Dancing life’s tango


Our view from the gazebo towards the horse pasture.

One foot in summer, one foot in fall. This is how I am feeling lately, and I’m not liking it. It was around 80 degrees on Saturday at our fall festival, we’re still plucking Sungold tomatoes off the vine and I’m scratching my head.  Where are we supposed to plant our cover crops? There isn’t an empty bed in sight!

I’m not complaining, I love the feeling of opening the gate, stepping into our garden, autumn encircling us in the form of leaves of gold, orange and splashes of red on the trees that are our vista. The garden is large, but feels small because the flowers, vegetables and herbs have grown to such amazing heights! All the garden structures continue to be devoured by their climbers no matter the date on the calendar. And the kids, they also seem to sense the almost magical spell the garden seems to be under, suspended in time.

The cantaloupe has finished, but the nasturtium are still going strong.

The cantaloupe have finished, but the nasturtium are still going strong.

Penciled into my schedule for this weeks classes had been “clearing beds, planting cover crops and learning about the the importance of healthy soil.” But like any gardener (I imagine) the thought of pulling plants out of the ground that still have life in them, fruits to offer, flowers to behold, is impossible. A part of me wants to logically, methodically, step straight into fall; a time to sip hot cider and break out the flannel shirts. But not everything in life follows a straight line, does it?

As the week began, I realized  I would have to re-assess and rethink plans for the week. Maybe we wouldn’t proceed directly along a straight path, but take a more circuitous route?

Queen Ann's Lace seed head, with Mexican sunflowers in the background.

Queen Ann’s Lace seed head is quite regal.

I noticed a similar parallel with one of my classes earlier this week. Behaviors are slowly meandering in a new direction. In this particular group there are sometimes, okay often,  personality conflicts. The students are around 12-years old, and it doesn’t take much for emotions to become heightened, both positively and negatively. However, this week I saw something different.

I wish I could say there was no quarreling or exasperation, there was. What was noticeably different were the responses. In one case, 2 students began arguing and provoking each other. The squabblers were asked to talk out their issues separately with a staff member in our gazebo. After issues were communicated, the pair went back to the activity without further escalation. I’m not saying all traces of hard feelings had vanished but the students  were able to work around their difficulties and successfully participate in our lesson. Good step forward.

In another  instance, a child became frustrated with the task he had been asked to complete. Instead of feeling defeated and acting out, he asked to join another group doing a different task. The student finished class favorably completing an assignment and in a positive state of mind. Steps like these are signs of growth for all children, and for our students who are facing social, emotional and behavioral challenges, these steps  seem like strides.

Corsican gourds cover our bamboo tee pee.

Corsican gourds cover our bamboo teepee.

The moral of the story? Instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, we adapt. We learn. And whether it’s the gardening teacher in an unexpected seasonal transition and subsequent lessons to reconstruct,  or a child facing his emotions and triggers while applying learned coping skills, life is a bit like a dance. We step to the side, take giant steps forward, sometimes step back, and twirl a bit.


About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting www.greenchimneys.org
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