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The UA Community Garden talks self-love in latest installment of stories in the garden

Stories+in+the+Garden+incorporates+food+and+inspired+dialogue+in+the+UA+Community+Garden.+Dialogue+can+consist+of+poems%2C+songs+and+stories+from+audience+members+related+to+a+specific+theme.
Monique Irish

Stories in the Garden incorporates food and inspired dialogue in the UA Community Garden. Dialogue can consist of poems, songs and stories from audience members related to a specific theme.

On Sunday evening, the UA Community Garden held February’s installment of the Stories in the Garden event. Over 50 people crowded into the softly lit ramada on 1400 E. Mabel St.to share stories, poems, songs and monologues about self-love.

The crowd sat on an eclectic mashup of chairs and blanket-draped hay bales, sharing snacks they had brought along with cauliflower and carrots harvested from the garden earlier in the evening.

Jackie Mendelson, UA Community Garden manager and plant sciences senior, said the event series started in fall 2015 when one of the community garden students suggested a potluck-style event.

“We do this to bring together this awesome community that might not otherwise get to meet up in a safe beautiful space where we can share things,” Mendelson said.

That community was demonstrated moments later, when Megan McKay, a natural resource senior, realized she didn’t have a capo, a clamp to change keys, for her guitar. Immediately, the crowd passed up multiple hair ties and a few pencils in order to improvise one, allowing McKay to perform her song.

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A dozen other people shared their thoughts on self-love. At first, they came up and wrote their name on a list, but as the event progressed, the sharing became more organic, with people simply offering to share after the list was exhausted.

Najat Salim, a pre-physiology freshman and member of the garden, originally said she was just there to watch and help out.

“I wouldn’t ever be able to get up in front of all these people,” Salim said before the event.

Yet, Salim did decide to share. She spoke about her experience moving from Kenya to the United States at eight years old, and how hard it was for her to relearn to love the things that set her apart and made her different from her classmates.

“You all shared so much, you inspired me,” she said to the crowd.

Idrian Mollaneda, a political science and environmental studies junior, also had no intention of sharing when he first came to the event. Like Salim, he said the atmosphere of the event changed his mind.

He spoke about his experience with self-love as a resident assistant at Árbol de la Vida.

“Being an RA, you encounter a lot of people who are really awesome, but don’t know how to take care of themselves,” Mollaneda told the audience. “You have to know yourself to take care of yourself. If you’re not taking care of yourself, then you’re unable to take care of others.”

Alex Lambert, an art history junior, also talked about how watching someone else not care for themselves is a tough experience.

“I’ve always loved myself, but I’m blessed,” she said. “A lot of my friends didn’t love themselves. It used to make me really angry, because they were beautiful and wonderful and I didn’t understand why they didn’t love themselves. But I’ve learned it’s a process, so I don’t get angry anymore.”

This event’s topic was one that resonated with Lambert, so she was planning to speak from the beginning.

“I really like the topic of self care,” Lambert said. “It’s really important.”

Mendelson said the Stories in the Garden topics cover a broad range.

“We’ve done things like gratitude and birth, and last February the theme was just love,” Mendelson said. “However, the topics are always reflective, something people can really think about in a number of ways.”

According to Mendelson, the event has experienced growth in more than one way.

“Every time it starts with just a few people sharing, and then it grows,” she said. “Every time the crowd grows as well. I think this one is the biggest yet.”

RELATED: UA Community Garden offers opportunities for students to grow

The UA Community Garden is close-knit. At the end of the event, which had been interspersed with breaks for chatter and food, many people hung around to stack chairs and clean up.

For more information on the UA Community Garden, visit the Students for Sustainability website..

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