By Catherine Miller
Henry and I were drawn to Levy Park for two reasons: 1. it was the only house we could afford within our budget at the time we were looking, and 2. it was in this funky, artsy neighborhood with a farm and lots of people who grow food and have chickens and stuff.
(For the record... Levy Park has been home to a pig on a leash, chickens, goats, rabbits, and a farm in the past three years.)
But pretty soon after moving in, we got involved with the neighborhood association. As we grew to know our neighbors, the funky uniqueness of them all, we grew in our love for the area and for the neighbors themselves. "We are missionaries," I thought to myself. "This is our mission. These people. This community."
One of the ways I choose to love my neighbors is to serve them on the neighborhood board. This week, the City of Tallahassee had an Earth Week promotion to encourage neighborhoods to participate in some sort of stewardship or community-building activity. I put a few things out there to the Levy Park Facebook community and a couple of people stepped up and said they would be willing to lead us on a nature walk and pick up trash.
Because it was a neighborhood association sponsored event, we were able to borrow some equipment from the City’s neighborhood affairs department. They loaned us trash picker-uppers high-visibility vests, and they even gave us some trash bags!
I’ll admit, I was skeptical about the picker uppers at first — did we really need these long, ungainly barbecue tongs to pick up trash? — but the kids loved them, and one kid even brought his own! We had a total of 15 people join us on the walk, 10 adults and 5 children.
Two of our neighbors, Katherine Easterling (a microbiologist with a background in botany) and Liz Wilkins (horticulturist) led us in a walk and pointed out details about the plants we saw along the way.
Here, Katherine Easterling is showing Miriam Hall the spores on ferns. Miriam is looking into a magnifying glass that Katherine brought with her.
We learned that Spanish moss isn't really a moss; it's a plant! And it has flowers! Katherine pointed out the little flowers on the moss as we found them on our walk. Along Bronough Street there are plants with red berries called coral ardisia (aka coralberry). It's an invasive plant, but it also has some exciting properties that new medical research is uncovering. A researcher named Ken Blumer is studying the anti-cancer properties of the bacteria inside the leaves. It's also being studied by researchers at the University of Bonn (in Denmark) to combat asthma! On 10th Avenue, Liz pointed out the white clover in front of Ruediger Elementary and told us about how its nitrogen-fixing root nodules benefit the other plants around it.
We use the word stewardship in church a lot. Usually, we’re talking about money. But we are also called as Christians to be stewards of the earth, of God’s Creation. I used to see creation and stewardship as a highly politicized issue. Over the past few years, I’ve grown to realize that stewardship of the earth is my responsibility as a follower of Christ.
Genesis 2:15 says: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Caring for God’s creation was one of Adam and Eve’s primary tasks. For me, living out this call takes several shapes: I have a garden in my front yard, I try to recycle and reuse as often as I can, I try to buy ethically-sourced organic food and clothing as much as possible. But this week, it meant cleaning up trash in my neighborhood, learning about God’s creation from two very intelligent women, and spending time getting to know the people around me.
And thankfully, some of our missional community members decided to join us!
Psalm 24:1: "The Earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”