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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Students share tales of resilience in latest installment of Stories in the Garden

Michelle Tomaszkowicz
U of A students sharing and listening to each others stories about resilience at the community garden on 4/2/17

The UA Community Garden ramada, at 1400 E. Mabel St., was again crowded with people Sunday evening for March’s Stories in the Garden event.

Stories in the Garden is a monthly event that started in fall 2015, when one of the community garden students suggested some kind of event that brought people together in a safe space to share ideas, stories and other forms of expression, Jackie Mendelson, UA Community Garden manager and plant sciences senior, said.

“We have different themes so each time we can focus on a different part of ourselves,” Mendelson said. “First, we share food, then we share ourselves. It’s just a night of good people and good times.”

Sunday night, the crowd of over 40 people shared a potluck-style mash-up of snacks, ranging from carrots fresh from the garden to homemade hummus and cookies designed to look like Earths.

This month’s topic was resilience, which Mendelson said seemed especially right for the time, with many people stressed about school, life events and the current state of politics in America.

“I know a lot of us have been dealing with this lately, and have been trying to push through different situations,” Mendelson said.

She compared the event with last month’s, when the community learned the garden had been badly vandalized just hours before the event.

“It’s really beautiful what has happened, and the resilience that this community has shown,” she said. “It’s so fitting that this theme is resilience, with all the support and love we have gotten. We have lights up again and can water our plants again.”

Mendelson started the evening off with a song, which she said was to break the ice, and was quickly followed by karaoke, monologues, stories, poems and many people playing guitar.

David Setton, an astrology senior, and Kim Krucker, a political science and Russian junior, played the songs “Dreams,” by Fleetwood Mac and “The Suburbs,” by Arcade Fire as a duo, with Knucker on vocals.

“These songs are just what I think of when I think ‘resilience,” Setton said before the pair started their set.

Megan McKay, a natural resource senior, also performed on her guitar. She started off with the song “Youth” by Daughter, which she called a warm up to settle her nerves, before she performed a song she wrote herself.

McKay told the hushed crowd this was her first time playing a song she had written to anyone, let alone a crowd, but it seemed like the right thing to share.

“Resilience is actually a really important topic to me,” McKay said. “This song is about when I was most resilient, which was when I moved to Arizona from a really bad situation and had to make a whole new life.”

The song focused on how McKay learned to be free again, and how she healed herself “with every desert rain.” The lyrics spoke about a situation she was too young to know how to break free of, and how what she thought was love had turned into a prison for her.

When the song finished, the crowd clapped and cheered, encouraging and complimenting McKay on her ability and the power of her song.

Hunter Fogel, who works at Food Conspiracy Co-op on Fourth Avenue, attended stories in the garden for the first time Sunday night. He heard about the event through Facebook, though he said he also knew a few people there.

“It’s just such a cool community, the garden community of Tucson,” Fogel said. “I recognized some of these faces from different farmers’ markets I go to.”

Fogel was looking for a creative outlet, which was why he chose to share two short poems with the group.

“I was looking for someplace to share some of my writing, and the theme of resilience felt super pertinent right now,” he said. “If I wasn’t moving away from Tucson soon I would certainly come to the next one.”

Overall, March’s Stories in the Garden event highlighted the many ways the theme could be interpreted. Many people spoke about illness and resilience, abuse and resilience, or day-to-day life and resilience.

Alex Lambert, an art history junior, said at first, she was just thinking about resilience in the form of protest.

“I’m an angry person lately, and I’m angry with how the world is right now, so I was just thinking, ‘yeah, resist,’” Lambert said. “But then, after listening to everybody else, I was like, ‘oh, well, not really.’ There are so many other ways to see it.”

Lambert shared a story about her sister Rachel, who struggles with mental illness, as an example of resilience.

Next month’s event will be on April 30, at the UA Community Garden. The topic will be remembering your roots. 

Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.

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