—by Scott Jeffries
This past Saturday, a group of 107ist members went to the Veterans Affairs Community Living Center in Vancouver, USA to begin improving their courtyard garden. Over the course of three hours, an army of nine people pulled a year's worth of weeds, hacking away at blackberry vines, digging up dandelions, and clearing out patches of thistle. The project was the beginning of a larger effort to make the garden a more attractive and accessible space with the ultimate intent of building some raised garden beds for the wheelchair-bound residents to use next spring. We had the privilege of being joined by Timber Jim, whose love of gardening knows no bounds. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning than sitting in the sunshine while Jim tells the story of the first time he brought a chainsaw to Civic Stadium. As an added bonus, the courtyard looks out on the Clark College soccer field, allowing the residents to sit and take in the beautiful game.
On a personal note, I work in public health and am a student at OHSU. I've ridden the 8 past the VA hospital for the past two years and any Daily Show devotee will remember Jon Stewart's crusade to improve the state of the VA. Without going too far into a political rant, the state of our health care system is appalling, especially so for veterans who get nowhere near the funding or services they need after putting their lives on the line. This is not to malign the good people at the VA but rather a government that cares more about starting wars than taking care of its soldiers when they're over.
Before we started, we were instructed not to touch the watermelon and tomatoes that had been planted by a resident and were surrounded by weeds. As we finished up, an elderly man in a wheelchair came by, and seeing the now-pristine dirt, exclaimed, "Now that you've done that, I'm going to have to find some winter crops to plant!" It was the gardener himself, and seeing and hearing his joy was a great reward. And next year, he'll be able to tend his own garden.