Every year in our conference center Charlestown holds an exhibition called Fruits of Our Labor. The purpose is to acquaint all residents with the opportunities available for them to participate in resident-led activities. Groups showcase their activities and accomplishments and try to recruit new members. There are more than 200 resident-created and run groups at Charlestown, and over 90 of them had tables at Fruits of Our Labor this year.
A few weeks ago I agreed to take responsibility for arranging the display of the Nature Trail Committee, of which I am a member. The woman who has been making this display for the past 15 years decided it was time for her to resign that responsibility. She still did the display of the Chess Club, though.
Fortunately, she had accumulated good materials over the years, including a very large, mounted photograph of the Nature Trail, and an exact replica of one of the covered bridges that cross Herbert’s Run, the stream that courses along the trail, through the woods. The scale model was made in the Wood Shop here 15 years ago by a now-deceased resident. She also had small cardboard boxes she had constructed to hold plant materials, wood chips from the actual trail that she had sterilized, rocks and pieces of bark, as well as strips of wood such as those that line the trail. She even had a photograph of a stream that she had covered in clear plastic to give the illusion of water. My job was to collect plant materials to represent the trail and to arrange the display.
The display was to be set up on Wednesday for the exhibition on Thursday. With rain forecast for late Tuesday and Wednesday, I went down to the trail Tuesday morning and filled a large bag with fern fronds, cuttings of various green plants, and soil in which to place these materials. Concerned about keeping them presentable until Thursday, I decided to wrap them in a damp bath towel that I placed in a plastic bag.
Tuesday night I had an anxiety attack. What happens to plant material kept in a warm, humid environment? It rots. What if my collection was already decaying inside the towel? What if it was pouring rain on Thursday morning, making it impossible for me to replace it?
To my relief, almost all my cuttings looked just fine Wednesday morning, but, wanting some color, some blooms, and hoping to find some mushrooms or toadstools, I went out with my bag and tools early that morning. Instead of going back to the trail, where nothing was blooming, I walked around the campus, surreptitiously cutting small bits. I scraped moss off some rocks, and I even found three mushrooms.
By then it was time to head for the Conference Center to set up the display with the help of the Nature Trail Committee chairman, Carol Rexford. Boy, was I glad to have her there, as I had never been to one of these exhibitions and had some trepidation about my ability to create an attractive display—one that lived up to the much-acclaimed ones created by my predecessor. With lots of materials to work with, Carol and I collaborated in deciding where to put what, and we were pleased with our result, shown below.
All the space we had was half a meeting table, about 3’ X 4’, and we needed to have handouts and signup sheets on that space.
Here are some details. First, the stream flowing under the bridge. The small stones were from my collection, used in flower arranging.
Another view of the bridge and stream:
The other side of the bridge:
The fungi I found, and the moss:
Here’s Carol, seated at our table:
Although we did not win the Best of Show prize, we got a lot of compliments. At the end of the event, Carol and I dismantled our display and took everything to her apartment for storage.
Doing this job gave me a chance to get to know Carol, which I appreciate. She does fine watercolor art and ink drawings. She’s been investigating meditation practice for healing. Among other interests we share, we both have grandsons who are in their junior year at McDonogh School. About my dissatisfaction with living at Charlestown and my desire to help bring about some changes, she wrote me this message:
“Wow, good for you–……and I’m behind you all the way to try and make some changes here. I met a new neighbor on my hall yesterday–……she feels the way you do–kinda in shock with all the “old people” here–I told her there was change coming and to search out us 70 somethings ……..”
So I’m very glad to be getting to know Carol.
But is this (Fruits of Our Labor) how I want to be spending my time?
By all my experimenting with things I can do at Charlestown, I’m finding out what I DON’T want to do, but I’m still trying to find what I DO want to do, that my body will allow me to do.