As students and staff came back into Comsewogue High School this year, they were greeted by hundreds of beautiful sunflowers flourishing in the courtyard garden.
The difficult work of maintaining the garden over the summer rested on the shoulders of only two students who did the hard work so that their fellow students can come back to the beginning of a joyful year.
While watching these students working so hard over the summer, Marge Piercy’s poem comes to my mind.
In a verse of “To Be of Use” she writes about how much she admires those that go out and do the work — and not just talk about it, said Jennifer Quinn, superintendent of schools.
“I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again. I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along, who are not parlor generals and field deserters.”
This type of student is typical of the Comsewouge community. Quinn said that in addition to outstanding academics, many of them participate in extracurricular activities and hold down jobs over the summer and when school is in session.
No sooner were the words out of my mouth than these students who stepped up to the plate and got to work.
“They went above and beyond what was asked of them, and even tended to another garden in the courtyard as well,” said Andrew Harris, a teacher at Comsewogue. “Keep in mind that they do this on their vacation and go very early as they also have full-time job responsibilities. It’s hot, dirty, and sometimes there is nobody around to give them the accolades or words of encouragement, but that’s not what they do it for.”
Harris said he hopes to encourage more students to have this giving attitude.
“In the long run, I know they will reap the benefits of their positive proactive work,” he added.
The garden, “Jackie’s Garden,” has become a “magical place around the district,” according to Harris.
“Each year a new miracle happens here,” he said.
Since I don’t have a green thumb, perhaps the miracle is that I am the one who oversees this fabulous food and flower garden — I’ve never tried growing anything. But in all seriousness, and I know people find it hard to believe, but every year since we started our garden, these miracles continue to happen.
Harris added that, “amazingly, this year hundreds of sunflowers started popping up. The weird thing is, we did not plant even one single seed. Keep in mind, that sunflowers are not perennials, and need to be seeded each spring; so yeah, you can consider that very, very, unique.”
This year in April I started to see a little something pop up. I thought maybe a seed or two was left over from last season, somehow got buried, and they were starting to grow. I planned on doing our normal seeding with my classes in mid-May, however, by then several hundred magically started appearing! I really can’t explain how that happened and I was at a loss for words.
Harris also mentioned the sudden influx of butterflies attracted to the garden the previous year. Dr. Rella told us that sunflowers and butterflies were Jackie’s favorites. I was going to buy something called a butterfly bush which will attract them. I looked outside one day and realized I didn’t need to buy one. There was a sudden influx of new butterflies everywhere. That and other crazy things have happened around this garden. The garden has Jackie’s Comsewogue jersey overlooking it.
The year before that, Chris Friedl, the landscaper, planted two seeds to honor Joe and Jackie under the trellis. The same day hundreds of other seeds were also planted to honor our graduating seniors. Those two seeds popped up in under three days — which never happens. The other ones started to come up in about 7-10 days, which is the normal length of time for sunflower seeds to appear. So, yeah, now I believe in miracles.
“On behalf of the staff at CHS, we are so grateful for the time that Alyssa and Ashley spent beautifying our courtyard,” said Principal Mike Mosca. “Outdoor spaces are even more important than ever as we continue to navigate the challenges, we face due to COVID. Alyssa and Ashley’s efforts will give our students and staff a beautiful place to go for some fresh air.”
When asked why they did what they did, the students communicated that nothing would please them more than having their fellow students enter the building and not only be greeted with friendly faces but an array of hundreds of sunflowers smiling at them as they go about their day.
Piercy’s poem ends like this and is fitting for the students who put in the hard work, “The people I love the best jump into work headfirst without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. They seem to become natives of that element.”
Arianna Morturano is a graduate of Comsewogue High School. She is currently a student at St. John’s and work sin the district. Andrew Harris is a special needs teacher at the Comsewogue school district. Triple C stands for Comsewogue Culture Club.