I love this planet. Not only do I love the diversity of its’ people, but also its’ animal and plant life. I am intrigued by the fact that the sky appears blue even though air is transparent. I am mesmerized by birds flying fearlessly hundreds, maybe even thousands of feet in the air, and wonder what they see and how it feels to have nothing under foot. Water, whether in the form of oceans, lakes, rivers or small ponds, holds a particular fascination for me. I feel an intense connection to water, a need to be around it, to feel it, touch it and listen to the soothing sounds of waves as they make their journey to shore or cascading over rocks in a woodland creek. I love flowers, with their infinite colors and shapes. I am amazed at all of the different critters attracted to the different eco-systems found in my own small yard. I like to feel dirt trickling through my fingers and observe the different creatures and insects that call it home.
Why am I telling you these things? I confess that this is what drew me to the Master Gardener program, the opportunity to learn how to preserve our natural treasures because I see how we take it for granted. We are destroying this gift, plastic bottle by plastic bottle, chemical by chemical, shopping mall by shopping mall, often without even realizing the ultimate consequences. Deer and squirrels are considered pests if they eat our plants, when in reality, it is us, who have invaded their home and continually push them closer and closer into oblivion. Someday, our descendents will only see them in old pictures. I felt if I could learn how to construct and maintain a planet friendly yard, I could at least preserve my immediate environment and in some small way, encourage others to do the same.
I am interested in any organization with similar concerns and goals and thirst to know more about their solutions. When Margaret Bergeron announced the field trip to the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, I immediately signed up. I have been to seminars at the Center, but have never taken the tour. The vision of the center is to “inspire and engage communities to promote sustainable development, utilize new technologies and enhance the appreciation of Gwinnett’s natural resources.”
We met at the center at 10:15am on Sept 14. After a brief discussion, Karen Alexander led us on a tour of this remarkable living exhibit. I was captivated with the living roof, made up of a barrier, covered with soil and finally low-maintenance plants such as succulents. Living roofs have many financial and environmental benefits. They decrease water runoff and the water that makes it to the gutter is cleaner, they hold in heat in the winter and absorb sunlight in the summer, keeping the inside cooler. Imagine, if all of the buildings had living roofs, the amount of oxygen that we could put back into the atmosphere. Karen showed us the student garden and explained that as a learning tool, the students were permitted to make mistakes and ultimately reap (or not reap) the consequences.
As we made our way to the creek, she pointed out the rain gardens, other specialty gardens and their history. We passed a rosemary tree that was at least 8 ft tall. My mouth watered as I thought about all the Rosemary Chicken I could make. As we walked down the woodland path, we took in the sights and smells of nature as intended.
We approached the creek and some of us began the ‘treacherous’ trek across the slippery rocks reaching the waterfall in the middle of the creek.
Our final adventure landed us in the Space Station Exhibit. Here, visitors can become ISS crew members for a day as they “engage in a multitude of astronaut activities”, including work, eating, sleeping, hygiene and play. At the end of the tour, we gathered in the dining area to eat our brown bag lunches and engage in discussions about what we had seen. Just think, in one day, we experienced the past, present and the future all in one remarkable place. I do not know what new adventure Margaret has planned for us. However, I do know I will say, “Sign me up” and so should you.