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Reading, Writing and Gardening – In Prison

:    Reading, Writing and Gardening – In Prison

When you find out you’re going to prison one of the first things many people talk about is how much you’ll be able to read and that you should write a book.  To a degree, they’re right.  No matter how hard I tried, my life before prison didn’t include time for writing, or much reading.

Yet, here I am around 9pm sitting on my bunk bed, writing on a legal pad, about to read several letters that came to me today.  Then I will be picking up a novel to read until I fall asleep.  It is actually as relaxing and centering as it sounds, there’s a calming effect to this evening routine I have developed.

It is a shame that it took going to Federal Prison for me to achieve this, but better late than never.  The same goes for my 6:30am sunrise walks.  I always liked the idea of getting up early to enjoy the crisp air, morning dew and tranquility of a quiet stroll, but infrequently did I make that happen.  I was really good, however, at thinking about how tomorrow would be the day that I would begin!  It took Federal Prison, and the limitations of controlled movements and covid restrictions to push me outside in the early morning hours.  There are two hawks that built a nest in a tree on the edge of our rec yard.  When the morning sun shines through the trees at a low angle and the hawks are active it’s a beautiful start to the day.  Go out in the afternoon, however, and the nest is hidden from view in the washed out light of the overhead sun.

So yes, it is cliche to be in prison and write about how much solace you find in reading, writing and waking up early.  But once you’re here it isn’t about filling some idea of how someone should serve time, but finding serenity in whatever works well for you.

After I read and write this evening, and after my morning walk, I will report to the Horticulture department for work duty at 7/13/21

7:45am.  I don’t have to deal with traffic, or even a car.  I walk there at a leisurely pace, with the relaxed stride that comes naturally when I’m wearing government issued steel toe boots that weigh 2lbs each.

Our “office” is filled with plants – aloe vera, pony tail palms, spider plants, and jade.  Every morning we make a plan of what we are going to tackle for the day and what zone of the compound we will be in.  It feels good to be part of a team for my work duty, it makes incarceration feel less lonely, and we all take pride in what we do, which brings us together.  Each of us wear old leather Felco brand “holsters” that hold our clippers.  It’s weird, but once I put those on my belt and load up my clippers I am instantly in a better mood.  We are outdoors, gardening, and making the compound look better instead of whining about being here.  My attitude at this point in time is that anyone can complain their way through a prison sentence, but how many people leave a prison looking better than they found it?  The Horticulture department is my key to being the later.  Just because I want to work hard while I’m here does not mean I do not miss the people I love.  I think it’s okay to take pride in the place I live, even if it’s not my ideal choice of residence.

There is also a freeing feeling when work has nothing to do with money, quotas or deadlines.  Maybe not forever, as I like the grind, but for the amount of time I find myself in this hiatus I am going to take this opportunity to walk away from these professional stressors and show up to work to simply…work.  We don’t talk about weekend plans, what new car so and so just bought, or anything related to material possessions.  We actually just talk about life, plants, trees, projects and we work – and it’s enjoyable.

I miss Molly, I miss my family, I miss Boise and everyone there.  I don’t want my upbeat attitude to convince anyone otherwise – I am only trying to make the best of this situation I find myself in so I come out wiser and only for the better, not the worse.  And when that time comes, and I am released, I’m going to buy that same leather holster, those exact clippers, and I’ll have them with me every time I garden.

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