I had never met Mary Jane before today, when I found myself desperately searching for someone to interview within the dwindling hours of the day. I knocked on three doors, hoping that one of my neighbors (all older residents of the block) would have environmental stories of activism to share. No one answered the first two, so I decided to go to the house down the road. This house was the only one with someone I don’t know, so I was nervous, but I figured it was worth a shot since I always see the owner out gardening. Her back gate was open, and two bags of soil were on the driveway—I took this to be a good sign— and the rhododendrons were blooming pink and white. The whole atmosphere was peaceful and GREEN. She opened the door just as I approached it because she was about to go run an errand and looked a little surprised and confused to find me on her porch. The surprise wore away rapidly, however, as I explained my purpose and what I was hoping she could do for me. She lit up, talking before I began recording, and invited me to have a seat on her swinging bench while she retrieved her reusable magenta water bottle. From there, she detailed what she has been doing to be environmentally conscious. There are no chemicals in her yard, nor any in the new wood flooring she is currently polishing. Besides that, she doesn’t have grass; she rents bees; she does her best to recycle and compost; and she buys food products from vetted sources while also eating a few choice morsels from her garden. What a gold mine of a stranger!
She had a lot of resources to share with me, most I had never heard of and that I will investigate. She admitted, humbly, that she doesn’t know as much as she would like, though she does the best she can with the knowledge she has. It’s more than what many people can manage. Despite her limits, I think what she is doing is necessary and helpful to the environment. As an individual, she may not be doing much, but on a larger scale, our community would certainly benefit from having more people like Mary Jane. She is aware of the problems in the environment and the capitalist system and she’s trying to make her mark against it. If more people could do that, then suddenly there’s a whole world of change at our fingertips!
Mary Jane takes comfort in doing these things to offset the damage being done around her. She knows it’s small, but she hopes it makes a difference. That hope is how she combats the difficult elements of being engaged, because if she did nothing, the difficulties would be even more challenging to bear. She does the best she can, and this is enough for her. She doesn’t beat herself up over not doing quite enough, but she doesn’t quit, either. In this way, she tends to her garden in peace and hopes for a better future.
For the activity in Active Hope, Mary Jane inspired the idea of a neighborhood Pea Patch. Around the corner from me is a power lines path that has nothing in it but grass and blackberries. I know a few of my neighbors have gardening skills who might be interested, but I’d have to learn more about gardening to make this a reality. The land might not be available to the public, too, but I could find out. I’m not sure if this is a project I really want to take on, but it is an option, and definitely doable within the next year.
Note: Roundup is a weed killer that can cause damage to our systems when used on our foods (mentioned around 3 minute mark).