How Does Your Garden Grow?

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The reception desk I was covering that week was in an office building that was crowded into a tightly-bunched block with another six-story office building, a mental health clinic, an organic supermarket, a trendy café, a high-rise of upscale condominiums with a private parking garage, and two senior housing apartment buildings.

Cars and trucks thundered by along the street out front. Most were roaring past to make it onto a highway on-ramp before the light turned red and held them there, suspended in time, for 60 seconds. Others were coming into the city and had just exited the highway a block back, adrenaline still coursing too fast to slow down.

What a pleasant surprise it was to discover the community garden behind the building during my lunch break on my first day there.

I saw it first from a break room on the fifth floor that overlooked the peaceful garden. No one in the office had told me it was there. I bring a brown-bag lunch wherever the agency sends me on assignment, and when lunchtime came I asked where the break area was. Even before I got to the end of the hall, the promise of something agreeably unexpected beckoned, for there was light coming through the fifth floor window at the end of the hall from an open space outside. Upon reaching the window and looking down, I was greeted by geometrical rows of raised beds in which green things were growing.

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That first day I was content to settle into a comfy swivel chair and eat my homemade sandwich while I observed a few of the gardeners tending their plots. I saw a table with benches and over on one side a very inviting curving bench.

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On my second day there I went out on my lunch break and found a seat on the curving bench to eat and watch the hummingbirds sip nectar from the blooms, while the sparrows and pigeons foraged in the dirt. A young father was pushing his toddler in a stroller up and down the paths between the raised beds. A grandfatherly looking man strolled alone. Here and there were other people having lunch in the garden, like me. It was an urban farm and a city park in one, tucked neatly out of sight from passersby on the busy streets beyond the buildings that surrounded it. The ornamentals were lovely, but outnumbered by the crops these urban farmers were growing for their tables. Various lettuces and other leafy greens, yellow peppers, culinary herbs and other edible plants predominated.

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Even from the fifth-floor window that first day, I realized that the caramel-complexioned gardeners I was seeing in their floppy hats were likely residents of the predominantly Filipino senior housing buildings across the narrow alley from the garden. The fancy organic produce in the nearby supermarket is probably a bit out of reach for these folks on fixed incomes.

All around the city, growth of a different kind is everywhere. Clusters of construction cranes are a common site and luxury high-rises are pushing up on every available lot.

A miracle, these tillers of the soil growing their food while providing a retreat for their neighbors; for how much longer is hard to know that this undeveloped plot will remain the green oasis it is.

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The World Revolves Around Moi

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It was a lovely afternoon and I was thinking of the dinner I’d cook with the food I’d just bought when I got home in a few minutes. I was pulling my groceries in my rolling backpack along the tree-lined sidewalk. My building was next after the one I was then passing.

A car had pulled into the driveway of the building next to mine and was partially blocking the sidewalk ahead of me. The garage door remained closed, and the occupants of the car, two women, appeared to be looking for something in a purse; perhaps the fob that opened the garage door, or directions to the building they intended to find, if it was not this one.

I slowed to be sure the driver saw me. She looked up, made eye contact, and waved to let me know it was safe to pass in front of her vehicle. I nodded and was proceeding to step in front, when…

BLAAAA-AAA-AST!

I jumped out of my skin and stopped. The heads of both women in the car swiveled around.

BLAAA-AA-AAST!

In the street behind us, another car had appeared. It hadn’t been there a second earlier. The driver of that car had already given two angry blasts with her horn. She was indicating with those blasts and her gestures and facial expressions that she wanted the other car to get out of her way. NOW!

This wasn’t a polite little beep meant to say, “Someone’s behind you who wants to get in.” Not a short tap followed by a chance to turn around and then a friendly smile and polite gesture to the driver of the car blocking the way to indicate she needed to get by. A beep like that would have been okay.

The woman behind the wheel of the car in the driveway maneuvered into the street and along the curb, below the sign that clearly spells out, No Parking. I crossed the garage entrance, and after a few steps looked back to see the impatient driver in her car on the sidewalk, waiting for the garage door to open. The whole thing must have happened within 30 seconds.

