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Intern life — part of a living ecosystem

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice Intern Jackie Schwenk planting peppers last spring.

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice Intern Jackie Schwenk planting peppers last spring.

I was asked a while back to write a reflection on my internship, and it hit me today what I wanted to write about.

As you drive into Saint Mary-of-the-Woods there is a quaint cemetery with hundreds of identical white tablet tombstones, but as you drive further you see tens of thousands of trees each full of diverse life. There are the stout maples and the bushy pines. Each of the branches reaching in a slightly different way toward the light of the sun, and each root tangling its way through the same soil.

These trees have come to represent for me those that have shared this ground together. Some as welcoming as the willow and some as thorny as the crown on Jesus’ head. Each somehow living in a serene harmony.

While working in the gardens, I try to think of everything in a complete ecosystem. I try to tell myself that the mole under the lettuce is aerating the soil and not my mortal enemy. The rotten tomatoes help regulate the pH in the manure to make great soil for the upcoming year. I think about how I can make my own life into a balanced ecosystem and realize the importance of caring for myself and my surroundings. I can’t make enemies with every spider, and sometimes I need to rip out some morning glories and honeysuckle to help other plants thrive.

This place has taught me to look at people for the greater impact that their soul leaves behind that isn’t contained in those white tablet tombstones. We each live our lives differently — some as quickly as the lightning bug, but each soul brings beauty in its own way … memories that last through the changing seasons. And the seeds we plant today will be our sustenance and seeds for tomorrow.

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Jackie Schwenk

Jackie Schwenk

Jackie Schwenk is a former intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. Avatar Candace on October 27, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Beautiful, Jackie! Thank you for sharing.

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