To find stories, we need to dig deep. Let’s think about the metaphor of “digging deep” — are we digging for the stories of the dead whose voices have not been heard? Are we digging for “treasures”?
Perhaps we can also think of the digging as an act of planting seeds, in the company of others.
When I lived in Baltimore for two years, having been offered a consulting job that pulled me from Miami, I joined my neighborhood community garden. The garden was a haven for me–and a place for sharing stories.
Baltimore is often talked about and treated as a dangerous city, a murderous city, a backwater city. Yet what happens when we stop talking ABOUT cities in this abstract way and gather stories with local residents, together, side by side?
While we’re working — planting seeds, shoveling compost, weeding, harvesting — we’re sharing stories.
I’d heard about community gardens where each person has her/his own plot of land. Yet the Mt. Washington Community Garden was different. We’d all take turns doing various tasks in our community garden, led by a small group of experienced and mostly elder gardeners who advise us on the tasks for the day.
We’d garden together, on Wednesday evenings or weekend mornings. I preferred working on Wednesday evenings, beginning at 6, when the air would begin to cool. After reading the whiteboard mounted to our garden shed, which listed the the tasks for the day, I’d pair off with a more experienced gardener, learning by watching and doing.
One day I might be shoveling compost. Another day I’d focus on planting seeds or replanting and watering delicate new plants into comfortable new homes in the soil.
In the garden, we had a workshop on composting, where we learned how to take better care of the soil. And from this lovely, rich soil, sprouting from seeds, have emerged the tomatoes and yellow squash and Japanese eggplants that I enjoyed during my last summer in Baltimore.
“Place” include the living soil — not a static fixed soil. It is the soil over which people share stories: the soil where stories grow.
A community garden is one way to open ourselves to the web of life: our neighbors, human and non-human. And it is also the way to dig into meaningful stories, gathered alongside the carrots and turnips, and shared.