Tending a Small Section of Garden

Check out Kamene’s blog on our MLK light weatherization event:

Comfort, noun: A state of physical ease and freedom from pain and constraint; things that contribute to physical ease and well-being. “Comfort” as defined by the Google Dictionary.

Juliet and Kamene wrapping a water tank
Juliet and Kamene wrapping a water tank
Kamene installing window plastic
Kamene installing window plastic

I saw comfort as the primary service our Energy Corps cohort provided this past MLK Day in Billings and Red Lodge. We performed light weatherization, “winterization,” lining doors with weatherstripping against penetrating winds and insulating windows in stead of porous single pane. The realistic outcome of home winterization is a relative increase in the comfort of inhabitants rather than significant energy savings. Upon request or permission, we bundle up water tanks, insulate outlets, replace faucet aerators and shower heads or installed CFLs.


We do all of this in an individual or family’s “safe place”, their “castle,” the one space where privacy and self-autonomy should be guarantees. Especially when economic lack or inaccessibility limit how much control and power people in their lives, the significance of home as a safe, private space to fulfill private agencies and dreams, was inherently clear to me. Our intentions and behavior, intentional or aural, immediately come under the umbrella of conscious, social, and interpersonal work. As we are welcome to the home, our behaviours cue us as either trespassers or visitors – the fact that we offer “help” and enter, under prior permission from the individual does not excuse or otherwise change this fundamental context.


It was also during training that our program director encouraged us to find our niche to better weatherize a home in a timely manner.  Alex had the windows, Juliet had faucets, lights and prep, and I, the doors. Throughout our service, measuring, cutting and drilling weather stripping into place served as a challenge that contained and reflected my conception of our roles. How snug? This snug. How close, just this short or, considering this space between door and frame, just this far. That external door is an entrance and exit to that home’s emotional, spiritual and physical envelope. We had access to these open sesames, worked between these thresholds. It doesn’t feel like labour, really, in the classic respect. The metaphysical element of that work. It is like working in a garden, working with living elements or things bound so critically & subtly, to lives and living, to contingencies and shifting, to latent possibilities.


Then again, I am tending a small section of a garden which, when I look up, stretches far beyond the horizon and in every direction. My eyes only recognizes a few of the many budding and dying flora because my understanding of vast gardens of lack, poverty, and inaccessibility is limited.


And, it is a privileged work. To gain access to thresholds, to dip in and dip out and be offered the emotional capitol of bestowing help without the sweat of sharing in struggle. As deeply as I felt my engagement with the energetics of our circumstances, I also felt the distance between us, the temporal nature of our service. The lack of investment pricks at me. We only commit to the door, the lights, to educating on energy savings they may not have the time, money or other necessary resources to implement, then we leave. Then we go back to our host sites, to writing, making calls, attending meetings. I wonder, where are the front lines?


This experience shoved me outside of myself, my focus on the act of service itself, and back into a critical view of the frameworks that undergird this circumstances. Leading questions to that widened aperture: Why does this door need weatherstripping, and the window an additional sealant? Why isn’t their daughter’s room insulated? One home owner has light blindness and LEDs are the only lighting solutions with which she can see. Our boxes of CFLs exacerbated her blindness, proving to be worse solutions than incandescent. Our service on this past MLK Day was but a small section of a garden and, one of the more robust and better watered in the field.


This shock “back to reality” brought me to the consideration of my service term. My goals for energy education through the DEQ. In which ways do I provide necessarily physical and metaphysical comfort, that transgress the underlying forces that create such an ailing garden?

Kamene DO.Kamene Dornubari-Ogidi has an academic background in neurobiology, GIS, and historical analysis primed post-baccalaureate volunteer work in water quality analysis for a non-profit utility and environmental advocacy. Recent experience in policy and project management includes State legislative lobbying with the Sierra Club and work as projects intern with a healthcare consulting firm. Kamene has nearly two years teaching experience as a substitute teacher and a summer facilitator at a STEM robotics camp. Kamene is serving with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, assisting in public information outreach projects. These projects include writing and updating web-based resources that highlight state programs and initiatives and developing educational material for targeted outreach.

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