It was a busy day in the prison garden on a hot day. We took on a few weedy flower beds and set to work, creating several wheelbarrow loads of weeds, and unburied dozens of flowers and herbs from the lush growth of summertime weeds. They had gotten a head start on us with stretches of warm weather and summer showers.
Our work was made lighter by the telling of stories and knowing that fresh shortbread and warm rhubarb and strawberry sauce with ice cream awaited us at the end of the class time. The teacher always has a way of motivating the crew.
At the end of the first hour, we stored our tools, dumped our weeds and washed up for our next activity: flower arranging.
I saw looks of skepticism on the faces of our young gardeners as one of the other volunteers brought out the floral arranging bases and foam blocks. Soon, their hesitant looks turned serious, as they began to plan their individual works of art. Once again, the gardening class offered something new and exciting, challenging them to use their talents and grow their skills.
The young gardeners were busied themselves fashioning their own arrangements from the piles of shrubs, herbs, and mid summer flowers. They put their individual touches to their work, and soon, there was a lovely selection of beautiful flower arrangements in the center of the table.
Even the most hesitant young florist immersed himself into the project. Conversations and questions about texture, color wheels and flower selections filled the air as they set to work.
The hoop house, our schoolroom, filled with many of their propagated works, became a florist shop, and our focus could turn to our mid morning snack. The just baked shortbread and freshly simmered strawberry-rhubarb sauce filled our noses with delight, and we quickly formed a line to create our own culinary delight. The promise of ice cream in the morning also enticed us.
Our plates filled, we gathered around the fire circle, and fell into relaxed conversations. I caught up with their challenges and successes, both in the garden and in their lives. Proudly, they showed me their vegetables and flowers, their chickens, their compost, and the new additions to their garden.
Our time grew short and I gathered up the plates and forks, and the glasses that had been drained of the special iced mochas that quenched our thirst this August day.
I started washing the dishes and was soon joined by a young man who offered to help. He didn't want me to take on the task, saying that it was a boring, mundane thing for me to do.
"Oh, I rather like it," I said. "Washing dishes gives me time to do some thinking, organizing my day and planning ahead.
"I get necessary work done, and I also get some 'me' time," I said.
“I enjoyed the weeding this morning for the same reason,” I added.
He nodded, his ears taking in a new idea on what he had said was a minor task, not worthy of my time.
"It's not a minor thing," I said, "Cleaning up helps everyone, and builds community. Every job is important."
"I guess so," he said. "I never thought of it that way."
"I see what you mean," he said. "Even though it doesn't seem like an important job, it really is."
Our time was up. Class was over and he needed to go.
"I'll finish this up," I said. "I promise not to have too much fun."
"Do some thinking for me, then," he said.
We grinned at each other, building another bridge between the old guy gardening guy who comes here once a week, and the young man, whose garden of his soul grows well in the springtime of his life.