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Slowing Down

By India Fleming-Klink, Community Fellow

As I deepen my relationship to the land that I am tending to and growing on, I hear a whisper carried through the wind reminding me to slow down and listen.

Since living on the mountain for the past six months, and now in Staunton, I find myself much more aware of the seasons turning and the lessons that come between them. As the spring flowers — daffodils, tulips, lilies of the valley, bluebells, hyacinths, irises, and forsythia — begin to awaken after a long winter, I too feel my body waking up full of energy and hope. Hope that even on those nights that still hit below freezing, these flowers are resilient, and will survive — becoming even more resilient for the next freezing night. These flowers are a reminder that spring will be here eventually, and I have to just keep pushing through on the colder, harder, days.

I had no idea what to expect coming into the Community Action Year. I am splitting my time between Jones Gardens, a nonprofit community garden in Staunton whose mission is to grow fresh produce that is accessible and affordable to all community members, and the AMI Farm at Augusta Health where I am a farm assistant and will be coordinating AMI's participation in the WIC farmers market.

Jones Gardens is a new partnership this year for AMI, so we are all learning together as we move through this new transition. With responsibility and independent work, I am learning as I go, especially from the mistakes I have made trying out unfamiliar tasks. During the past couple months, I have mostly been working on developing community programming work, including planning our garden workshops for the season, creating marketing materials, developing our new Food Delivery Service, conducting community surveys, and teaching seed starting at local Staunton schools. I also share the responsibility of seed starting and greenhouse watering with my supervisor — and wow, I love spending time in the greenhouse!

To be surrounded by plants that so many hands have contributed to growing is such an incredible and indescribable feeling. This is the first time that I've really been able to put all of the farming skills I learned over the past six months on the mountain into practice and there is no better feeling than the magical experience of walking into the greenhouse and witnessing all the germinated seedlings I planted.

The plants have gone through a lot and have been patient with me as I learned how to control the greenhouse heat, watering system, and fans. And while I work in the greenhouse, watering plants and thinning, I hear that whisper again - to slow down and listen, because the plants will tell us what they need.

And just like with the plants, I find a lesson for myself - to be patient with myself and to communicate my needs. As I embark on all these new tasks and challenges at work, I am reminded to slow down and listen to myself, the plants, and our community members. There is so much to learn all around me, and I am so thankful for everyone that has taken the time to guide me through these lessons. When I feel overwhelmed and need a moment to breathe, I step outside and am surrounded by all the flowers, song birds, and smell of spring in the air.

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