Yesterday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Eco-Justice Center just over the southern border in Racine County. As they prepare for their Fall Festival on Sunday there is much work to be done to clean up the gardens and farm so it’s looking its best for weekend visitors.
With my current transition into full-time freelancer now that my daughter is in school all day I know that I want to starting contributing again through volunteer work. I stumbled upon the EJC online a couple of years ago and have had some very spiritual experiences there so far. I know that I want it to be one of the regular places I spend time when I havethe flexibility.
The sisters who actually live at the EJC and others who are there full-time are truly stewards of the land. You can read about the EJC here, but that information cannot express the deep experiences I’ve had there. My daughter and I have attended the Spring Equinox celebration the past two years (they host annual celebrations at the change of each season) and have also volunteered (it’s one of the few places I’ve found that welcomes the very youngest to volunteer). We are always so amazed by the kind, gentle, genuine people we meet; the lovingly-prepared food that we share; and the natural beauty of the wooded landscape. There is a certain kind of calm–with big deep breaths–that descends upon us when we’re there.
Yesterday was no different in those terms. And on this visit I zoned in on the 8 Rs that hang outside one of the outbuildings: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Reverence, Respect, Responsibility, Rethink, and Repair. These absolutely sum up the practices and beliefs of those who call this place home and work towards education, conservation, and sustainability.
I spent my morning–on such a glorious, crisp pre-fall day–picking the last of the green beans, gleaning tomatoes and composting the rotten or critter-gnawed red orbs lying on the path (but not before playfully squooshing some of them in my hand then tossing them in a bucket,) raking grass and spreading it inside the chicken coop (it was fun to commingle with “the ladies” for a few moments and get comfortable around this flock,) and meeting various cats who joined me in the sunny garden.
It was meditative experience and I felt myself open up to the smells of the season and the beautiful reds, golds, and purples of the changing flora. I noticed a line of chairs and foot rests set intentionally under and tree near the garden and was reminded of the Montessori idea of “the prepared environment.” In this case, when we prepare a special place for ourselves to sit, rest, and think there is a better chance that we’ll have success in doing so. (Mental notes taken!)
I was also taken, of course, by the labyrinth that they’ve shaped into the long grass near the garden. What a perfect place to practice mindfulness.
The EJC and The Mindful Palate seem to have a lot in common. I am hoping to find a way that we can pair up to offer some classes in the upcoming seasons that incorporate mindfulness and intentional food gathering and preparation. Until then I will keep offering my time and feeling grateful that I can spend it at such a magical place.