Making Tomorrow’s Gardeners And Learning From Yesterday’s
Last week I facilitated a fascinating conversation on becoming elders. My community may be especially rich in wise elders but I suspect that many other communities are too, depending perhaps on how we define ‘elder’ and who gets to be one. I’m including the link to a video of this conversation because so many excellent points were raised about various cultural roles and expectations put on elders. Not too surprisingly, many of us grew up with fairly rigid elder roles and sometimes they were exclusively held by males. Some elder cultures tend to be more punitive and judgmental than kind and loving. Where’s the attraction there, except longing to be one the dishing out side rather than the receiving side?
On the other hand, some cultures are very respectful of elders, notably the island’s neighbor, the Suquamish Tribe, a group in which all elders are highly respected and cherished. At community events, elders get seated first, and at community meals, they are fed first. When housing is built, elders are invited to live there and assisted as need be. Elders are invited to share stories, history, traditions and wisdom with everyone, from family and school students on up to Tribal councils. Here are great examples of an elder culture based on kindness and generosity, one that builds community and helps preserve history and teachings. That’s the kind of elder I want to be, and that’s the kind of elder culture I want to help create and nourish.
I was honored to be joined in the pea patch garden yesterday by dear friends and their adorable daughter. If there’s anything more fun than making baby clothes, it’s seeing an adorable baby wearing things you’ve made. This little treasure is growing up with gardening parents who love their wild, unruly, pollinator friendly garden and feed themselves from it as much as possible. She’s been in gardens pretty much every day of her life, as have been my own grandkids, as were my own children. It seems probable that people who are exposed to gardens and to nature from an early age will be ore comfortable and at home in natural settings. It also seems likely that gardening and gardens may bring them peace all their lives. I was reminded about this when, during the conversation on becoming elders, my friend Lilly talked about how all her life gardens and plants comforted her and continue to comfort her. As one of the few remaining survivors of the concentration camps for Japanese Americans during WWII, she gets called on very frequently to be the local expert on that exclusion and incarceration.
When asked how it feels to be the load bearing local Japanese person, she talked about the responsibility to tell the true stories, even though she’s by nature a rather reserved person. She also said that gardens and plants have always comforted and nourished her and continue to do so all these years later, good news for those of us entering our elder years. The idea of being the load bearing person clearly struck a number of participants in last week’s conversation, as many spoke out about being the person identified as THE local Black activist or THE local transgender person, just as Lilly has become THE local Japanese concentration camp survivor.
Get Up Stand Up
We talked about others in our community who have been similarly categorized, how exhausting that is, and how important it is for each of us to stand up and speak out. We can’t rely on a handful of people to be the designated issue spokespeople for many reasons, not least because we need to hear many voices and because it’s simply not fair to expect one person to carry so much for so many. It’s heartening to see and hear students of all ages speaking up so knowledgeably and confidently about racism, classism, and equity issues. My grandkids and their friends are already speaking out when they see injustice and also when they see awesome things that bring joy into the world.
That makes me think of Lilly yet again, having lived through so much injustice and pain and still finding the strength to speak truth and still finding solace and joy in her garden. That’s the kind of elder culture model I’m so grateful for! If you take time to listen to the conversation, I think you’ll also find some amazing role models among the brave and beautiful spirits who participated.
Here’s a link to Monday’s rich discussion about Becoming Elders.
Please feel free to share the link with anyone you think might benefit and enjoy it.