I have a new spring accessory I’m really excited about.
Not shoes. Not a purse. Not a dress. Not jewelry. Not even a new Burt’s Bees pomegranate chapstick. But it is, in its own way, very stylish.
An orange spray nozzle for a garden hose.
A friend invited me to share a raised bed in an organic community garden smack in the middle of a thriving neighborhood, and I said yes. I’ve had community garden plots and shared garden work before. It’s brand-new for her. And we’re having a swell time.
There’s a hose there, off the back of the chiropractor’s office next door, and when the official garden overseer comes to help us and answer questions on Saturdays, he brings his excellent spray wand. But, as the old Italian guys would admonish me when I had a community garden plot in the aptly named Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh way back in the late 1980s, “A garden is like a baby. You got to take care of it every day.” So I got myself this excellent water gun. It sprays. It mists. It does more than the shower head in my own bathroom. I carry it in my car.
Last night, on my day to water the garden, I met a guy who also has a history in the newspaper business. And a neighbor across the street, who generously answered my question about the origin story of her tattoo. (Have I mentioned that I love asking and hearing people’s tattoo stories? That’s a story for another time.) And she gave me a tour of the plants in her front bed and on her front porch, some of them new seedlings, some of them third-generation plants handed down from the women in her family.
That’s putting the community in “community garden.”
There are days when my garden buddy and I stop by together. It’s kind of our yoga. We marvel that those seeds we planted a week and a half ago have poked through the ground and are growing into the plants they’re meant to be.
And there are days when I visit the garden and there’s no one to talk to. But I’m not alone.
Dad gardened. He grew up on a farm, and he kept a garden for many years on my mother’s land out in the country, and when I lived in Pittsburgh and it was time for the community garden to reopen, he would come up and help me till and plant.
When the garden overseer was interviewing us, as if vetting our fitness as foster parents — What is your experience with gardening? What are your goals for this garden? How often can you commit to coming and tending it? — I answered the second question by saying I wanted the pleasure of growing my own food, and that my work keeps me living in my head a lot, so I wanted a counterbalance, work where I use my hands, my sweat, my body.
I did not realize that perhaps the greatest benefit of doing this is that, eight months after his death, it is making me feel close to my dad, in a way that is mostly happiness and hope instead of grief and loss.
We have a decision to make. One of the heirloom tomatoes is already bearing fruit. Our first little tomato blossom! Should we let it grow, or pinch it for the flourishing of the plant? I wish I could ask Dad. He’d have an opinion, and I would trust it.
I don’t know what he would think best. But I know he would tell me his thoughts, and why, and then let the decision be mine.