Six or seven years ago, I started thinking about how I wanted to live a life that had room inside it for a dog and a garden. I was traveling a LOT (between 1/3 and 1/2 my nights were spent in places other than my home in any given year), and the stability required for either a pet or a plant was just out of reach.
When I moved to Durham five years ago, I was still traveling a lot. But I really wanted a dog. I brought Franny home on February 1, 2016. Halfway there.
The garden part has been harder. I’ve lived in tiny apartments with no ground of my own. My friend Lauree has an entire YARD of a garden, and every now and then I got to help plant tomatoes and eat fresh figs. But my life just didn’t quite have room for a garden in it.
I know *nothing* about gardening. My grandpa Bobby had a gigantic garden when I was a kid, and I have sensory memories of planting half-runners in long, long rows and snapping beans to be canned on the back patio. At the Manassas Church, one of the first things I encountered at my interview was David Hersch tending the community garden. I planted a few things there, over the years, and mostly let David grow them.
I haven’t ever had the joy and responsibility of tending an actual garden – the planning, plotting, planting, pruning, the worrying over early frosts or threat of deer. There is an entire universe of wisdom and knowledge about how plants grow and how we humans can help them that feels massive, mysterious and also something that should be natural and built-in.
Last spring, I started volunteering at the Parktown Food Hub Garden. It is just down the road from my house, connected to a vibrant local ministry, and run by friends. Almost every element of the garden – from the ground to the seeds to the compost spread over the beds to the raised beds made from old shipping pallets – is donated or reused. It’s maintained by Lisa and a host of volunteers from all over the place in Durham.
I still don’t have a garden of my own, but I am part of one. And it is actually better, this way. I don’t have to know everything. I get to learn so much.
Right now, I’m starting basil and arugula and squash and zucchini and tomato seeds out on my tiny patio, to eventually be transplanted into bigger, broader homes in the garden. I have high hopes for these seed babies. I hope they sense how many people will get to be a part of their life over the course of the next few months: the people at ACE Hardware who donated them to us, the kids who decorated their current paper-bag homes, the rotating set of volunteers who will plant and tend them once they’re safely in the ground, the neighbors who will receive their fruit in the weekly food distributions at the Food Hub later this summer.
I still don’t have a life that is big enough for a garden. But I have, somehow, stumbled into a garden that is big enough to incorporate my life into its. Thanks be to God.