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a full heart and dirty hands

Written by Aija Bowman, Earlham College Summer Intern from The United States.

I write this blog post with a full heart and dirty hands, nourished by the gifts of this land and the people who care for it. I’m a student from the United States studying abroad in Aotearoa New Zealand, and have had the opportunity to volunteer at The Learning Environment, a place that has moved me deeply.

What I find most inspiring about the people here is the way they carry themselves through this world, alongside the moral compass that guides them. They are just like the plants they grow;  brilliant, lively, and interconnected, embodying fully their mission and work here. The beautiful pieces of these individuals and their tender energy are things I will carry with me for the rest of my life. They act with soul, creativity, and passionate intent. It’s invigorating, it fills one with hope.

The food grown at Pīwaiwaka Farm is deeply nourishing to the body, but the care, intent, and thought behind the way it’s grown is what nourished my spirit. To come into the gardens of Pīwaiwaka is to be reminded of the harmony that can exist between all of us and our environment; the untapped wells of peace we carry inside us. Themes of community, reciprocity, and stewardship radiate through this place. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of something so meaningful and bigger than myself. Working in the native nursery with manuka saplings, spending days under the sun in the māra kai [food garden], and picnics in the uru huarākau [orchards] watching the butterflies dance with each other are significant memories here. The māra and the land have gifted me a bounty of organic kai [food], but also a harvest of miraculous secrets and truths. 

The farm is a place that stimulates all senses, a sensual wonderland. The smell of eucalyptus trees after a rain, the taste sweet cherry tomatoes being eaten off the vine under the remedying sun, and the calls of wild peacocks in the distance have enriched me.

I have cherished every blissful bike ride along the Whanganui River to the farm, every irresistible, juicy piece of fruit picked from the swaying trees, every playful gust of wind that blows cap into the garden beds, and every little bug that crawls around in the active, healthy soils. I’ve cherished the stories I’ve heard and spaces I’ve been welcomed into, the knowledge I’ve been privileged to learn, and the energies I’ve gotten to intermingle with. 

A piece of learning that has truly been expanded on and stretched for me while working at the farm is that our growth and learning depend on whether or not we digest our experiences. I’ve had the space and opportunity to digest and lean into these rich experiences, a space that I haven't fully been able to give myself back home. I’ve learned how to look after myself better and fiercely protect my peace. I will be taking home with me the vision of these projects and the lifestyle I aspire to bring to my community from this wholesome, holistic blueprint. 

To describe this place in one world would be Arcadia; a mountainous region where one is immersed in peace and harmony with the earth, a place of rural simplicity and contentment. 

I’m at the end of this chapter, and oh what a lovely story it was.

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