Working for Simply Smiles is definitely weird...and wonderful. Weird? I've done lots of things for my job that I didn't quite anticipate. The most recent example: Getting my CDL license so that I could drive a red school bus across country with my brother to get to the Cheyenne River Reservation. And, of course, wonderful. I'm fortunate that I can implement what I've learned in graduate school and in my past farming career in practical, meaningful ways. I also get to meet incredible people and have many unique experiences along the way. Not a bad job.
And, the La Plant Grows Its Own Food! project has been transformative for both me and, I hope, for residents of La Plant. It makes my heart swell when a child willingly goes into the garden space and wants to help, asks questions, or runs to me as soon as they arrive at camp and are excited about what we're planting that day. Or, when I have a group of adults who offer to take care of the garden, actively participate in its growth, or ask how they can grow things at their houses. Pretty wonderful, right?
In the span of one year, the garden has done just that - grow. Volunteer groups have helped to build new raised beds - 21, to be exact! - and these beds have greatly increased our growing space. Our compost system is thriving (fellow compost nerds, rejoice!), our native species project has physically taken root, and we're getting ready to enclose the high tunnel within the coming month to extend the growing season. There's buzz about the project among more residents in town and even throughout the entire Reservation. It has rumblings and makings of a food movement.
All this change, growth, and planning...and I won't physically be implementing much during the month of June.
Because Simply Smiles is becoming more ambitious in its programming and our holistic approach is attracting a wider audience of potential supporters and ambassadors of our mission, things - and people - need to shift. Rather than staying on the Rez for five straight months, the staff is taking office rotations, and mine starts this month. As a naturally anxious person/a (slight) control freak, not being present is a problem for me. But, the job requirements aside, my gut tells me this is a healthy break. I hope it is one that reveals and recognizes the roles and interdependence of communication, learning to cede control, trust, and, of course, the truly magical nature of growing, living things and beings.
I'm trying a new mantra: Things will be ok. Things will grow.
Just when it set in this past Saturday morning that this - being in La Plant - was over, albeit for a little over a month, our friend and La Plant resident Ford Hill shook my hand.
"Goodbye, Ford," I said. "See you in July."
"You know, in Lakota, there's no word for 'goodbye'," he said. "We say, 'see you soon.' Saying 'goodbye' is too lonesome and final."
So, with that, see you soon, La Plant. For now, I'll enjoy these recent memories and look forward to lots of delicious food and blooming flowers in the near future.
(All photos taken by A.Gross, April-May 2015, Cheyenne River Reservation/La Plant, S.D.)