Last year a friend of mine, a visionary, with a quick smile and an even quicker mind, suggested we share a garden spot.
“It’s part of the community garden. We each get our own little plot and we can grow our own vegetables and it will be fun. You’ll see.”
“No,” I said.
“Why?” she questioned.
A bigger woman, a stronger woman, and one who stood up for herself at all costs would have looked her friend in the eye and said, “Because I don’t want to, that’s why.”
But I did not. I simply kept my eyes downcast at my coffee cup and said, “I dunno.”
“We’ll start, Tuesday, after work,” she said.
“No,” I said again, but feebler this time. She smiled and graciously said nothing, but we both knew it would happen.
The day we planted, it was raining so hard we planted our hopes, our dreams and the last bag of seed potatoes we could find at Canadian Tire in pure, unadulterated mud. It was only later we discovered that the mud was actually clay, not capable of growing much more than weeds.
It seemed to rain a lot after that. I put my hoe and my rake in my car and the kids climbed over them when they piled into my backseat without asking any questions.
As for me, I kept a vision in my head of me stopping by the garden after work, looking all chic and work-like. As I stepped out of my car, which would be barely dirty, I would walk purposefully among the neatly weeded rows, pulling up a few plump, juicy carrots, hacking off some lettuce (I forgot to mention about the knife and bowl which I had thoughtfully thrown in that morning because of the planning 101 course, I just finished) and topping off my bounty with green onions, and juicy red radishes.
“I could do with a second crop of radishes,” I would muse to myself as I head home.
Later, I toss together a fresh salad. Freshly tossed. Freshly picked. Freshly ready.
I sip on a glass of red wine incredibly pleased with my little ole gardening self.
Of course, none of that happened.
This is what really happened.
The soil of the garden was rock hard clay. The beets I planted, however, flourished and, although my kitchen looked like I had murdered someone in it after I was done, the borscht soup I concocted from the fruits of my labour was delicious.
The community garden did not produce the amount of vegetables I had hoped for, but it definitely increased my social circle.
After watching me with my hoe trying to create something out of nothing, the couple from across the alley graciously invited me over to their place. Their yard was a delightful patchwork of gentle perfection, invaded with beautiful things like flowers and butterflies and some kind of cascading waterfall.
They graciously invited me for tea. I brushed my grubby hands on my even grubbier jeans and accepted. And as I sipped tea in a fragile china cup with friends who were strangers only two rows of lettuce ago, I was glad I took part in that community garden.
They seemed to like me even though the weeds I chopped and hit and cursed at flourished better than my carrots.
During my season as a gardener, I also learned that the best way to get the heavens to open up with great torrents of rain is to even think about going out to the garden to weed. It’s like the universe laughs until it cries.
And so, for me, do the pros outweigh the cons regarding the community garden?
Weirdly, they do!
— ON THE OTHER SIDE