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Monday, September 25, 2006

Goodbye Garden

Our community garden is being shut down. There’s a “For Sale” sign blocking the gate, and the garden is riddled with holes where people have salvaged clematis, lilac, irises, and lilies. Our own plot has been empty since Saturday when I pried the thick-rooted asparagus out of the corner it was wedged in and brought it to the only sunny corner of our small backyard. Our raspberries went to a neighbor.

The saddest part Saturday was seeing the garden’s founders wandering from bed to bed asking people how they were doing and if anyone wanted a really long hose. These are folks who put a lot more heart and muscle into the garden than we did, and I felt more disappointed for them than for us. We at least have the relief of one less thing to do on a Saturday morning. The garden workdays were starting to compete with Irish dance and soccer, but I wouldn’t have quit voluntarily.

When my nine-year-old daughter first heard that the garden was to be sold, she said, “All that work, wasted.” I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t a waste. The garden gave us food for seven years. It gave us pleasure and community. We’ve gotten to know people from our neighborhood who we wouldn’t have met without the garden. For at least the last few months, we’ve had a fenced place to let Spud run around off his leash.

I think my best memory from the garden is of watching Megan plant seeds. In recent years she’s planted them in rows, but before that it was by the fist-full. When she was two she took a bag of sunflower seeds and ran around the garden dropping them willy-nilly. The following year sunflowers popped up in the most unexpected places, and for years afterwards. When at eight Megan realized that a six-foot sunflower was probably the descendant of the seeds she’d planted years ago, she laughed with wonder and pride. That’s what I hope my children got out of the garden: the wonder and pride that come from planting a seed, watering it, and months later harvesting the results.

My kids can read science books at school or learn about nature on TV, but I’m convinced there’s something they learn about life when they plant a seed and water it that can’t be learnt any other way. For starters, they learn that growth takes time, patience, and care. They also learn that even when they do everything right, some seeds survive and others don’t. Like the garden itself, some plants grow for a season and then die, but that doesn’t mean their life was wasted.


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