Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Victory Gardens, Part One

I started my first garden on my bedroom windowsill, when I was still a teenager in high school. A biology teacher had made a class project of repurposing clear plastic food takeout boxes as mini-greenhouses for starting seeds. It was supposed to nudge us to think of creative ways to reuse and recycle common waste containers; it wasn't meant to be an ongoing project.

But once those seeds had opened, and spread tiny green wings, I found couldn't abandon my little sprouts of rosemary and thyme. So I scrounged things resembling pots from around my home, and dug dirt from who-knows-where, and transplanted my seedlings, and prayed, and within weeks of creating my plastic greenhouse, I was tending my first tiny herb garden.

At the time, my family was struggling financially. My mother, my sister, my little brother and I were living in tiny bare bones apartment in a faceless brick apartment building in a post-industrial, semi-urban wasteland near the airport, right next to an infamous eminent-domain-created ghost town.

It wasn't really safe to spend much time walking around outside in that neighborhood. My sister had been shot at, once, while she was out after dark trying to coax a stray kitten into a box so she could take it to a shelter. The bullet had come so close, she had felt it brush her hair.

And there wasn't much to look at outside, anyway. The landscape was dominated by dirty parking lots, crumbling buildings, litter, and weeds.

It felt so nice to have something green in that place. Something growing and alive and scented of sunlight and good earth. I used to bury my nose in the rosemary plant and breathe its clean, spicy scent before I went to sleep at night. It seemed to clear my head. And to this day, the scent of rosemary calms me.

I don't know why those herbs grew so well on my windowsill, under my untutored care. I've had a lot of trouble, in years since, convincing herbs in general and rosemary in particular to thrive indoors. Herbs, for the most part, crave the sun, and a windowsill generally just won't do it for them unless it has excellent sun exposure.

I also don't know how I kept the cats we had from eating those plants, or knocking them over, especially given I was mostly at school all day.

But somehow, they managed to make it in those tough surroundings. After all, they had a gardener who needed them. And they had no place else to grow.


R said...

This was just lovely, Jae. Absolutely lovely.

Anonymous said...

I agree, that was beautiful. It made me want to go out and plan a garden. But, I have to move instead.

Debbie said...

the profound lump in my throat, I blame ENTIRELY on you. and this moving-beyond-lumpen-words piece.

thank you for this tonight.