“I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential.”
– Vandana Shiva, Eco-Activist
Environmental artist Ruth Le Gear used her Seed Grant to explore the cycle of life with children at Sligo Children’s Community Garden. Over the spring and summer months this year, Ruth and the children grew mushrooms, turned / fed soil, and planted seeds – everything from purple carrots to peas to flowers. They also sourced pallets with a view to making compost beds. Although the purpose of these activities, along with storytelling, was to help the children begin to appreciate the value of natural decay and its potential for re-growth, the underlying ambition was to give a very gentle introduction to loss and grief.
Especially popular with the children were plans to establish a wormery at the beginning. After what seemed like an interminable wait, dozens of worms ordered by Ruth finally arrived. As children jostled to get a first look and, more importantly, first dibs on their own worm, a container was opened. Sadly, that’s where the ambition for a ‘very gentle introduction’ were scuppered into the stark realities of loss and grief. All the worms were dead. A second container revealed more lifeless worms. Then another. And another. Meanwhile, the children dissolved into puddles of snot and tears wailing for worms they’d already named. As Ruth told us:
“What a way to start the project! Worms destined for compost right from the start. I had to laugh though, after all the tears had been gently wiped away with big hugs of course.”
What to do though? Turn to the local community of course! Replacement worms were gathered and donated from local private gardens. Meanwhile, the children bounced back and carried on, as Ruth eloquently chronicles in an extract from her blog below, along with this gorgeous film she made.
In the extract below, Ruth Le Gear speaks about the challenges and joys the children have experienced and rich lessons learned through this project. We plan to return to this project in the autumn to see how they’re getting on with the worms and building compost beds.
In the tranquil embrace of the Sligo Children’s Community Garden, a profound lesson unfolds – the cycle of grief and regeneration mirrors the essence of compost. As children learn to nurture and compost organic waste, they witness nature’s alchemy at work. Just as fallen leaves and snack scraps metamorphose into nutrient-rich soil, so too does grief, in its gentlest moments, pave the path for renewal.
Compost infused with the essence of emotions, the children embark on another remarkable chapter of their garden-journey – planting pea seeds. Little and big hands, they lovingly nestle the seeds within the nourishing layers, symbolizing the act of sowing hope. As the days pass, a sense of anticipation fills the air, mirroring the mix of emotions that come with tending to both the garden and the heart.
Just as the compost fosters the transformation of waste into life-giving sustenance, tiny green shoots emerge from the soil, reaching toward the sun with unyielding determination. The children care for their pea plants with unwavering dedication, just as they have cared for their compost with patience and tenderness. Each day, they water and nurture the plants, fostering a connection that extends beyond the surface, deeper into the mysteries of life’s cycles.
And then, as if in celebration of the journey they’ve undertaken, the pea plants bear sweet, plump pods, a testament to the extraordinary power of regeneration. In the end, the garden becomes a tapestry of interconnectedness, where compost and peas stand as living symbols of the human experience – where grief finds solace and healing, and where the cycle of life perpetually reminds us that hope and growth emerge from the most unlikely places. And so, the children learn that in embracing the cycle of compost and peas, they embrace the profound resilience of the human spirit and the ever-present capacity for new beginnings.
– Ruth Le Gear
About Sligo Children’s Community Garden (SCCG)
Sligo Children’s Community Garden (SCCG) was formed during the summer of 2020 and aims to include all generations but is aimed most particularly at children. The overall aim is to create an outdoor growing and a creative learning space, to help promote the ‘grow your own’ ethos and raise environmental awareness among children and families alike.
The aim is to provide a space to re-grow community bonds and facilitate children’s education and creativity outdoors within the natural environment. In addition, the aim is to engage people within the community to make a difference on the ground while providing knowledge and experience to make change within the wider community. For more, visit: sligochildrenscommunitygarden.com
About Ruth LeGear
Ruth Le Gear is as a hybrid artist working at the interface of nature, homeopathic intervention, and environmental art. Ruth’s work has emerged from the outcomes of research, collaboration and fieldwork based around water and its memories held within various water bodies from Arctic Icebergs, the Baltic sea and Irish lakes and waterfalls – listening to the mystical, mythical and metaphysical forces that act upon and interact with water. Her work finds form in moving image, the still image, sound, and installation. For more, visit: www.ruthlegear.com and celestialaquatics.com