Week 5 garden pictureI reserved our community garden plot yesterday at the city park. This will be our fourth year there and as I look out the window at the piles of half snow dotting the downtown yards around us, I think that spring — and gardening — cannot come soon enough.

Before we moved to our current home, an 1860’s house on a postage-stamp downtown lot we lived in the “country” on five acres and had a huge garden. Though I loved gardening there as well, it was a solitary effort: planning, tilling, planting, watering, observing growth and finally, harvesting. The community experience invites, and sometimes forces, me to involve others along the way instead. At our old home, if the zucchini did well one year, we (probably without much thought about it) assumed everyone’s zucchini were doing equally well. If the tomato plants were droopy and beetle-ridden, it was easy to throw up our hands and say,”beetles must be everywhere this year”, nothing I can do about it.

Growing vegetables among 40 or so other gardeners makes me realize that their individual efforts and methods are what is making the difference. Tomatoes in plot 6 thrive while tomatoes in plot 32 droop and fall to the ground uneaten. We have so much to learn from one another, if we will only acknowledge this is so and then come forward to ask. There is a generous spirit at the community garden — extra seeds and plants are shared freely, friendly nods or even advice, if asked for. And at the harvest, surplus is shared with one another and with the local food bank as well.

If and when we move from our small downtown home, I hope it will be to a place that offers enough space and sun for a garden. I may continue to garden in community as well — for the sharing, the learning, but also for the accountability. Seeing others succeed and knowing my own success is being measured, even if amiably, inspires me to try new methods and set a good example. We simultaneously want our own plots to produce a great yield, but also want “our” garden collectively to look well tended and bountiful.

We are part of something larger and even beautiful, somewhat on display for others to see as well. I enjoy it when I hear remarks from passers by outside the fenced perimeter where we work, oohing and aahing at the sight of one plant or another. One time I overheard someone refer to me as a “farmer” and it was inexplicably thrilling. It made me want to earn that title. My status had been elevated due to my association with something larger than just my own plot.

I think about the parallels of writing in solitude and writing either on a blog or via social media posts. A private journal entry may be every bit as poignant and beautiful as what is shared on the interwebs, but unshared, the beauty of it remains with its writer alone. Sharing in a semi-public way invites scrutiny, but also sometimes praise or unexpected synergies that would never happen with a solo venture. There is a place for both, certainly, but for me, I choose sharing these days more often.

My blog has been long neglected, but I have recently joined a writing circle. I believe writing in community with other writers I know and respect will offer the same pleasures of sharing as well as the needed accountability that this writer needs.