This past August the Earl Boyles Community Garden in Portland was completely trashed by vandals. It was heartbreaking. It hit a nerve with many gardeners: all of that hard work stomped on (literally).
And urban gardeners are probably a little more familiar with this particular nerve. Gardening in close quarters, and often in front and beyond the security of fences, our gardens are out there for all to enjoy.
I’ve written plenty about how our garden has connected us to many people and wonderful things: this post is not about that. This is about the encounters that aren’t so wonderful.
- The stray 40 ouncers are one thing, but I always wonder why people think they can just throw their cans in our clematis.
- After a long day of gardening I left a bag of potting soil at the gate entrance. Next day it was gone. I still wonder about that. Did someone just throw it over their shoulder as they were walking and walk off down the road with my Whitney Farms Weed Whompin’ Mulch? Yes, it was a bag of the good stuff, dangit!
- One spring morning found me gazing out at the former patch of red tulips, shorn clean overnight destined to be in vases in someone else’s house other than my own. I scoffed, because it can be hard enough for me to pick from my own garden but not so hard for someone else. Speaking of picking…
- Our neighbor once discovered a stranger deep in our garden picking flowers, with buckets and clippers in hand. He confronted her and she argued that he had a right to be there (she did not). A week later, AdRi came upon her doing the same thing. Indignant about being asked what exactly she was doing, AdRi chased her off but not without seeing the buckets of flowers from other gardens piled up in her van.
- I don’t know if finding a dead cat under an overgrown lavender counts, but it still didn’t smell good.
- This week I confronted boys who were carrying a fight off of the street and into the garden, grabbing handfuls of gravel for weapons to throw. I love when the garden attracts kids, but not in this situation. Let’s just say the young man had a foul mouth and a mighty big temper for a 12-year old, and I hope he doesn’t plan any retaliation. It’s this kind of stuff, as an urban gardener, that bums me out.
- And then there’s the scary. Early one dark morning I came face-to-face with another human being on the other side of our kitchen window. A woman was trying to explain to me she was just passing through, but from where she was, deep in the garden, I knew that wasn’t the case and the voice that came out of me, one of fear yet determination, told her to leave and to leave now. I came to find she was sleeping in our garden, and as the police officer noted upon visiting as a follow-up to the situation, noted our garden is truly perfect for a peaceful, reclusive nap. Especially for the homeless.
- I can’t begin to list all of the hysterical things I’ve been witness to while in the garden, but one of the best is the man jogging down the street, in a full running ensemble, while smoking a cigarette.
But then this week I read this, and the amazing donation of 1,515 pounds of produce from an inmates garden was turned over to these gardeners to help replace their bounty. And my hope was restored and I was reminded that I was right: garden folk are a good people, and gardens, no matter where you may grow, bring us together more than they tear us apart.