I took the last final exam yesterday, turned in the last written project, gave the last presentation; my semester has now come to a close. What an amazing five months I have had. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm one lucky girl. To get to go back to school, at my age, with two children still at home, with the kind of expenses we have in the Bay Area - well, I'm just so fortunate to have the most understanding husband and family ever. I'll take the summer off to drive the kids around to their various activities, and start at Merritt again in the Fall. I'm already signed up for three classes: Arboriculture, Soil Nutrition, and Plant Terminology, and by Christmas, I should have my first certificate. I can hardly wait to get started again, that's how much I'm enjoying myself.
I have the comfortable feeling of knowing I'm exactly where I need to be at exactly this moment. All paths have led here. I am sitting at the feet of the masters, these wonderful teachers, who are all not just teachers but employers and managers and business owners. The brilliant part of this horticulture program is most of the teachers are also working in the business. This gives all of us students such a well-rounded education; we learn all the biology, the ecology, the taxonomy for heaven's sake, and at the same time we learn the trends of landscaping, the ways in which the state of California is monitoring the water usage of certain plants, the nuts and bolts of dealing with clients, and how to make a living. It's just the perfect mix of academics and business.
At the moment it's the academic stuff that interests me most. It's been more fun than I can say to be re-learning plant biology at the same time my 9th-grader is learning it for the first time. It's been great to find out technical names for parts of plants and to learn how fertilizers actually work. But the best part, by far, is being around these professors and soaking up their knowledge. And gosh, they know so much. So much more than I think my head can ever hold.
My weeds class, in particular, has been a great source of learning, and that's due mostly to my teacher, Stew Winchester, who has spent all of his life roaming the hills and valleys of California, and knows simply everything there is to know about how the state was formed geologically and about every single plant and tree. It's also due to the fact that we go to a different location each week and take a hike, looking at all the natives and exotics all around us. There are no words to describe how fun it is to take a walk in the hills with 20 other plant geeks, being led by a sensei who can answer every single question you have about what you're seeing. It's immediately satisfying and I'm not sure I really know why. I know I've always liked to be able to give names to things, and slowly, slowly, I'm absorbing this knowledge.
I've always talked about how much I like craftsmen - folks who are the best at what they do, whether it be making jam or weaving cloth or building barns - and I'm finding I also really appreciate craftsmen of the mind - people who know a lot about a certain subject. This class was kind of like a wheel, with Stew at the center of the hub, and all the students the spokes - each one having a little bit of expertise in all kinds of different subjects - one a birder keeping us aware of all the birds we were seeing, one an expert in the medicinal value of certain weeds, several professional landscapers hoping to build even greater knowledge, and people like me, with a little bit of information about a lot of different subjects (I was often called 'the bee lady' and was called over every time we saw an interesting bee or a wasps' nest).
It made me wish everyone had this kind of a forum for whatever interests them. It made me appreciate all the classes for lay-people that we have attended, in everything from sausage-making to propagating plants from cuttings. It has made me appreciate the student-teacher dynamic, and how teachers are all around us, in many different forms. It made me appreciate that everyone is an expert at something. And what is clearer than ever is that there is ALWAYS more to learn, no matter how old or experienced we get.
As I go about my summer, this Spring semester will never be far out of my head. It's like an awakening, really, of what is possible. There are so many futures to choose from. It's like being 18 again. What am I going to focus on? How shall I use my skills? These are questions I cannot answer yet, but I know that the answers WILL come, as long as I keep an open mind and continue to learn. Meanwhile, I'll be putting some new skills into practice, in our own garden. Summer is nearly here, with its mountains of produce to be processed, and fall planning is not far behind.
Maybe there's something you've been wanting to learn or to explore, but maybe you've been nervous to get out there and give it a try. Consider this a rousing endorsement and encouragement to go for it. I'm guessing that you will feel just like I am feeling - enormous with knowledge and possibility!