Nature's Calling; It Wants Help Cleaning Up

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A perfectly good Saturday had officially gone to waste when I woke to my blaring alarm clock at five thirty in the morning. I dragged myself out of bed as the overwhelming feeling of “I really don’t want to get out of bed today” washed over me. Waking up was bad enough, but to go out this early to do community service is every adolescent’s nightmare. Although, the fact I would have two friends and an MP3 player join me did ameliorate the situation a bit, just not enough to motivate me out of bed and into the cold.

Several snooze button slaps later, I met up with my friends in the cold morning winter air a few blocks away from my house; we began walking toward the light rail which would take us to the Japanese Friendship Garden where we would perform our community service. As it turned out, by the time we got there, other volunteers already began trimming plants and sweeping pathways. My friends and I were assigned with the monotonous task of raking leaves. It sounded simple in theory.

The area around the tea house which we had to clear was somewhat large, so my friends and I split up to cover separate areas, meaning there would not be much conversing. I began raking leaves, and acting as the typical out of place modern American child, I clicked my MP3 player on to blasting heavy metal music. It turned out racking the leaves out of the Japanese garden’s “mossy grass” was far more difficult than anyone had anticipated. The teeth of the rake continuously got caught in the awkward clumpy texture of the grass, making it so one had to work slowly and cautiously for fear of ripping up the entire foliage. Frustration accumulated and it began taking up all of my will power to suppress the violent urges to tear up the mockingly innocent grass. As though matters could not get much worse, my MP3 died.

With an exasperated sigh, I tucked my mp3 into my pocket and worked in silence. I had worked for about thirty minutes with my MP3 turned on, but it was not until it ran out of batteries when I realized what a nice day it was outside. When we had arrived it was still dark out, but now the sun had started to rise higher into the sky. It sent a beautiful wave of light shimmering over the pond and waterfall. I began to notice some of the smaller details such as how the wind sounded when it rustled the tree branches and chimed together strange tea house ornamentations. I could hear the splashing of the rocky stream behind me in chorus with the soft chirping of birds rather than the annoying repetitive coo of city pigeons.

Despite the work, I began enjoying myself. I had never really been a fan of nature or scenic views which adults seemed to get so excited for on road trip s and so forth. To me, a tree was a tree whether it was in your front yard or Bambi’s magical forest. However, it slowly became apparent why people came to visit the garden. It was like a serene haven amid everyone’s hectic city lives.

My two friends and I took a break and began drinking hot chocolate to warm ourselves up when one of the older volunteers started up a conversation with us. He asked us if we knew why volunteers did not use leaf blowers and chain saws rather than doing everything by hand. The answer lies with respect between the gardener and the garden. The gardener should take the time to carefully mend the garden by hand. The tradition apparently still holds true for gardens in Japan today.

Time continues to tick by as I resumed my work and visitors began trickling in. I looked over my shoulder to see an older couple gaze over the garden in a meditative like fashion. They seemed so calm and relaxed. I helped create that serene atmosphere. The thought relayed itself in my mind with a warm accomplished feeling. I brought these people from the chaos of their everyday lives to this utopia. Ever since this first experience, I go to the garden every Saturday for volunteering. If volunteer work had not originally been assigned in school, I would have missed out on a more productive and rewarding way to spend my Saturdays. Some might ask what exactly is rewarding about wasting away a Saturday to make old people feel good. I could easily say, as clichéd as it sounds, making old people feel good is a reward in itself, but one cannot truly understand this rewarding feeling until they try out volunteering themselves.





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