December 27, 2022
Our FECO project is quite unique. Our volunteers don’t have their own garden plots. They don’t come to grow food and take it home with them. Most growing areas are dedicated to a Food Bank. Food of lesser value goes to the volunteers. The reward for people who volunteer here is maintaining a public space that has been transformed into a highly appreciated community asset.
Needless to say, challenges arise when maintaining a public space, especially when the land owner can’t lend support. FECO’s fruit trees took some abuse in 2022. First, someone tore off three branches of the Mulberry tree. The Northern Spy apple tree only produced one fruit this year (biennial bearing). The only apple was carefully netted so the squirrels would not bother it. When it was ripe and ready, I walked down to pick it but the apple was gone.
In late fall, before the bright persimmon were ready to be picked, someone took five of the fruits. But we didn’t lose just the five persimmon, we also lost quite a bit of next year’s fruit. The person broke off five branches in order to get the fruit. Persimmon are well affixed to the tree and you need pruners to harvest them. Ouch.
Most of you know that this is not the first season that we have experienced theft and vandalism. Our history is fairly rich with these events.
How to avoid frustration and sadness when so much time and energy is put into this public space, but with no control over the different ways that people want to use it. Basically, how does one find the way of non-attachment.
I am working on a few ways to respond to destructive events. First of all, strong emotions, like disgust, don’t last more than a couple of minutes, unless you feed those feelings. Mood swings are actually quite ephemeral. Second, I can get myself out of the way (kenosis, the Dao, anatta – trying to behave as if the ego did not exist). Third, I can remind myself why I am here. This project is an exercise of learning and creating: growing beautiful organic food, increasing pollinator habitat, designing features that visitors enjoy, meeting and enjoying people of the community, and observing the rhythms of nature.
Caring for public spaces is high priority. Only the wealthy can ‘fence off’ the outer world and enjoy exclusive command of their property. Others need open, enhanced public spaces, to be able to enjoy a relationship with all living things in nature.
P.S. True story. I traveled in Mexico on a fairly low-budget. My friend and I carried our possessions with us from place to place. One day we swam in the ocean. Walking back to our stuff, we saw that our packs were gone. We had lost nearly everything, but for our hats, shorts and shoes … plus the book I was reading, Dhiravamsa’s, The Way of Non-Attachment.