27 November, 2008

Thanksgiving Between The Raindrops

When the rain finally did come, it was a long time after I had gotten those seeds in the ground. It was a gentle and soft rain – perfect for dry soil because it can take some time for the soil, once it has thoroughly dried, to accept water again. After a time, we were deluged, but not for very long – most of the rain was the soft gentle kind. The hillsides that were just burned by wildfires did not collapse into mud slides which is further evidence that this was a gentle rain.

Still, gentle rain or not, any rain at all can play havoc with a picnic and today, Thanksgiving, was the Garden’s main ‘picnic’ of the year. The Learning Garden staff and volunteers invite the staff and clients of the Program for Torture Victims out to the Garden for a Thanksgiving feast and we have no indoor facilities to accommodate a large crowd so you see how interested I have been in the weather over the past 72 hours or so.

But I am a gardener. I am a betting man and an optimist; qualities that make for a miserable life in a casino – and sometimes out as well - but essential qualities for someone who plants seeds in the hope he'll eat something from them, at least it’s not the only food I plan on eating, but still, to plant seeds in September hoping to eat salad in November requires a certain degree of hopefulness. So it was that, after listening to the news, reading the weather reports on Weather Bug and at iGoogle, plus a liberal scanning of the skyline at 7 AM, I determined we were good to go for the day.

The Learning Garden had over 50 people on our patio to enjoy a fine feast for the day. We had the whole Thanksgiving experience from cranberry sauce to sweet potato pie and it was good. The people that show up at the Garden day in and day out are some of the best cooks I know and I don’ think there was a bad dish among the many we had out there. We had gravy, mashed potatoes, apple pie, pumpkin pie, salad (all the leaves came from the Garden) and we had turkey and stuffing and yams and pickled beets and garlic bread and chocolate and olives and a host of vegetarian main dishes as well. With our good ‘rain karma,’ the clouds parted away for the whole morning, leaving the celebration in brilliant sunlight for the whole four hours (basically from 10 to 2) and not a cloud darkened the sky for the entire event. As people were leaving and we were cleaning up, a rather ominous cloud overtook the skyline and someone said, “Almost on cue!” The cloud only passed over and that was as close as we got to rain today.

In getting ready, I turned to a young lady who was volunteering for the first time and asked her to pick some salad for the day. She looked confused, “You want me to pick up the salad?” she asked. Well, no, not really.

I gave her my trusty wire basket and we went out into the gardens and found lettuce plants and I instructed her to pick one leaf from every lettuce plant she found – many of the lettuce plants are being grown by high school students and it would not be kind to take their whole plant, but a leaf from each won’t even be missed. She was able to harvest from Black Seeded Simpson, Red Oakleaf, several different Romaines and too many others to list. It was a bushel of salad leaves. A more experienced volunteer picked leaves from the many beets in the Garden so we could add that to the lettuce. This was all washed, some nuts and other fun things got tossed in and two huge bowls of salad were put out for everyone to enjoy. There isn’t a way to have a fresher salad for fifty people unless you turn them out to graze.

My salad picker was so enthusiastic and so happy to have been picking leaves off lettuce plants. It was the first time she’d ever done anything like that (and she’s in her twenties, I’d guess). So besides being host to over 50 grateful people, the Garden fulfilled its role as The Learning Garden in yet another way.

That’s just a snapshot. So many other moments in the day were worth writing down, and I suppose I’ll take the time to do so in my journal. But there’s a hint of life at our Garden for all to enjoy.

No matter how circumstances find you today, I pray you had at least one thing you could be grateful for. By concentrating on what I love in my life, I believe I multiply it and by not dwelling on that in my life that bugs me, I believe I diminish that. It is my hope that you found much to cheer you on this wonderful fall day of Thanksgiving.


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