Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sometimes the world is so beautiful...

I can change the world with my own two hands
Make it a better place with my own two hands
Make it a kinder place with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands

I can make peace on earth with my own two hands
I can clean up the earth with my own two hands
I can reach out to you with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands

I'm going to make it a brighter place with my own two hands
I'm going to make it a safer place with my own two hands
I'm going to help the human race with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands

(Jack Johnson & Ben Harper)

Walking back from campus, I passed little beds of freshly planted violets, all brilliant shades of tangerine, plum, raspberry, and buttermilk. I saw that the gardening crew was taking a break next to the sidewalk and I asked, sure they would think I was crazy, “Can I plant one?”

“Of course!” the woman said. “There’s a whole bed over here that we still need to do. Which colors do you want?” I selected two cases of flowers: one of deep purple and one yellowish-orange. The woman and man directed me over to the other plot and helped carry supplies. “But… where should I plant them?”

“In the front there, anywhere you want. Thank you so much.”

“No, no! Thank you! I was just wishing I could do some gardening, and now I have the chance.” It was simply fantabulous! So much freedom, so many little flowers to insert into the welcoming soil. The garden crew left me there with a small shovel and the two boxes of flowers. I began with a ring of purple flowers around the low evergreen shrub. Then a larger ring of the yellow ones, staggered slightly from the purple ones. The sun was warm, there was a lovely spring breeze. In the lull between classes, the students and staff were more laid back, they smiled and waved, or even said little comments. “What a great day for that!” or “Makes me want to go home and do my own.” I started working on the same pattern around the second bush.

My friend Justino walked by. He kind of chuckled at me a little, sitting there in the dirt with my knees covered in bits of soil and leaves. But then I asked him if he had ever planted a flower before. His eyes perked up but his body was uncertain. You know, as if he didn't want anyone to see him planting flowers. “You just dig, and then put the flower in and then cover it again?” “Exactly!” I gave him the trowel and carefully removed a yellow flower with its roots from the package. He placed it in the hole and covered the base over with some of the soil, immensely pleased with himself as he patted the surface flat around it. “See?” I said. “Now you can see that flower every time you walk by and remember that you planted it!” He laughed again and headed on his way, being sure to point out to the gardeners further down the sidewalk that he had planted that yellow flower… that one, over there.

I finished that bush and moved on to the next one, which was under a slender willow (?) tree. My hands were covered in dirt; it had accumulated in thick crescents under my nails. I squished lumps of soil between my fingers and let it crumble back to the ground. Is there a better way to spend a spring afternoon?

“Awww… don’t sit on her.” I looked up to see a kindly older man. “Don’t sit on her.” I stood up and realized I had been sitting on a memorial plaque. “She was a wonderful woman. Back when I was the dean of students, Betsy was my secretary. She succumbed to cancer.” The plaque said 1998… way before I was here. “She always had a big beautiful bowl filled with candy. Students and faculty from all over campus would come by and she would always cheer them up if they were having a bad day. And she always had candy for them. And she was great with customer service. People would call any time morning or afternoon, and she would make them feel like they were the most important thing in the world. Some day you’ll have to come by my office up there on the third floor, and I’ll show you a picture of her. She was a wonderful woman. Thank you for taking care of her plot here.”


Finally the gardening crew woman (whose name I found out was Kathleen) came back. She admired my little circles of flowers and began sifting mulch with a pitchfork to cover the bed. “How long have you worked here?” I asked.

“Oh a long time… six years.” We chatted about school, graduation, jobs, and her dreams of pursuing a degree in art. She didn't see how it could be practical though.

“You know what is a good field?” I said. “Graphic design. You know, like on computers.”

“Oh yeah… I was thinking of that actually. My mom says I should just go for it, but I don’t know.”

“You should do it, if that’s what you want. It’s never too late.”

“Yeah. Maybe. May-be…”


Why is the world beautiful? ...because you just sit there digging in the dirt and these amazing people come along and share themselves with you: their stories, their lives. And as you go on, you realize these little strands have begun to form, even in those few short minutes. You feel yourself being gently woven into the larger web of common humanity.

It was a day of thanks.

(Donald is visiting Lauren and very pleasantly agreed to photograph the lovely dirt under my fingernails)


Beth said...

Katie, I will give you real comments soon, I promise! But now for sleep I am made.

Beth said...

I feel like I had an experience like that, when I listened to an inspiration to stop and do something and it started this whole sequence of events that shaped me in wonderous and beautiful ways...but I forget it.

I always appreciate you and your web analogies. this reminds me of a blag entry I wrote way back in the day (31 May 2004). I emailed it to you.