The contractions had been coming off and on for a few days now.
The excitement had worn off a little, in realizing there was not going to be a baby coming as swiftly as I had initially thought. We were in for a long ride, it seemed. Tim had already taken the day off of work so we decided Hey, why not? Might as well go for a walk to see if it gets things moving. I had to stop every few minutes and lean into Tim as another bolt of lightening pierced my sciatic nerve––it was worse than the contractions.
We walked to the park across from our house and followed a path that looped around the baseball diamond. We could carry straight to the connecting residential road ahead of us, or we could follow what appeared to be a dog path to our right. Having time to kill, we followed the small trail that led to a narrow opening between some hedges. As we passed through the narrows, we came upon a large field enclosed by a forest. There was row upon row of garden bed plots, each with various fruits and vegetables tumbling abundantly: a community garden. Some garden beds were taken better care of than others. Big sunflowers grew tall and faced the sun behind us. Ripe tomatoes climbed stakes and vines sprouted everywhere. A group of women speaking Swahili bent over in the dirt, talking to one another as they collected their bounty. A lady in denim overalls (and no shirt or bra beneath) poured a watering can over a zucchini plant as she wiped the sweat from her forehead, replacing it with dirt.
How had we, in the four years we had lived there, never seen this magical place before? A literal stone throw away from our front door? (Ok. Maybe two or three reeeeally good stone-throws). I felt electrified by it. All this life, all this beauty and community gathering; and we had no idea it existed.
The few years that preceded that day were dark for us. We had gone through a failed adoption and a deep depression had ensued. Life had felt like one perpetual dark day, burdened with heavy, weighted clouds. We spent many months locked up in our home, and locked up in our minds. Eventually, the weight had lifted a little, just enough for some sun to pierce through the clouds and plant a bit of hope. We decided to take steps forward again, and found ourselves pregnant. Now, I was one week overdue, walking through my contractions, and discovering this secret garden for the first time.
I didn’t know it then, but that garden gave me breath. It resonated with me on some deep level. All that time, so close to our home, so close to a place we had felt such pain, there was also life. Even in the winter months, seeds were hidden beneath the soil. In the rainfall, they germinated. Right around the corner! Right around the corner. All along.
I felt giddy, chatting quickly with Tim about which plot would be my top pick to rent the following year. I imagined what I would plant, imagined a one year old crawling through the dirt. Imagining carrying a bountiful basket of vegetables past the baseball diamond, through the park, and into our kitchen. I had never gardened a day in my life, but next year, there would be plump tomatoes!
We never did rent one of the plots––a baby proved much more demanding of my time than in my fanciful imaginations––but that garden gave me permission to dream again, and in the early hours of dawn the next morning, our son was born; pink, crying, and full of possibilities.
We have since moved from there and yet, all these years later, even as I drive near that part of town, that feeling comes back to me… a reminder:
There’s a garden around the corner. Try going for a walk.
(The photo above was taken on a brisk fall walk in the garden, a little over a year later.)