Saturday, July 3, 2010

Community Garden



I was going to join our community garden. For $15, you get a plot of land, say 8'x8' (but none exact) to plant whatever your heart desires for the growing season. All together in a fenced in enclosure to keep out the deer and includes a water source and some gardening implements of destruction. I was all set, ready to stake my claim, when somebody beat me to it. It seems it's easier to get a pre-WWII, rent-controlled loft in Manhattan than to get a plot in the community garden hereabouts.

So, for one more summer I'm gardening in pots. I have 2 carrots, 3 lettuces, an errant tomato that's growing out of a lily pot (don't ask me how that got sprouted) and various and sundry herbs. It may be about all I can handle. Although I really wanted those 64 square feet of earth, I probably wouldn't have given it the time that it needed. But a few stragglers in pots I can manage. Things around my house are kept best if they don't require much attention and aren't easily broken.

I wish I could say the same thing for relationships. You know, just keep it on a windowsill where it'll get sun in the morning and try to water it every few days. Maybe some fertilizer when I remember. But people aren't plants. They require constant tending. And can be broken, too, especially if you're not gentle and/or act like a bull in a china shop when it comes to people's feelings, which just maybe I do on a regular basis. Which is at least part of the reason why every so often Husband and I look at each other and go, "Where are all the people like us?" Because finding folks and making friends is work, especially if you're past the age of 5. Take our daughter. She has no compunction about walking up to a random child and going, "Hey, wanna be my friend?" And do you know, a lot of the time they do. Wouldn't that be a great way for adults to behave? "Hey, I like you. Wanna to be friends?"

Now on our fourth year in this town, we finally have what can be called a circle of friends. Mostly people with kids the same age as ours. We have play dates and outings and talk together at school events and stuff. They're not my call-at-3-in-the-morning friends, but we've helped each other out here and there. And I like walking through town and greeting people. Isn't that odd? It makes me feel a little like my grandparents, but there it is-I like it.

I know security is an illusion. Anything can happen. The economy might improve, or we might have a disastrous depression. I might have poor health or live to be 103. But after being a rolling stone for so many years, I'm starting to see the value of cultivating relationships in my local garden. Last week we, along with most of Highland Park, watched the fireworks. I passed person after person who said "Hi, how you doing?" My kid found her friends and they ran around for hours before looking up in wonder at the fireworks. We even had a bit of a scuffle, when some teenager threw a firecracker into the crowd and several people got up and told him to cut it out-no violence, no arrests, just a "stop being a moron, moron." I joked with my husband that it was like being in Pleasantville.

But this is my security, on a local level. I looked at those faces in the crowd and thought, "Would these people let me starve to death? Or would we share our food in time of need? If my daughter was lost, would they help her out? If they had a problem with me, would they tell me directly?" And I think yes, they would. Because we're not just faceless neighbors who disappear into our climate controlled houses at 5:45 every evening and don't reemerge until 6 the next morning. You can keep your bunker, your ammo, your 15 year supply of TVP and bottled water. I'm betting that the best investment is in the garden I'm cultivating here.