It’s a quiet moment on a Monday morning — my son and husband have left for the day and our Playgarden friends have yet to arrive. I’m standing at my kitchen sink looking out into our front yard – our garden – while sipping a warm cup of tea. Spring has sprung here in California, and it is a glorious time of the year – the hills are green, the tulips that we planted as a “winter gift” to Mother Earth are poking out, the onions and garlic planted in the fall stand a foot high. I am filled with joy and gratitude as I witness this new life before me.
I am also filled with a vision of what could be – those hopes and dreams I “planted” during the winter time – to grow my own food, to incorporate permaculture practices and design into my space, to build a trestle and benches and… and…. and … and well, let’s face it, my hopes and dreams far exceed my abilities. Just as my heart begins that downward spiral into frustration … dejection … the gate bell jingles and in comes Lupine (age 2 ½) and her mom. I stand and watch as they play their “round and round the garden” game and Lupine shows her mama all the “bulb babies” that are waking up. As I go out and say good morning the gate bell jingles again and Paul (age 4) and brother Till (age 1 ½) arrive. Paul rushes over and carefully snips off the tip of an onion and nibbles on it while Till runs over to feed the chickens some kale from our garden.
One by one the children enter and one by one they begin their day — searching for worms, pointing out strawberries almost ready to pick, collecting calendula and lemon balm for our tea, gathering lavender and rosemary to “make soup” down by the digging pit, watching as quail fly out of the bushes and on to our roof top, surprised when some “friends” settling down near the pineapple sage, climb into a tree top to sit among the blossoms, gathering bouquets. I am struck by the fact that although my garden is … basic at best, what little I’ve been able to do makes a big impact on the children in my program.
Courage and hope rise from that pit of despair. “So what if we can only harvest three strawberries at a time?” that inner voice yells. “You can’t imagine how sweet those strawberries (cut into 12 pieces so everyone can have some) taste! And by golly, how many times have you seen a group of young children eagerly take a ‘spicy’ bite of an onion top?” And so with renewed pride we gather on the “train” (to go inside to play) and make a stop by our strawberry patch to collect our 3 … No! Wait! 4…5…6 strawberries!!!! Oh! Ain’t life great!