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Behold: The Weed Coffin

On Friday, June 12, we closed on Huss School. On Tuesday, June 16, Rob and I hit the road for a two-week speaking tour. The two weeks since our return from the tour have been a whirlwind of trying to catch up and stay on top of the many projects that have converged on us all at once this summer, in addition to trying to negotiate a shaky housing situation for us here in Grand Rapids. And so, finally spending two hours tending to (part of) the lawn at Huss School this past Saturday felt like a great accomplishment.
Weed coffinRob worked with a borrowed mower while I trimmed and weeded. Even though we were exhausted from an already-full day of physical labor, it felt good to begin to engage more intimately with the property than just the tours we and others have taken of the building itself. The next few years will definitely be a process of getting to know the cracks in the sidewalk, the curves of the lawn, the species of weeds that spring up naturally when no one is looking. My work gloves once again bear the familiar scent–I think it smells like peanut butter–of the Tree to Heaven sprouts that I used to pull from my great grandparents’ property in Indiana. I had brought a metal bucket with me for collecting weeds, but soon realized that it was way too small. In the school are a number of blue plastic bins that were used for storing teaching supplies, so I hauled one out and filled it up. Half-joking, I told Rob that this box would forever remain with the Huss School property and heretofore be known as The Weed Coffin: where weeds go to die.
I’ve been feeling stressed out lately about caring properly for the property, especially when it seems to be such a draw for vandalism. There have been three more broken windows since we closed and imagining what’s happening there beyond our control keeps me up at night. But as repetitive labor often does, I had some clarity while I was pulling out the tallest weeds along the front of the school: I need to pray for God’s protection around the space as we work to transform inclinations toward destruction into a sense of community ownership. I met Officer Huhnke from the Three Rivers Police Department while we were there and he kindly offered to let his shift know about the change in ownership and help watch over the property.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working on finding a donated or reduced price mower–riding, as it took Rob two hours to do just the front with a push mower and, if we’re really fortunate, a diesel model so we can work with biodiesel for fuel. Once we have the tools in place at the school, someone has offered to help supervise volunteers or perhaps folks from the local probation office for ongoing maintenance, which will be a great start for the community ownership we need, both for us personally and for the good of the project in the future.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.