Landis Portraits: Chandra and Emma Burkhart

By Nolan Marciniec

For Chan­dra Burkhart and her daugh­ter Emma, the Arbore­tum has pro­vid­ed a focal point amid the blur of every­day life.

Chan­dra is cur­rent­ly in a degree pro­gram in dig­i­tal media, com­bin­ing tech­nol­o­gy and art, at Hud­son Val­ley Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege – in addi­tion to work­ing full-time in the IT depart­ment at the col­lege and rais­ing two teenage chil­dren. She finds both peace and a lit­er­al focus at the Arbore­tum: the Great Oak and the swamp have giv­en her some mem­o­rable pho­tographs for her course work. 

Like moth­er, like daugh­ter. Emma, a junior at Duanes­burg High School, takes time from a busy sched­ule of school­work, track and field, and dra­ma club to walk the trails at Lan­dis, some­times with a friend, and to vol­un­teer with Chan­dra at Arbore­tum events. She’s also worked behind the scenes, help­ing Gail Brown­ing and Louise Pol­li put out lunch­es for the oth­er volunteers.

The Burkharts have been root­ed” in Duanes­burg for more than 20 years. Chan­dra and her hus­band Rich built a home with reclaimed tim­bers from a 19th Cen­tu­ry chair and cra­dle fac­to­ry in Mass­a­chu­setts. Chan­dra grows veg­eta­bles for her fam­i­ly in raised beds, nur­tur­ing her plants from seeds. She also cul­ti­vates sev­er­al peren­ni­al gar­dens – stocked with many plants from the Arboretum’s two annu­al plant sales. She main­tains two mem­o­ry gar­dens,” plant­ed with flow­ers whose names recall those of depart­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers – phlox David’ and hele­ni­um, for example.

When Emma and her broth­er Albert, now 13, were younger, the fam­i­ly spent time at the Arbore­tum, and the chil­dren par­tic­i­pat­ed in sev­er­al of George Steele’s nature pro­grams. Chan­dra attend­ed work­shops and, as her gar­dens grew, she was drawn to the plant sales. Then, a few years ago, Chan­dra and Emma start­ed to work at those sales.

First, it was just unload­ing trucks – and Chan­dra notic­ing spec­i­mens that she just had to have. And then it was writ­ing tick­ets, cash­ing out cus­tomers. Chan­dra said that she began to learn so much just by lis­ten­ing, by ask­ing ques­tions … by talk­ing to peo­ple.” Emma added that she was impressed that peo­ple cared so much” about the place and admit­ted that she had fun, even with the man­u­al labor – and there will always be her favorite peace­ful spot, look­ing out over the Schoharie Valley.

Both will be back for the Spring Plant Sale, that’s for sure. Chan­dra has joined the Gar­den Club and the prop­a­ga­tion team. This year, she will be head­ing up the bake sale after Phyl­lis Olsen’s many years of ser­vice. And she’ll be bring­ing her in-laws to the sale.

Both moth­er and daugh­ter com­ment­ed on the peace they found at the Arbore­tum. Chan­dra said that when she’s there, the stress is gone. There are no horns honk­ing, no phones beep­ing .… It’s a retreat. There’s so lit­tle peace left in the world these days.” A native of urban Detroit, she not­ed that she real­ized how impor­tant it was for the Arbore­tum to pre­serve open green spaces, as well as to pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for fam­i­lies to par­tic­i­pate in the nat­ur­al world together.

Focus: a com­ing togeth­er – for the Burkhart fam­i­ly and many oth­ers. At the Arboretum.

Spring 2016

Volume 34 , Number 2

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