My experience with the sundial

- By Olivia Bodden

“To inspire and empower youth to experience food in new ways through growing, cooking, and eating together.” That is what is engraved on the sundial in Green Plate Special’s garden.

It stands in the middle of its own little garden, encircled by white, yellow, and purple flowers. Bees and butterflies buzz happily from flower to flower, seemingly without a care in the world. If I could be an insect, I would be a fuzzy bumblebee in the Sundial Garden.

I remember the first time I really sat down in the Sundial Garden. I had been volunteering over the summer of 2020, using Green Plate Special as an excuse to get out of my house and away from my hyperactive canine little sister. This particular day, I had brought my own lunch, and I took a break from the hard work under the beating sun to eat my sad, smushed bagel with cream cheese and Cliff Bar. I looked through the garden, trying to find a spot to eat when my eyes fell upon the Sundial Garden. I walked over, sat on the little bench, and began to eat.

As I ate, I began to realize what I had been missing out on. The summer of 2020 was really the first time I had volunteered for Green Plate Special on a regular basis. Before then, I had been a student, a member of the after-school club that Green Plate Special ran in partnership with my middle school. And while I loved the experience of the clubs and workshops I did, during those, I was always doing something. Harvesting, planting, visiting the chickens. I never really had the time or opportunity to sit down and take a relaxing break in the garden.

So as I sat eating my lunch on that hot summer day in 2020, I took the time to listen. I listened to the bees buzzing past my ear, the birds chirping in the trees, the broken-up pieces of conversation that the other volunteers were having, and even the cars driving by on the nearby arterial. Some people think that the sounds of cars or planes or other man-made inventions ruin the buzzing bees and chirping birds, but I disagree. I liked the sounds of the cars and planes because they were part of the sounds of the Sundial Garden.

After I finished my food, I stood up and walked over to the sundial. I scratched away the bird poop with my fingernail so I could read the inscription. The words, “To inspire and empower youth to experience food in new ways through growing, cooking, and eating together.” were engraved around the inside rim of the sundial, and the city name and geographical coordinates were at the bottom. I smiled when I read the words. It felt like a metaphor for the whole garden. Such a modern idea is inscribed on such an ancient thing. It occurred to me that I had never seen a sundial before, except in textbooks and pictures on the internet. But I always liked sundials. I liked the concept. As the great-granddaughter of a clockmaker, I suppose it’s in my blood to like to know what time it is. I liked seeing the sundial there.

As I gathered my lunch and went back to work, I felt calm and tranquil. As the afternoon went on and I eventually went home, I kept catching myself thinking about the sundial. I suppose people think that sundials are an ancient thing, a relic of the past that you might find in a museum. Maybe they are right. Maybe sundials are ancient things. And if they are, then I think it’s fitting to see a sundial surrounded by this year’s white, yellow, and purple flowers, and the bees and butterflies floating in the breeze. Those flowers, bees, and butterflies may come and go, but the sundial will still be there next summer, and there will be more chances to eat a sad, smushed bagel and listen to the sounds of the garden.

sundial and bench in garden

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