They say that books can change lives. Those 6″ x 9″ pieces of paper, bound together with hopes, dreams, and persons very soul- lays the foundation to reach out and touch another human being: what a fantastic concept, the written word.
They say that gardens can bring beauty to the darkest of days. Planning, preparing, waiting, enjoying…these are the stages of any gardener. Flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruits- the world is our oyster on what we can coax to become alive!
Living in interior Alaska, I rely on books to get me through the dark and cold days. -37 degrees outside? I can pick up a book and transport myself to the swamps of South Carlione in a Diana Gabaldon novel.
No sunlight in a month and a half? I can pick up a seed catalog and flip through the numerous colorful Alaskan flowers and dream about sitting on my porch while the birds, butterflies, and bees play and dance among my flowers.
Winters are hard. It took me years to figure out how to navigate the onslaught of Mother Nature’s fury for six months and still have my sanity. So this year, 2022, feeling that I have proven myself as a professional of keeping busy indoors, I started a Book Club and a Garden Club for military families across this great state. Coming to Alaska because you want a different lifestyle, experience the harshness of reality, and survive is terrific. Becoming one with nature is way different from being told to uproot your family and move to an outlying town that may or may not have a Safeway.
With these challenges in mind, I thought I would try to make Alaska a little smaller, a little less intimidating, and maybe a bit more fun. The one thing that COIVD has taught me is the benefits of the internet and a program called Zoom! So my friend and I started a Book Club and the Garden Club late in December- having no idea what we were doing! All we knew was that if we wanted to be impactful, we needed to do something that might make us a little uncomfortable.
We designed the flyers, posted them on social media, and crossed our fingers that maybe 5-10 families would be interested. We offered to send families the January book of the month and/or a starter package of Alaskan flowers and vegetable seeds. Unfortunately, shipping can be an issue sometimes; however, we have a fantastic relationship with USPS- so we were confident that everything would arrive by March.
January 1st- I sat at my computer pretending to work but secretly refreshing the sign-up page to see if there was any interest. By 4:00 pm, no one had sign-up, and I closed my computer in defeat. Not all ideas are good ideas, right?
The following day at 4:30 am, I walked down to my office with a cup of coffee and planned to write a wonderfully funny blog about disappointment and rejection. I turned on the computer and was amazed when it started to sign at me with that annoying new sound of ‘You Got Mail.’ People signed up! It wasn’t that they didn’t want to be involved- it was that they were at work and doing what they were supposed to be doing- working!
Sixty-three families for the Garden Club!
Thirty-nine families for the Book Club!
What!!!!! Then it dawned on me I had some serious work to do. I started these clubs and was not prepared for these numbers. The laundry list of tasks to do when you begin a Book or Garden Club should be a book!
But it didn’t matter- families from across the state had reached out and said- ‘Yes, I want to be a part of this!’ And I was going to make it the best experience ever!
You are asking how you run a Garden and Book Club across that type of distance? Lots of intentional emails, Facebook posts, virtual meetings, and making it a priority to travel to the different locations to make an in-person field trip (usually to a garden or a coffee shop.) We are also working with the local Nursing homes, community gardens, and libraries to be a part of their projects- in essence bringing the military community together with the local community to create a meaningful relationship.
We are taking baby steps. It is not perfect yet. For example, we decided to change the February book…after I had already sent out 5 copies of the first pick! Does it matter? Not really! There was a group of people who spent an hour on zoom and debated, talked, laughed, and together we made it our club. What did we decide on, you ask? An easy read? A feel-good story about parenthood? Nope! We agreed on a controversial book- The Betrayal of Anne Frank- A Cold Case Investigation. We want to explore human experiences that might make us uncomfortable or upset within the boundaries of friendship!
The first virtual meeting of the Garden Club is coming up, and we are talking about Hyprodonics- a project that I am really just starting to understand and try. I don’t know if I am the perfect person for the job, but I think that together we can work out the kinks and see how it goes. Why? Because it is our Garden Club! And spring is only four months away!
This is our commitment to 2022- intentional interactions. I like the sound of that. It makes this large state seem just a bit smaller, more manageable, and not so daunting. I wish I could stay and chat more, but the computer just sang again- we have another family member! I hope I have enough seeds and/or books!