Discovery Park blackberry clearing

this is a write-up I did for a day of volunteering while I was at Edmonds Community College

I arrived at EdCC at noon for the carpool, one volunteer of about a dozen with whom I carpooled to brave the wind and rain to clear an invasive blackberry species from around the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park in Seattle. Our small convoy made it's way though Shoreline, then Greenwood, Ballard and Magnolia until we found ourselves in the lovely verdancy of the park. It was pleasantly serene despite the driving rain and the fact that it's located in a city of half a million. In fact, the low hanging clouds evoked an eerie beauty by obscuring the other side of Puget Sound; I, being a science fiction nerd, jokingly entertained the thought that we had passed through a warp in space and were actually by the ocean, rather than the Sound.

We entered the Center and signed into a guestbook that, among other things, provided us with insurance from the City of Seattle in case any of us were hurt while working (though everyone seemed quite saftey-conscious). A volunteer in front of me, from a group not from EdCC, asked a friend what their address was. I was a bit surprised that someone would have to ask what their address was, and wondered if they had just moved. When it was my turn to sign in, I saw why he didn't know what to put for an address: he belonged to a group of volunteers from Tent City 4. Contrary to the stereotype of homeless people as listless alcoholics, the volunteers from Tent City 4 ended up working as hard as us students.

Before beginning, Human Ecology instructor and HELP Club faculty advisor Tom Murphy gave us a brief history of Daybreak Star Center, We were then lead outside, back into the rain, where Tom Murphy and EdCC student Johhny Robbins explained to us the difference between the invasive Himalayan blackberry, and the native salmon and other native berries. The Himalayan blackberry had been imported to the Pacific Northwest to produce jam and wine, but escaped into the wild and began to dominate native species that had no adaptations against it. So, we picked up hoes and clippers, and set to work against the Himalayan.

I, along with several other people, used the hoes to uproot the blackberries--leaving behind the roots would just allow the plant to grow back. Then, the group with the clippers would follow, cutting the uprooted plant into small pieces. Finally, the blackberry pieces would be collected for mulching--if we allowed large pieces to lie on the ground, they would reroot, making a whole new bush (when told this, I though of star fish or grey goo).

We did this for three hours, getting soaked in the process. But, besides the sense of accomplishment imbued by maintaining the natural ecosystem against human mistakes, we were rewarded with pizza at the end of the work. I unfortunately wasn't able to get any pictures of the weed clearing, since heavy rain isn't the best thing for digital cameras, but I did get a few of the pizza dinner.

I, along with Johnny Robbins and EdCC student Kacie McCarty road home in CWU student and HELP Clup president Garrett Jenkins' car. As we were about the cross the Fremont Bridge, we noticed a man with a stalled car, alligator clips on his battery, but no one stopping to give him a jump. So, Garrett stopped, clamped the wires to his battery, and gave the guy a jump. As our car and the formerly-stalled car went their seperate ways, someone (I can't remember which of us) suggested that doing one good deed (i.e. maintain the ecology) puts you in the mood to do another good deed. I think this is partly true, but also think that just being in a car with friends makes you more likely to stop in the middle of a crowded road to give assistance; whereas most single-occupancy drivers were probably in a fairly foul mood, stuck in traffic with only the radio to entertain them, we had been having an engaging conversation. So, the extra few minutes to give a stranger a jump didn't feel onerous at all when we among friends.

I am actually fairly introverted, though it may not seem so when I'm sharing my thoughts on a public blog. So, for a shy person like me especially, I think this is an example of something, even more rewarding than pizza, that happens to me when volunteering: establishing friendships.

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