of my time with City Schoolyard Garden, but I cannot keep my mind from looking back or looking forward.

It is a funny thing to feel as though I am sometimes fighting past memories and future desires to stay in the present day, focus on the current task, or be thankful for where I am.  Certainly these are all things I'd like and try to do, for I am very thankful for where I find myself.  I am quite lucky to be surrounded by the learning, beauty, kindness, and earnestness that is present in my work with City Schoolyard Garden. Simply recounting a typical week, I cannot help but crack a smile.  Indeed, I continue to jump between elementary school gardens and the CSG office. I am out near one City Schoolyard Garden to direct heavy machinery, near another to kick-off the construction of a garden shed, help out with the construction of another, kick-off a mosaic in the garden. Then again, in some gardens I simply help maintain, work with students in, or work with a myriad of parents, volunteers, and, those parent volunteers who run the gardens.  I am working with and learning from such wonderful people -- experienced gardeners, naturalists, teachers, co-workers, students, creators, builders, artists, thinkers, and educators.

Working in the City Schoolyard Gardens of Charlottesville is quite lovely.
Working in the City Schoolyard Gardens of Charlottesville is quite lovely.

I’ve heard it from others and (if you can’t tell from the rambles above) I feel it myself — fall seems to be a season of looking back, reflection, and giving thanks.  And, though I’m always hard on myself for dwelling in the past, I’d like to keep looking back and a bit further at that to commemorate and give thanks for the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve learned from on the AMS farm and Bear Mountain.

It will be one year ago Friday that our cohort celebrated our last day in the village. I remember waking up that morning. It was cold and the trees were already naked.  I remember wanting to take pictures, but, somehow, every photo I took just didn’t do it.  I couldn’t capture the the cool, moist air that I walked through, or the true goldenness of the light, or the spirit that was so strong and present up there.  That last morning, I also remember my strong desire to get to the Beta House or the Lodge to find some warmth.  In some ways, I was ready to leave the mountain and return to the coziness of a house, my family, and the sun and foliage of the more eastern parts of Virginia. But, I had a lot to take with me, a lot to pack up. Not so much clothes or trinkets, but things I’m realizing I am still unpacking today.  These are all of the things, little and big, that I have learned from my cohort, my fellow fellows.  It was Susanna who helped me realize this again last week and I’ve been thinking about it since — even though we no longer live together, my everyday is filled with Mandy, Kate, Emily, Sus, Paul, Ian, Ben, and Roger.

Sometimes I think it is a symptom of the “the world is my oyster” thinking, or a defect in my own ability to sit still, process, or stay content, or maybe, again, it is just the natural course of things that I’ve tended to jump from one program, school of study, internship, or fellowship to the next.  At times, in a seemingly radical departure, other times not.  This kind of jumping and skipping has brought many people in and out of my life. All of whom I am grateful for, but with many of them, I’ve lost touch.  Really, I suppose, this is just part of life. Though I hope I’ll never lose touch with our cohort, I know life will take us in new and different directions as it’s already taken Roger back to Canada, and we may not talk or see each other for long stretches of time. This is hard to think about.  I cannot help but think it is my fault. Perhaps I let people slip away because it is easier than trying so hard to eventually loose them anyhow.  But again, perhaps this is just life in the modern age.  If this is the case, I will allow myself to be comforted by my memories and (unless I allow it to get out of hand), I welcome an occasional past-ward dwelling as a way of keeping my friends around me as we all move on to new places and new things.
Indeed, it’s true that every time I get out a cast iron skillet, butter, or buy a bottle of olive oil, my mind is filled with thoughts of Roger.  Whenever I smell kimchi, certainly if it happens to be before 9 am, I think about Paul.  Every time I visit a friend, I think about Ian and how he comes bearing gifts. When work seems tedious, I think about Ben and the way he matches it with laughter or how Emily matches it with focus and passion. When I have friends over, I channel Mandy’s hospitality and when I have the opportunity to walk through the forest I think about how Susanna would capture its beauty in word or drawing. Sometimes when the moon is just right, I think about how Kate would sense its history and probably do a nice dance.
It’s pretty cool — to see how the things I do or think are such a culmination of all the people I’ve met, grown with, played with, and learned with throughout life.  The world is turning with the wonder and delight of interaction with cool cat friends and family, and for this I am quite certainly grateful.
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