This Monday I came home to an interesting find in my mailbox.
In with the bills and junk mail from Wal-Mart, was a little zip lock bag – full of food! Sri Lankan food!! I couldn’t believe it. I almost cried. My cabbage lady came back, as promised, and left me this gift. Spicy, delicious, homemade food.
Before I’d met her I thought I’d figured out the true consequences of our choice to eat our lawn; community, a shared joyfulness within our neighbourhood, all of that good stuff . . . but it is dawning on me that I still have no idea of the extent of the connections we’ve made with this one simple, albeit unusual, act.
I take my food very seriously. And not in a trendy, foodie way. Serious in that it is a personal history, a way of caring for those around us, telling our stories and that of our families, remembering. So a gesture like this, a handful of fried spiced patties left in my mailbox, was pretty moving. A taste of her home. I don’t think there’s a greater or more personal gift than lovingly preparing the food that will nourish another.
I took them to my parents, warmed them in the oven, and shared them, and her story, with my family. They were delicious!
As if that weren’t enough, my fiance and I come home tonight from our evening walk to find a young girl tending to our strawberry patch! How many gardeners dream of coming home to find someone else happily pulling their weeds!!??
There she was, with her bare hands, digging little holes to transplant the baby shoots of the plants and pulling weeds. She had even brought over her plant that had not been too thrilled to be living in a pot in her rented concrete backyard. (I will never understand people who pave over their entire backyards. It hurts my heart to see all that soil robbed on the sun and rain that should sustain it.) I was thrilled to see her getting dirt under her nails despite her miserable backyard.
Her parents, recent immigrants from China, came over as well and we introduced them to all of our veg, and explained about heirlooms and why we grow so many kinds. The thought of more than one kind of tomato confused them, they said, but they all look the same, and they kept asking why?? They looked at me like I was crazy when I explained they would be different colours soon – purple tomatoes?? Their daughter was out there past dark chatting with me while we pulled weeds.
It is experiences like this that make me want to write about our garden, in hopes that even one person might be convinced to give it a try. If everyone kept a front yard garden think of what the neighbourhood would be like!Instead of barricading ourselves inside in front of the TV, we would be out watering, trading seeds and recipes and the stories that make us who we are.
The conversations I have shared with my neighbours in my garden have not been idle small-talk. We talk about our families and our worries and important concerns like the environment and food security. We share knowledge about growing and preparing food. Through the garden we come to know one another in a meaningful, intimate way.
How much more likely would we be to watch over our neighbours homes and children or elderly? Or more likely to know when the other was in need? The garden induces empathy and compassion and has been a remarkable antidote to the antipathy that so often plagues our communities and our very lives.
I told the young girl I will leave a shovel on the doorstep, just for her, so she can come and dig any time she pleases.