Ponderings on Community and Ponderosa Trees
As a new teaching fellow for the Fall 2013 semester at Alzar School, learning all the different terminology and lingo around the Alzar School has taken a bit of time and gaining of familiarity. The written-out lists of the six foundations of the school and ten elements of leadership seem pretty nebulous and hard to remember, that is until you see them in action. On Monday we were participating in some “On-Campus Fun,” when the component of Service Learning, one of the foundations of the Alzar School, became really tangible to me. I was watering some baby aspen and ponderosa pine trees with Cata and Kaylee. It was a pretty simple task; we had some hoses and buckets and it really wasn’t too much effort at all, but as I searched the field for the fourth baby ponderosa, barely taller then the grass, the watering chore really brought to light for me the self-sufficiency that the Alzar School fosters in its community. We were simply watering these little trees, spindly aspens and teeny pines but because we were taking the time to water them, we gained a connection to these trees. Now that I’ve paid them attention and contributed to their wellbeing, I want them to succeed! I realized that if Cata, Kaylee or I send our children to the Alzar School, we will be able to come back when the trees are huge, and realize that our care helped make that happen. On our orientation expedition, we talked about the meaning of place in forming communities and homes. One important place and community to me is Colby College, from which I just graduated. When I went to college in Maine, my mom would ask me if I thought she would like to live there, winters and all. I had to tell her that I didn’t know if she would be able to manage happily in the snow. At Colby, they employ people to shovel the snow and put down salt, and deal with all the complicated parts of winter that a homeowner would face. At the Alzar School, we don’t have support staff like janitors, cooks or snow-shovelers. Since I have been in Idaho for only two weeks so far, I do not have as strong a sense of place as I do in Maine. Yet, having watered these saplings in Cascade, Idaho at the Alzar School, I have cultivated just a little bit more of my sense of place here. In learning how much water the trees need to thrive in this dry, dusty soil, and I have put down a root (pardon the pun) of connection to this place. Alzar School’s commitment to Service Learning highlights the components of a community—not just watering trees, but making meals, sweeping classrooms, and stacking wood to keep us warm in the winter. These chores could be labeled as menial, but they bring us closer to this place, to each other, and to understanding the work that goes into creating this community.