I have been noticing a trend lately that makes me feel sad. I walk a fair amount. I walk mainly in my neighborhood and to downtown. These are middle class to lower-middle class neighborhoods with a mixture of apartments and single-family homes, rentals and owner-occupieds. I look at peoples’ yards a lot because I like to garden. I especially take note of nice perenniel beds or front-yard raised-bed food gardens. I like to see people growing food in their front yards, even though my own experiement with such a thing became a cat box for neighborhood cats. I now keep my food items in the back yard where cats rarely venture.
But I digress. What I notice from time to time, as I look at these small raised-bed gardens, is how sad they look when they are abandoned. Houses get new renters or change owners and what was once a tended patch of kale or beans is now a cedar box full of weeds. What is even sadder is when they are abondoned mid-season. Then, they contain perhaps a few spindly tomato plants, parched for water or brown peas on dried stalks. Did the folks move? Or just forget about the little plants that they must have put in with such enthusiasm and care? Did it become too onerous to water their box after a long day at work? Whatever the reason, I see these little neglected food gardens and find they make me feel melancholy. Somehow, they are much more bleak and forlorn than a struggling bed or roses or unwatered wilted daylilies. They represent someone’s hopes for feeding themselves, for growing sustenence, for connecting with the earth and its gifts. They represent lost hope, disruption, and slow painful death by neglect.