This place is more a prayer than a garden
A piece of the planet so long abused for the sake of human progress
Sparkplugs are more common than worms in the earth here. If you can call it earth. This conglomeration of dirt and concrete and car parts and plastic pieces and broken glass. This pit where dirty automobile oil has been sopped up and vitality of life has long been forgotten. This place is where I want to build a garden.
So to the old abandoned factory lot I bring in compost and discarded tree parts to hold the soil in place. I bring in seeds and a hose.
I plant a prayer
Terry Tempest Williams entitled her latest book “Finding Beauty in a Broken World”. And this is exactly what I have set out to do here.
This place is lifeless and I want to bring life back to this point on the planet. I want to heal what is broken.
Inside and out
I put a blue plastic tarp in the back of my chevy astro van, buy a cheap shovel from the neighborhood hardware store and get to work filling up my van with composted suburban lawn debris. Day after day, load after heavy load I go back and forth from the recycling center in Morristown to the factory lot in Boonton until I just can’t shovel anymore. Until the dirt is so far lodged in the van door that it won’t shut. Until the compost pile has become a big mass of muck. Until I got a phone call from my mother asking that I take her to the hospital. Her blood pressure is 80/50 and the visiting nurse was insistent that she go to the emergency room.
Big black leather boots
Big black rubber treads on big black leather boots
Glossy waxed white sterile hospital floor
Antiseptic antibiotic hygienic controlled environment
Mud ripped clothes rustled hair wild microorganisms
Finding Beauty in a Broken World
I planted seeds
Water fell from the sky
Death and disease lingered around the edges of my world
The seeds sprouted. Life bursting forth from the mysteries of the dark earth. A salad was eaten of spicy arugula, freckled lettuce, dark green spinach, mustard greens, and red russian kale. All it takes is some nurturance of micronutrients, water and sun. Vibrant green life entered me, invigorated me, brought love and gratitude to my heart and nourishment to my body
30 year old woman, cardiac arrest, maybe it was the alcohol mixed with the anti-depressants, maybe it was the years of bulimia, maybe it was just a mistake, but the fact remained that a loved one was dead.
Groundhogs devour the garden. All life that had sprouted was gone. Depressed and determined I erected a fence.
Peas, beans and greens sprouted
Rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain
Rain rain rain
No light, no sun, no growth
Critters comes and eat it all (again)
Then one day the sun came out. I watched after weeks of rain how 2 days of sun can create such a burst of life. I build trellis’ for the peas.
Erect a bigger fence
More seeds planted
More time in the hospital with mom
Another young loved one dies in a car accident
Uncle dies of sudden heart attack
Critters eat whatever grows (again)
Another fence around the fence. Tomatoes and herbs that were started indoors go out.
I have planted something here
And it wasn’t what I thought it was
Grubs, wire worms, ground hogs, wasps, ants, dragonflies, robins, beetles, crows, flies, rabbit, cat, bees
The food on this ground would have been toxic to me anyhow.
I am growing hope
Life carries on
In this lot of death and toxicity, these critters come and thrive now. In those quiet moments of hopeless despair, I know that I have provided refuge for fellow beings on the planet. When their world looks like it is being gobbled up they found a place to settle in where they are not threatened (when I am in the right frame of mind of course). These are the underdogs, the ones that humans are all too eager to label as pests and exterminate.
A big fat groundhog waddled in front of my moving car yesterday. I had the opportunity to press my right foot to the skinny gas pedal and put an end to that gluttonous marmot; put an end to the devouring of gardens and hope; put an end to all the disappointments and pain of loss. But it was in that moment of choice between braking or accelerating that I realized that the fate of this place depends on my relationship to it. That the only way to really find beauty in a broken world is to see clearly what is before me and not to be governed by selfish desires. We are one being on this planet with many parts and my fate is dependant on the land on which I live. So I nurture what needs to be nurtured and clearly it is my heart and the marmot's belly.
My prayer continues to grow…