Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dr. Trailbuilder or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pulaski

So the blog rotation has finally come to me. So far my team has touched on everything under the sky, it seems. I want to reflect on the project as a whole.

When Darcy first told us that we would be spending six weeks at Gorman Heritage Farm doing trail-building, my jaw dropped. Six weeks. Trail building. Eight hours a day. For someone who spent the past four years at college majoring in movie-watching, spending (at least) 240 hours outside doing manual labor wasn’t at the top of my list of desired projects.

Before we even left campus in Vinton, I felt defeated. Six weeks. Forty-two days. 1008 hours. I tried to rationalize:

“It’s enough time to quit three jobs (Two Weeks Notice).”

“It’s not too much longer than it takes for infected to starve (28 Days).”

“It’s only enough time for James Franco to saw through his arm seven times (127 Hours).”

That didn’t really help, so I decided I would do exactly as Bob from the movie What About Bob?, “One step at a time.”

The first step was getting to the house. If you’ve never packed a fifteen passenger full of what ten people think they need for six weeks and then packed the said people in, then you have never lived. A 5:30 a.m. departure quickly turns into 7a.m. if you’re not careful (we weren’t careful). The next ten hours traveling were a major blur, but all I remember is that we made it to the farmhouse alive and in one piece.

Moving into the farmhouse was the next step. My initial thought? “It’s all so familiar, yet I know I’ve never been here before. I feel so at home,” as Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, so eloquently put it. Ten people and one bathroom could have been a problem, but somehow that was never a reason for conflict on our team.

Thankfully, our work wasn’t just trail building; we also did some invasive species removal. The main culprit was this nasty plant called Lonicera maackii, or Amur Honeysuckle. What kept driving me forward was a powerful line I remember, clear as a bell, from Karate Kid (the original, of course), “Sweep the root.” I’m pretty sure that was the Cobra-Kai Sensei, Kreese, encouraging his students to beat the honeysuckle in some sort of karate duel. If I remember correctly, the honeysuckle whipped the boy in the face, landing a victory.

Anyway, those six weeks zipped by. Whoooosh! Even as I’m writing this, I still can’t believe it went by so fast. I am so thankful even if I don’t fully remember every day. Zeniba from Spirited Away reminds me that “once you do something, you never forget, even if you don’t remember.”

It’s strange to think that I may never see any of those people ever again… ever. For a brief six weeks I stayed in a farm house in southern Ohio and helped carve a trail in the side of a hill so that people may reach the top easier. For a fleeting moment I was a part of their lives and they were a part of mine.

If I could leave one thought to the people of Evendale and anyone who sees the work of volunteers and AmeriCorps NCCC members, it would be that of Capa in Sunshine, “If you wake up one morning and notice it’s a particularly beautiful day, you’ll know we made it.”

~Phil

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