I walked into the main building at Merryspring Nature Centre to use the bathroom and poked my head into the office. “Hello Guenevere!” greeted me as the program director and I exchanged good mornings. Being welcomed with my first name – what an uncommon experience this past month. I haven’t been volunteering at Merryspring’s for too long, yet getting to know the small staff has been rewarding in a town in which I can scan the greens of a park, packed with a crowd on the fourth of July, and not know a single person. Coming from the interconnectedness of Lethbridge, without even getting into how, as a member of the welcome centre, I knew at least the name of every single person at the Ashram, this stark anonymity is a bit of a shock.
What I do know about myself is that I’m an introvert. It’s taken a few years and Susan Cain’s great book on the subject to figure out that introvert doesn’t necessarily mean shy, but the routine of elementary school library-day and the subsequent station on the couch I would set up for myself to read that week’s new goodies reveal to me that I relish in solitude. Growing up out of town creativity was certainly a must and sometimes even now the games I would come up with pop into my head at times. There was hockey and bike rides with Smokey – my ever-doting canine companion – singing on the swing to the sugar beet audience, perfecting my hook-shot on the basketball court, and, the ever popular, lava rides with my stuffed animas. Yes, growing up with three older brothers on an acreage eight miles out of town must have had something to do with my activities containing such solitude, but the fact remains that I simply enjoy my own company. If I were more energized by socializing with others I would certainly have found ways to do so.
Where does this leave me after plonking myself into a brand-new town in a foreign country on the other side of the continent? It leaves me seeking community. Not in a way that thinks my quality of life will only be satisfactory with at least seven units of time spent in the company of other people, but in a way that recognizes I enjoy heartfelt connections with people other than the multitude of personality aspects running rampant, at times, in my head.
And so I seek community. I find it in places that I am drawn to. It doesn’t take much thought to recognize that things I enjoy doing will draw people who also enjoy doing those things and that people who enjoy doing the same sorts of things that I do are bound to be super-cool. So I pick weeds in the garden at the community nature centre. The gardener is laid-back and friendly, helpful and empowering. There’s no rigid structure that I fit my gardening into, I get to retain my humanness as an expressive, flowing being without fear of failure or doing something wrong. Gardening isn’t an exact science. It’s a dance, an interaction between myself and nature. I get to guide the unfathomably powerful force of nature in a particular direction and, in turn, nature gets to decide wether or not to co-operate.
It’s a dance that I like to partake in, a dance in which the music never stops. The buzz of a hostile yellow-jacket momentarily overpowers the symphonic ringing of the myriad of hungry mosquitoes. Imperceptible wind touches the tops of the trees and coaxes last night’s light rain off their temporary landing pad of glossy green leaves. Every rustle and drop all occurring in time with the Great Conductor’s precise baton.
Volunteering in the company of others by spending time in the garden allows me to ultimately reconnect with myself and the part of me that flows in time with that great baton. Sometimes the way I do that is in the close company of friends, new or old and sometimes lost in a book in my woodland tent. For now my sphere grows steadily outwards and I’m beginning to see a few familiar faces dot the tourist-lined streets of Camden.