There’s no law against impatience or rudeness. Still, are people thinking when they behave in such a manner?

Maybe people do that with a car around them because they perceive the car as a kind of armor that conceals their identity. (They’ve forgotten the license plates.) Still, that was so close to home; shouldn’t she have been conscious of the possibility that she might one day find herself personally interacting with these fellow humans?

Didn’t she consider that the occupants of the other car might be people who live in her building, or the person on the sidewalk might live in the building next to hers? Is she that sure she won’t be recognized later as the itch on wheels who blasts other drivers even when there’s a pedestrian crossing the other driver’s path? Does a person who does that simply not care if they are known as an itch?

Aren’t we supposed to be neighborly?

A rhetorical exercise, except for the first question, the answer to which, I’m convinced, is yes.

Specifically what they’re thinking can be answered by the title.

I Like to Think

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Shadows were lengthening as the sun began to dip in the winter sky. The visit back home was nearly over, too quickly, after so much time away. Tomorrow I’d be on a plane winging across the continent to where I’ve made my own nest, and who knew how long it’d be till the next time I saw Mom.

I turned a page in an album and a soft-cheeked little girl in a red velvet dress with a white collar and short-cropped, dirty blonde waves peered contentedly at me from astride an amply dappled, shiny gray rocking horse.

“Silver!” I cried, excited as a three-year-old. In an instant I’m warmer than chamomile in a cozy-covered teapot.

“You used to rock on that rocking horse for hours,” Mom said.

(“Hi Ho Silver! Away! Giddy up giddy up giddy up up up! Giddy up giddy up giddy up up up!” I’d sing in time to the William Tell Overture, rocking till I lapsed into meditative contentment, rocking to the squeak-squeak of the springs.)

Over the left shoulder of my childhood self in the picture I gazed at the jalousie windows from which the sunny family room that led out to the patio and backyard derived the name my parents had given it: the jalousie room.

It’s tender, achy, magic, seeing that old photo again.

What evoked the barrage of emotion? The memory of that room? It was the lively center of the first house I lived in.

Knowing that my father, long since deceased, took that picture, proudly, of his only daughter and youngest child?

The photo itself? Developed from real film into a 2 x 3 print with a white border people carefully touched using only their fingertips when it was pulled from a wallet and handed to an acquaintance, as no doubt my father had done with this photo before it had been retired to a page in an album. Something you could touch, not just an image on a screen.

Or was it simply the memory of the cherished rocking horse?

“What became of Silver, Mom?”

My vague recollection is of the metal springs rusting after being left outside on the patio. But I wanted to hear her tell me something different.

“That was so long ago, how can I possibly remember,” Mom sighed. She added, after the faintest pause, “Maybe after you outgrew it, we gave it to another family who had a child.”

Before I turned the page in the album, I looked again at the rocking horse. I was sure it’d had a less kind fate. But maybe I remembered wrong about it being left out in the rain. Maybe another child after me had rocked for hours at a time on it, singing Giddy up giddy up giddy up up up! in time to the William Tell Overture.

At least, I like to think.

And so it begins

The divine in me honors the divine in you.

Positive energy flowed through me as I did sun salutations on a crest of sand along the Point Reyes National Seashore, the Pacific a limitless wilderness stretching before me like a great blank page inviting me to pour forth the fullness of my joyous heart.

I was newly married when this picture was taken, on my first Valentine’s Day weekend as a wife, and still new to California. Originally a transplant from Long Island, New York, I moved to San Francisco from Lexington, Kentucky, where I’d established myself as a freelance Turf writer. That’s Turf with an uppercase T, for anyone unfamiliar with horse racing. I covered all things Thoroughbred — racing, breeding, sales — and had carved out a niche for myself as a top trade reporter specializing in coverage of products and services catering to the Thoroughbred industry.

Time has raced by. Galloped by, like a Thoroughbred horse.

Here now in my little corner of the living room, I tell my stories. This is my first blog post. Thank you for reading. So it begins.