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James and His Listening Ears

By Robin Buyers

The Rushton Road steps of St. Matthew’s United Church are often a community gathering

space: for Wychwood Open Door guests who enjoy lunching outside, for parents who wait for children at Dance Collective classes, for Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan gardeners. At the latest Work Bee, our littlest gardener, James, began his afternoon sitting on the steps with Listening Ears ready to hear about nibi bimaadiziwin/water is life.

The story told, James put on his gardening gloves and was presented with tools for his tasks: a child-sized watering can (green, as requested) and the smallest of the Crew’s trowels. First up for he and his family was the creation of a new Birdie Bath” from a glass bowl set with Georgian Bay stones on a repurposed side table. James counted, carried, and put in place each of the 7 stones that will offer birds and butterflies places to perch as they drink.

Filling his watering can from the hose before filling the bowl meant James ended up wet from head to toe, happily squishing his crocs with every step. “Birdie Bath” complete, taking on the We’re Growing Cookies! bed in the Children’s Garden came next. After a Tobacco offering for the Earth with thanks to Creator, James dug any-which-way while

Michael and Amanda helped, taking out the bossy and bully plants to ready the bed for little Hippos to sow a miniature wheat field.

James had something to plant himself: Arikara yellow bean seedlings started on an Earth Month Family Faith Friday. Encouraged to put on his Listening Ears once more, he learned how to dig the right-sized hole, then gently, gently move each seedling from pot to summer home in the Right Relations Food & Medicine Garden. Cherokee purple tomato seedlings came next, and James decided that hands dug better than trowels. What had been wet shoes, shorts, and t-shirt, quickly became even dirtier. James couldn’t

care less: he was having a blast.

One last time for Listening Ears to learn what plants need to grow strong: soil, sun, water, and love. James chose a red watering can, and lovingly gave each of the seedlings he’d planted a drink. Thoroughly wet and dirty, he said goodbye from his father’s arms. “Good listening,” said Amanda. “We learned how to do gardening.”

James and his family were joined at the Victoria Day Weekend Work Bee by Robin and Michael Buyers, Lara Huntsman, Katie Meyer, Preston Walberg, and Stephanie Wiatr. Thank you to everyone. If you’d like to spend some time helping in the garden this summer, please let the Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Leadership Team know at

More reflections to follow on what’s happening in the healing garden and the people who make it so as the 2024 season unfolds.


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