Last night, I walked through PICA–through the garden, under the bay laurel and out through the A quad. All the smells told me what the shadows were–the rose, the bay laurel, the fragrant mound of dry matter waiting for the compost, the Salvias.
That’s home. And that’s what PICA is. In a world where people are often more connected to communities on the internet than to the land beneath their feet, PICA is a stronghold of what home used to mean, what home should mean. It’s where college students can learn the arts and sciences that make a place home: gardening, ecology, botany, carpentry, cooking, music, community. And it’s a place to practice all those things, to leave a bit of good work in return for all that a place is giving you. I know that in ten years I’ll come back and say, can I come in? and maybe someone will ask and I’ll be able to say, I helped build the walls of that compost system–I dug the hole for that apple tree–I stood on one foot on a shaky stepladder to put screws into that greenhouse roof–I built that soil with so many friends. I remember when we caught the hill on fire sawing the poles for the greenhouse. I remember learning depressing things in ENVS 100, biking down the hill and hacking up rocky soil with a pickax, and realizing that what people need most is meaningful work that will get them what they need. We threw rotten fruit off the quarry walls once–David, Yvea, Gulliver and I–and lay laughing ourselves breathless in the grass. We chased deer, biked home at 2 am to see owls flying over our houses, watched bobcats hunting ground squirrels and thanked them for their help; we are part of this ecosystem. We named the golden eagle. We sent folk songs from all the Americas up the quarry and into the night.
Now I’m going away. It seems odd to leave a place that I have become such a part of, and that has become such a part of me. But that’s what PICA is for. It‘s a jumping off place, a place you stay until you are strong and wise enough to go. And then you do, and you take with you what you have learned, and share it along your way. So do as you learned in PICA. Come out of your room. Shoot the breeze with your neighbors, even if you don’t have much in common. Be a nerd–talk and learn about plants, stars, soil, compost. Laugh, dig in the dirt, and sing.
Thanks PICA, thanks PICA brothers and sisters: David, Gulliver, Dave, Tony, Mike, Billy, Jack, John, Yvea, Rain, Diane, Ngoc, Natasha, and the newer generation: Sean, Shayna, Victoria, Kate, Conor et al, and especially, Bee and Steve. It’s the confidence that you and the Garden (and the Compost!) have given me that carries me forward.
rock on, sarah
Sarah Wheatley, PICA graduate and lifelong fan