It’s a very specific feeling, and I recognize it.
It feels like God’s work.
Or Bob’s work.
Bob was my friend with whom I created or rejuvenated about a dozen food-growing gardens in Metro Atlanta. We built a pilot garden for the first school for refugee-children-of-war in the United States, which was gonna be a test project for a spanking new school they were building (they ended up relocating the school to Columbus, Ohio, and elsewhere in my county), and also grew a team to buy and deliver watermelons to that school’s camp for maybe six summers in a row.
He did other stuff for that school as well, and I was always nosing about the community gardens in that most-diverse-square-mile in the USA (which is quickly changing).
We had originally become friends unexpectedly. And then we got sh*t done. And he made me laugh.
These past couple of years, I wanted to tell him about the bamboo. I wanted to tell him about the bed springs used as fencing. I’ve been super emotional ever since I volunteered less than two months ago and ended up hoeing a whole plot and planting it (with our mutual friend and community-garden-starter Rebecca).
I knew yesterday was gonna be a biggie. The week before, when I had taken members of my Biketober team there, the growth had been phenomenal. And this week we had lots of rain. So when I rolled up, I was braced.
But nothing prepared me for the flood of emotions. It all just came pouring out and I stood there in the abundant plot of greens and cried — full-on chest-heaving, tears rolling down the cheeks — after filming this little video:
When we (and others) had started what is now the largest volunteer-run community garden in the State of Georgia back in 2009, we had our first food-pantry harvest after just six weeks. We went on to grow and deliver literally tons of fresh food in the next few years, and even now, all these years later, that garden is still delivering to the food pantry every Wednesday.
We grew with the food pantry clients themselves, and all over Metro Atlanta (honestly, we were everywhere), and I was regularly buying and planting seeds by the pound (which is when I realized I had shifted from gardener to urban farmer).
We all grew as people, as a community, as friends, as a result. I know what’s possible. I’ve seen what’s possible. (Two pounds per square foot per year at an average value of $5 per pound, if you are a numbers person. Infinite love, if you measure things differently.)
And yet, there alone with a grasshopper and butterflies and a swaying banana tree in my sight line, six weeks after these seeds were planted, it all seemed like a brand new realization again. And I felt my lost friend’s presence very strongly — maybe the most strongly since he died suddenly almost three years ago now.
I listen to these things when they happen. They are telling me something.
That very first harvest at the community garden, we had three bags of greens to donate. It felt miraculous. Yesterday, I harvested six bags. The miracle of it remains. As always, it’s not about the quantity.
I was tying the bags to my bicycle to go to one of the nearby apartment complexes where the refugees live and hand them out. But suddenly two African men appeared.
“Are you heading home?” I asked.
“Do you have family?” I asked.
“Do you want this?” I asked, showing the greens.
I handed them each three bags. We shared our names with each other. I told them to feel free to pick from that Sharing Garden. I told them I’d see them soon.
And I rode away. Still carrying something old, something new again, inside me.
(My husband suggested that song, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop.)