I am excited to be a part of Life Lab, its mission and values, especially, knowing the organization’s life-changing work reaches so many. And, I love the fact that I will be able to introduce others to the many inspiring ways they can partner with us so we can change many more lives.
Thinking back on my own experiences with the land, I see my family with me at pivotal times: Camping with my family in Yosemite when very small; creating epic stories while playing in the redwoods of Big Basin, Nisene Marks, or making weekly trips to Point Lobos to be the two-legged squirrels munching snacks, or the thrill of tide pools or hermit crabs. Being in nature calls me, and I find Life Lab encouraging that within me as well.
When I moved from Berkeley to Santa Cruz with my family, we initially lived in a home that had a large plot of land framed with numerous fruit trees on it – apple, orange, fig and persimmon – as well as berry bushes. I was fascinated with the orange and apple trees, but found the fig and persimmon trees messy, the fruit unappealing, and not something I wanted to familiarize myself with at all! As a little girl, eating what I knew was alright. The foreign stuff made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to even give it a try.
The vegetable and flower that were there is where I learned about gardening, a fascination that increased over the years. I loved the smell of the freshly turned earth and the texture of the dirt between my fingers. I appreciated the instant gratification that often came with prepping, planting, watering, weeding, and of course, harvesting the goods.
More than anything, growing food and flowers offered me an opportunity to share the rewards with others, until the harvest of squash was overwhelming and people would see me coming and run! I learned to find natural ways to discourage the varmints snatching my food, not interested in using chemicals. Gardening slowed me down, gave me a sense of a job well done, offered serenity.
I recall how food changed for me when my family moved to Santa Cruz: fruits and vegetables rarely came from a can any longer. Going to the garden to pick the corn (or the green beans, swiss chard…) and plop it into the boiling water became a game that soon dulled, and was taken for granted.
My idyllic life in Santa Cruz had limitations however. I wasn’t truly aware of that fact until I moved to Chicago. I had many assumptions on why people did what they did, not fully comprehending that choice is not always an option when it comes to accessing healthy food, among many other things. Up until that time, access to food never crossed my mind, as I assumed that it was common to go to the grocery store, rifle through the fresh foods and choose the ‘right one’.
My time in the Midwest opened my eyes, and heart, to the tremendous needs of so many in our society. Seeing the bleak reality of too many communities filled with convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, and few, if any grocery stores within walking distance motivated me to address healthy food access by volunteering while there and motivates me now to provide nourishing food in Santa Cruz.
The delightful irony of coming to Life Lab can be found in my exploring palate. Persimmons are now an obsession, as is kale. And there’s great delight in my being back in the garden. I find myself lost in the beauty of spider webs instead of getting to the office, or taking the time to get out, slow down and simply be grateful for the beauty that surrounds me. I hope I will get a chance to meet you here in the garden. Come on by, slow down, and I believe you, too, will grow to appreciate the simplicity and beauty that welcomes you.