On an unseasonably warm Saturday in early March, my friend Jim asked if I wanted to join him for a stroll through Central Park. As I reached the park, I was surprised to see that the grass was brown, and the trees were still naked. It was only at that point that I realized I had been expecting everything to be lush and green! It had finally happened: I have lived in New York long enough to completely lose touch with the realities of nature. In my twisted city brain, park = nature = green, no matter the season. In New York, my only relationship with the natural world is based on how the weather affects my plans for the day. As a girl who grew up in the woods, with a garden in the backyard and farmers for neighbors, coming to this realization was pretty embarrassing.
So Justin and I decided this year we should take advantage of the nearby community garden. Reserving our plot with $25 was easy. But deciding what to plant? It was at that point we realized we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. What do you mean, you can't plant tomatoes in the shade? And different vegetables are planted at different times of year? After some internet research and several phone calls to mothers and grandmothers, we finally settled on what seems to be a safe array of veggies for our shady little plot (mostly leafy greens, it turns out).
We anxiously awaited the arrival of our heirloom seeds so we could get this garden party started. But I was not prepared for how great it would feel to plant them. Taking a hoe to the soil, chopping it up, leveling it out, seeing all the little worms, making little rows for the seeds, sprinkling them in, and gently covering them up, was the most satisfying thing I'd done in months. It felt like the opposite of everything I do on a daily basis, from sitting at a computer to going to the gym. It felt real and fresh; simultaneously childlike and maternal. Like a small part of myself had been knocked unconscious by the city years ago, and was finally being nudged awake.
I'm so glad we joined the garden; it's making me feel better about New York, now that I can pop over and see my seedlings whenever I want, and drop off veggie scraps for compost. City gardening is all the rage these days, and I'm all for it. But it's also making me yearn for my own backyard, a nice big one that I can see from my kitchen window, that doesn't require a key or planning by a committee.