f Morning Rose Prayer Gardens: Lent 2012, Week 1

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent 2012, Week 1

Fast from bitterness; turn to forgiveness.
Fast from hatred; return good for evil. 

                It was a relatively small patch that I had dug at the back-end of the yard to the rental house; I was planning a vegetable garden. I was an undergraduate at MSU, being a decade older than my class mates, and knew that growing my own food was a necessity; I did not have parents supporting my education.
          I dug a portion of the sod and broke up clumps, picked stones and broken glass from the soil, raked it smooth and mounded the edges to help direct water. Purchasing seeds, I then planted the early season crops of peas, radishes, kales and a few herbs. I planned in a few weeks to purchase starter plants for vegetables that took longer to mature such as eggplants, tomatoes and peppers.
         I returned home rather late after classes one day, about a week later, and again headed to the back of the yard to water the seedlings before sunset. A few feet away I stopped dead in my tracks, saddened by the state of my garden patch. The mounded edges had been kicked into the lawn,  two thirds of the patch had been covered over with pieces of hand-dug sod and the remaining third was trampled. Apparently I had unknowingly encroached into the neighbor’s property.
         Disheartened, I cleaned up what remained but knew I did not have enough time in my schedule to expand the now even smaller patch.
Soon afterwards, as weather permitted, I planted starters of tomatoes and eggplants in the remaining section of garden. In another garden area bordering the house I tucked in some zucchini seeds.
Throughout the summer when I was in my room, I would often hear the neighbor mowing his yard and anxiously hoped my plants were safe. They were often covered in lawn clippings but never really damaged.
It wasn't long until the fruits of my labor ripened and canning and freezing commenced. There is something about tomato and zucchini plants in that I always underestimate their production. Even with the smaller plot I had an overabundance.
Photographer: Travis Juriga, 2010
Washing the vegetables I looked out the window over the kitchen sink. Sitting in the shade of a large sycamore tree I noticed the woman who lived with the man who mowed the lawn that covered my plants with debris. What I saw was just another woman on a hot August day trying to find a cool place to sit. I had lived next to her for almost a year and never knew her name. After all, I was just another student in the rental house next door.
Picking up a small cardboard box, I carefully laid newspapers in the bottom and up the sides. I placed a few small zucchini to one side and then piled several large tomatoes on the other. I took a deep breath and in a tee-shirt wet and stained from canning headed out the screened side door.
Approaching the woman I introduced myself and held out the box of vegetables. I could tell by the look on her face she was surprised to see me. I think she realized for the first time that I, the student next door, was closer to her own age and not a teenager.
        As she accepted my gift she seemed dumbfounded by my presence. She never rose from the lawn chair nor told me her name. Avoiding eye contact, she spoke a barely audible “Thanks.”
Feeling rejected, but without bitterness, I turned away and went back to my kitchen to continue putting food by. Looking again through the window I noticed my neighbor had left her shady area and taken my gift with her.
That September I found a room in a house closer to campus. Before I moved away I kicked the mounded edges of dirt into the little patch that had been my garden, smoothed it over and dusted it with seeds for new lawn. I patted down my pant legs and ‘shook the dust from my sandals’, I knew I had already moved on.


  1. I just heard of a similar story where someone tried to reach out and did not get a response.
    In my own life, I have to remind myself that not everyone is as articulate as I may like. I think of this woman as being dumbfounded by your generosity.
    It also makes me think of an analogy --- that you planted seeds and they will grow. I believe you planted something by your generous gift of vegetables, and although you have moved on, your actions will germinate and grow within this person.

    1. Thanks Terry. It was an interesting summer that took place many years ago. I'm delighted that you liked my words.