Written by Alexandra Carelli / Photos by Jonathan Katzenberg
Seeing one of your ideas come to fruition is one of the most satisfying experiences one can have. From a random thought, to a plan, to discussions, to organizing, to actually sticking the first shovel in the dirt is a mental and emotional roller coaster that is seemingly controlled by some unseen force. You never know what parts of your idea is going to see the light of day, where it is going to fail, who is going to laugh in your face and tell you no, and how it is ever going to come together; but somehow, with determination and little passion, you pull it off.
When I first determined to come volunteer at Abriendo Mentes, one of my first thoughts was, “Hey, I could build a huge community garden there with the kids”. However, knowing how rampant the community garden movement is in the states, I tried not to get my hopes too high, assuming that someone had already manifested that idea. But, upon my arrival into Potrero, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only had no one started a garden, but no one had even thought of one. Phew, the idea was mine for the taking.
Meradith was incredibly responsive to the idea and set-about helping me organize meetings and plan an area to house the garden-to-be. After a meeting with the President of the Potrero Association, we were granted permission to use the area behind the “Salon” (a large, open air community structure in the middle of town) for our garden. At first, this news was exhilarating, and then, I took a look at the space.
This rather large plot of land was a completely overgrown make-shift landfill that looked like it hadn’t been tended in, well, ever. There was almost no sun coming through the thick mess of dead trees, and the land it self was a terrific hilly slope, not the best land for planting. The task ahead was daunting, but then I couldn’t have know how the community would come together to help us clear and clean this area to create the garden.
Yesterday, we had our clean-up day. It started out around 8 am with , 9 volunteers, 2 donated Tico workers from Las Catalinas, 2 puppies, and a lot of determination. Our group set out chopping trees, cleaning trash, collecting plastic bottles to be used to hanging plants, hauling pieces of sheet metal, and raking like mad. We had bags full of random articles such as shoes and fake hair, huge piles of scrap metal, and a small mountain of concrete bricks. We spent hour upon hour laboring, sweating, and admiring how quickly many hands can turn something so ugly, into someplace so perfect.
Throughout the day, we were joined by many other community members. Parents of students or random passerby would nonchalantly show-up and grab a shovel, and start digging into the earth with as much vigor and passion as anyone else. Many of the AM kids showed up and helped out through their comical game of “Jefe and worker”. At one point, we had as many as 30 volunteers, kids, and community members all working together to beautify this little corner of the world. It was touching to see a young child of 8 or 9 working alongside their neighbor of 70, with one common goal: to help. If that isn’t bringing an idea to fruition, I don’t know what is.
By the end of the day we had done more work than I ever could have imagined. The entire area was cleared, cleaned, leveled, and ready to have the beds made and flowers planted as early as, well, today. Meradith and I were on the verge of tears seeing how the community and ourselves had really made this happen. It was certainly a beautiful moment. While all this cleaning and gardening and community building may not solve all of the world’s problems, it is helping pave the way for a cleaner, greener, Playa Potrero.