As a result of a series of closed roads and traffic blocks on the way, Rachael and I made it to the arboretum a few minutes late for the start of the volunteer shift. Although I was initially worried I may have missed my chance to help out at the location, I was happy to see a small group of volunteers standing outside the gate of the area of the arboretum that would be the focus on our invasive species removal efforts, the Grady Tract. After pulling into the small parking lot near the gate, Rachael and I walked over the group and introduced ourselves. The welcoming crowd of organizers and volunteers responded in kind before explaining the same traffic issues had delayed the start of the volunteer event a few minutes. Relieved we had not delayed the group, Rachael and I chatted for a few minutes longer until the organizers addressed the group. One of the two women was brief in her explanation of our efforts, which were going to be directed at removing an invasive species know as Garlic Mustard that occupied plots of land nearest trails and roadways in the tract.
|The work truck|
Once finished with our first location, Rachael and I continued down the road and deeper into the woods in search of more Garlic Mustard stems jutting from the forest floor. At first, finding more groupings of the plant proved rather difficult, but we remained focused on seeking the Garlic Mustard out in an effort to make the most of our volunteer shift. This continued for several minutes until we stumbled upon a break in the forest that exposed a well lit patch of ground ripe with Garlic Mustard. In turn, we hammered away at each stem of the plant with our clippers until the large black garbage bag we had in tow was filled to the brim.
|Seek and destroy!|
In response to our nearly full bag, Rachael and I emerged from the woods and took stock of our invasive species removal efforts. Once we were back on the road the sight of our bag provoked an elated response from one of the volunteers, who happily exclaimed, "Whoa, that's a full one" as Rachael and I began our walk back up the road. Although our volunteer shift had been short, it was clear we had helped the arboretum crew's efforts to a great degree, which gave me a sense of accomplishment that lifted my spirits for the remainder of the day. Like the other volunteer events that have made up a part of my "I have never..." journey thus far, putting in a little time to help a great organization made me feel good and helped open me to yet another feeling of satisfaction from giving back to people and organizations that are helping make our community a better place.
|The full bag|
As our scheduled volunteer time drew to a close, Rachael and I walked back to the work truck with one of the event organizers, properly sealed our bag of Garlic Mustard, and cleaned ourselves up. Before leaving the tract, Rachael and I chatted with the organizer, who expressed her gratitude for our assistance and engaged us in casual conversation. Her warm personality and sincere thanks provided an added touch of fulfillment to the overall experience and made me feel glad I had spent a portion of my morning out in the woods today. It may not seem like much, but I'm finding something as simple as helping an organization remove weeds can leave a lasting impression on my day and my life. While I have volunteered plenty of places over the first 30 years of my life, the increased frequency of such events lately has truly left a mark. I'm only three months into this little experiment, but I know events like our volunteer shift at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum are helping me gain new perspective and hopefully helping me become a better person. There's a lot to be said for the simple things in life, and that's something I'm happy I'm starting to discover.