We were surrounded on all sides by a small scotch broom forest. Our mission: to uproot it.
A volunteer in his seventies shares with us how he has been coming to these monthly service projects, sponsored by the regional Recreation and Parks Department, for decades. Over that time, he has contributed to the removal of some fifteen square miles of the invasive plant, reducing fire danger in the dry hills of northern California.
The ranger, too, speaks of her commitment to replenishing drought-resistant ground cover and biodiversity for endangered species. A botanist, she educates us about the buckwheat and green rush seedlings that we are to plant on this hillside boarding Highway One and the Bolinas lagoon.
To be honest, I am simultaneously impressed and a bit doubtful. My hands are nearly shredded from hours of weeding, with very little clearage to show for it. Collectively, our small group estimates plucking over 300 individual plants. The ranger assures me that it does add up and goes on to tell us about the indigenous frogs that have been able re-occupy the marsh due to volunteer efforts like ours.
The fact is, it feels good, not the tendinitis in my wrists, but being outside with dear friends on a beautiful day. The four of us had been meeting indoors every month for the past two and half decades since graduate school, discussing personal and professional developments in psychology and spirituality over dinner.
It occurred to us recently, in response to the escalating environmental crisis, to broaden the format of our gatherings beyond that of conversation and food. There’s nothing academic about hands-on tending of the local flora and fauna. Call it applied spirituality or psychological self-help . . .