“Thai Basil and Cucumbers” by Raquel C. Batista of FIU at Deering Estate
Emily, Garcia, Trujillo, Andres, and of course, Rose.
Just a few names from the incredibly kind and amazing crew of the historic Charles Deering Estate. I once told someone, “Art matters to me, but people matter to me more.” This holds true for the Deering Estate. Although art is specifically characterized as a construct of mankind, some find other ways to interpret it. For instance, art can be defined, not by the creator, but by the audience. Nature is obviously not a manmade concept. It is beyond our power, and yet there are people who see the art within nature. I am one of them. The beauty in the diversity of habitats is breathtaking. Sights such as mountain-shaped clouds, birds flying across vanilla skies, and manatees wading through murky waters can make even the coldest heart stir. The Deering Estate encapsulates this seamlessly. The Stone House and Richmond Cottage are splendid to view, but the true essence of the estate is found in its natural grounds and people. My initial experiences with the estate were memorable, but it was not until I was able to associate myself with its team that I was truly able to appreciate the Deering Estate.
I volunteered for two events: the 7th Annual Vintage Auto Show and Gardening and Weeding.
The 7th Annual Vintage Auto show:
As Vanessa Trujillo took the volunteers on a quick tour of the estate and assigned us our roles, I patiently waited for the opportunity to fill the position of front entrance attendant. I know where my strengths lie, in communicating and working with people, so I was eager to jump on this role. Here I met Ana, a sweet high school junior, Vanessa Garcia, an energetic Deering Estate employee, and the “big boss,” Emily. For the duration of my shift, we engaged with families and friends eager to feast their eyes upon gorgeous vintage automobiles (gorgeous ranging from completely restored, polished, and shiny, to mechanically restored and decorated with a farmer’s taste). Oh, my goodness, there is no doubt that I fell in love with the estate on this day. People do matter to me. The diversity of mankind, from its energy and warmth to coldness and rudeness, is the reason why they are so interesting to observe, interact with, and befriend.
Gardening and Weeding:
I, unfortunately, tend to underestimate morning traffic. This was the case on my gardening day, and I arrived thirty minutes late. An enjoyable aspect of the Deering Estate team is how relaxed everyone is. Upon arrival, I met a security guard who directed me to a landscaping lead, Andres. He guided me to the volunteer area, informed me that Rose would meet me shortly, and jump started me on weeding the plants. I can’t remember the last time I gardened, so to fully enjoy my experience, I started without gloves. Rose passed by early on and advised that I wear gloves. She saved me. If it wasn’t for her recommendation, I would have been bitten by red ants. My shift comprised of me calmly weeding several tables of plants. I took a “step back” and appreciated the sound of the school children laughing in the background, the rain water dripping onto me, the insects buzzing around me, and the cloudy sky protecting me from the sun. After months of nothing but panic attacks, mental breakdowns, endless tears, stress and frustration, I was able to compartmentalize from all of it in these four hours of bliss. Rose enriched my mind with her knowledge of plants. She even gifted me little cucumbers accompanied by their seed pods and a Thai basil plant (which I securely strapped into a seatbelt on our way home.)
Andres inquired if I intended to find a job at the Deering Estate. I explained that I was only there that day to complete an art project. Although he expressed disappointment, I reassured him that I greatly enjoy volunteering at the estate and to expect to see me again in the future. I thanked everyone for their time and assistance, but my biggest thanks goes to Professor Bailly. With your class, I have been given the opportunity to learn of and experience a different form of art, one that incorporates serene nature and beautiful people. Thank you.