Since my childhood, gardens have called to me.
My garden, my life, is built on rich and abundant soil. Not to be confused with dirt. Soil is what sustains life. Dirt is only what you see when your eyes can only see the surface. But looking deeper, soil is the rich black hummus filled with life and death. Decaying leaves. Motherless daughters. Seeds that sprout. Babies being born. Careers changing form. The mysterious spirit that transforms dying banana peels into the sweetest flavors of the sun is what calls to me. I have learned to dance in the rain, from my garden. I have learned that death is okay and has its own kind of beauty, from my garden. I have learned that sometimes no matter how perfect the conditions are, sometimes the seed doesn’t sprout. But most importantly I’ve learned to trust in the mystery and to just let go.
Both of my grandmothers were orphans and my mother died when she was only 33 years old, when I was two. We all relied on our families and communities to get the nurturing and nourishment we needed to grow into the women we became. This struggle that the women in my life all share, is a significant strain that holds us together. While it comes with its own thick, rugged texture, it also brings vibrance and strength to the fabric of our family. Another strain that connects us is one that is life-giving and was found through our gardens. My maternal grandmother loved her roses, she still does, and taught me the beauty of elegant strength. My paternal grandmother was known to always snip a few fresh herbs from outside her kitchen door for each meal, and showed me the flavors in scratch cooking. And my mother was known in our neighborhood as "the gardener.” Before she died, she convinced our neighbors to till a half acre lot in the middle of the neighborhood to plant a garden. They didn't call it a community garden back then, it was just "the garden.”
Growing up as a latchkey kid in northwest Ohio, I had a lot of free time exploring my neighborhood barefoot, venturing through the woods behind our house, going in and out of neighbors swimming pools, and scrounging for dinner at friends houses. But what I grew to love most was trying to grow flowers and herbs in my own backyard, and hanging around “the garden” while snagging a few cherry tomatoes as I passed by. The garden was a place where everyone gathered—we talked while shucking peas, we cooked and shared hobo dinners, and we played cards late into the night. The different generations, personalities, backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, and circumstances never seemed to matter while we were in the garden. Whether it was my hands in the soil, the beauty of the flowers, or the support of my community, it is where I found peace.
Growing food connects us to our environment and to life’s predictable rhythm, and communities provide friendship when we are alone, courage to take risks, and confidence in knowing we belong. Life’s mysterious stepping stones made me into the person I am today, and gave me circumstances to command the hidden soil and seeds of my own being. Whether you have never planted anything in your life, or you are a fellow child of a Victory Garden, I hope to empower you to plant some seeds so you can begin cultivating your own garden.
Founded the Arvada Community Agriculture Project; a 15-acre Jefferson County award winning project for the City of Arvada that is dedicated to growing food through a community garden, community orchard, and CSA; cultivated rich relationships with City of Arvada, created meaningful, relevant, community based programs that enhance the availability of local food. www.roserootsgarden.org
Launched a television series on PBS to inform and educate the public on sustainability. Carriage on 95% of US markets via Create TV and local PBS stations. www.urbanconversion.com