I did not do much of the labor which has resulted in the bounty of our Community Garden. I had the idea, requested the allocated space, secured the cooperation of the Park, and encouraged the young and the able-bodied in their efforts. Most evenings I go down to the garden to water or do some mild weeding. Other women carry the weight of the effort. Sarah, Jessie, and Ken built two of the beds; John from the park built the first of them and hauled the good rich earth for us. Sarah fashioned the bean trellis from willow branches, and carved the signs which mark each row.
But I share the bounty. I eat the lettuce in my salads and saute the chard. This evening, I will toss fried zucchini with butter and mushroom for my dinner. I breathe the air which seems sweeter under the rising bows of the living trellis. I let the western light bathe my face as the soaker hoses do their work.
We have a little patch of flowers. Rose contributed the seeds. Sarah opened the packets, spreading the contents with wild abandon. We’ve all pulled creeping grass to protect the tender growth. I bought a stone plaque from the local potter.
Walking back from the garden, my neighbor Jessie keeps her arm extended. I know I can lean on her if I need assistance over the rough ground. That knowledge sustains me, like Dumbo’s feather or Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Or, for that matter, like the slender whip which I retrieved from the ground today, before Jessie arrived. I found myself teetering on the hillside by the water spigot. With the meager guide of a long thin branch, I scooted to safer ground. That stick could not have held my weight. But somehow I felt assured, gripping it, letting its tender tip drag on the ground beside my stumbling feet.
Our garden grows with grace and glory. It drinks the water which we provide and soaks the rays of the afternoon sun. Rich Delta soil nurtures the roots. The stalks rise higher than we could have imagined. Despite my meager contribution to the creation of this place, I take much comfort from its burgeoning contours.
It’s the twenty-third day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
The Sleep of Seeds
It didn’t rain all summer.
Instead of water, my father used prayer
for his garden. Despite his friends’ laughter,
he planted spinach and lettuce,
countless rows of cucumbers
in beds lined up meticulously
ignoring old people’s warnings
about the drought.
Every afternoon, he pushed his hat back,
wiped off his sweat,
and looked up at the empty sky,
the sun scorching
the acacia trees shriveling in the heat.
In July, the ground looked like cement.
Like the ruins of a Roman thermal bath,
it kept the vestiges of a lost order,
traces of streams long gone.
He yelled at me to step back
from the impeccable architecture
of climbing green beans,
the trellis for tomatoes,
although there was nothing to be seen,
no seedlings, no tendrils,
not even weeds,
just parched, bare ground—
as if I were disturbing
the hidden sleep of seeds.
— Lucia Cherciu, from Edible Flowers