U-M music student Morgan Wynne talks about her experiences at Matthaei-Nichols as the social media and exhibits intern.
I can’t tell you how nervous I was for the first day of work.
On May 4, I put on a new skirt and riding boots (it was still relatively chilly, people), tucked in my new, soft, and still pill-free logo t-shirt and headed off to Matthaei Botanical Gardens. I parked my car up in the overflow lot at 6:57 AM (33 minutes early) wondering which door to head into as I carefully put on my deep pink lipstick. Meandering down the hill, I followed some staff and interns at a safe distance. About a half hour later I walked into room 125, grabbed a bagel from the selection of munchies provided by Matthaei as welcome treats, and sat down quietly in a corner. Here I was: not knowing anyone. But it seemed that everyone knew each other! After a few introductions, we toured the grounds. We discussed the various gardens and my musician brain did the best it could to pick up on all the different invasives, native plants, and science jokes bouncing around.
This summer I worked 50/50 as the social media intern and the exhibits research intern. Why’d I take this position? I love social media. I think it is fascinating. People argue that social media separates people, makes us zombies. But I think that when it is used correctly, social media brings us all together. Today we can share information incredibly quickly and make connections with a single tap. My challenge this summer was to use social media as a way to bring people together to enjoy nature. To put their phones away, except for maybe a few selfies (next time you post, remember to use #umichNATURE).
I expected to work mostly alone, not knowing anybody anyway. But I discovered that there’s more music and friendship here than one might think. Over the course of the summer, I met some fascinating people with even more intriguing stories to tell. For example, did you know that parts of the agave that bloomed last year are being used to make musical instruments? Sections of the stalk are currently being fashioned into flutes thanks to professor Michael Gould at the U-M School of Music and a San Francisco-based Japanese flute maker. Ryan Gates, a local musician, is drying another section of the agave stalk to make into a didgeridoo. He even had plans to propose to his fiancée at Matthaei while the agave was in bloom!
|Local musician Ryan Gates inspects a portion of the
agave stalk he hopes to use to make a didgeridoo.
There’s drama here, too, of the theater kind. Shakespeare in the Arb is a hugely popular event we hold each June that seamlessly combines nature with theater. This summer, Shakespeare in the Arb celebrated its 15th-year anniversary with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hundreds of people visit the Arb every summer to enjoy this show in its unique setting.
|A scene from the summer 2015 Shakespeare in the Arb
production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It goes beyond music and theater at the Arb and Gardens. Nature has been the inspiration for countless works of art: from U-M School of Music, Theatre, and Dance professor Jessica Fogel’s dance performances promoting environmental stewardship, to the U-M and Washtenaw Community College art classes that visit the Conservatory to sketch. Nature helps humans to express themselves through art, dance, music, written and spoken word, yoga, meditation, and more.
The friends I’ve made here this summer are some I will never forget. They’re brilliant people with great minds and kind hearts. They graciously let me stick my camera into their faces on countless occasions while asking them every little detail about what they were doing. They’ve taught me so much without making me feel insecure about my lack of plant knowledge, too. When I accidentally pulled a milkweed thinking it was a weed while off on some tangent (oops), Erin, another intern, helped me replant it. Jacob, an intern as well, patiently taught me how to plant different kinds of seeds on the farm. Marissa, who worked this summer as the Gaffield Children’s Garden intern, was always a ray of sunshine when I was stuck inside on a particularly nice day editing photos. Jared’s calm, levelheaded demeanor was always an inspiration to me, as my emotions generally tend to control my actions. And I think everyone would agree that our volunteer coordinator Yousef Rabhi’s jokes and positive attitude were the best part of lunch everyday. I met so many people this summer that welcomed me into their lives and made me feel like I belonged at the Gardens and the Arb, even though, as a U-M music student, I typically spend my day in a practice room poring over dots and dashes on a piece of paper.
|A soecial program of yoga offered in the Arb in July.|
To the numbers: this summer, we gained 263 Instagram followers, 141 Twitter followers, and 1,010 Facebook likes; well over a thousand more people brought back to nature through the use of technology. In between posting on our social media sites I spent time researching the upcoming winter exhibit about how plants contribute to—even change—our lives.
|A summer sunrise captured by the author on her morning walk
into work from the field lot at Matthaei.
Though I was usually kept busy inside documenting the happenings here and helping to plan the exhibit and talk about ways we could use social media to promote it, the best part of my day was always enjoying the walk from my car at sunrise.
(All photos by Morgan Wynne.)
Morgan Wynne, from Midland, Michigan, is a senior at the University of Michigan studying music theory and music performance in horn. Morgan is working as an intern in the marketing and education departments.