When Life Gives You Poppies

Magic Garden sign

Garden art created by neighbors
Comfy garden furniture
Barbara Jaffe and Main Dock neighbors enjoying garden  |  photos by Karen Cadenhead  |  post by Lisa McNelley

It all started after the lift on wearing masks outdoors. Spring was in the air, neighbors were smiling smiles we could finally see, and a riot of poppies had sprung up in the planters around Main Dock’s utility area, referred to as ‘the pit’. The poppies were a pleasant surprise. A former neighbor threw a bag of seeds into the planters the year prior in the hope that they would take root. They did, in spades.

For so long, I wanted a space where my Main Dock neighbors could gather. Unlike the other docks in our community, Main Dock lacked a common area. I thought “what if we made the pit usable by turning it into a community garden?” The poppies opened my eyes to the potential. When I shared the idea of a community garden with my neighbors, everyone loved it. I pitched the idea to Bill Price, our harbormaster, and he was supportive. The area had been an eyesore, and he was glad to see someone cleaning up the space. With a little pruning and water, we were able to revive the plants that were struggling to survive.

My plan was to use wine barrels as individual garden plots. They did not require a lot of water and worked within the space. It wasn’t long before I had enough neighbors invested in their own wine barrels, willing to get their hands dirty while making the space their own. Once the barrels arrived, our collection of gardeners emerged with bags of dirt and plants in hand, ready to create their own potted garden. Gardeners young and old, tall and small, joined in creating a place where each could come and care for their plants and one another. We shared our bounty, from the lone fig to handfuls of strawberries, to herbs and lettuce. What was once the pit became a place to get fresh food and friendship.

Conversations ensued as neighbors tended to their plants. Passersby stopped to talk with neighbors and friends and family were invited into the space to safely meet outside. It wasn’t long before the conversations led to gatherings. Artists sprung up in the mix and dotted the area with colorful bird houses and mosaics to accent the plants. Kids went to the garden to play board games and hang out with friends. The younger ones would show up with their garden gloves ready to tend to their plants, delighted to find a garden fairy left them a gift for their efforts. Even chair yoga was offered by a neighbor’s family member. As the space came alive, so did our community. I think we were all hungry for connection.

As I emerged and began being around people in the garden, clearing out the space for what could be, I was able to put into action what I craved for so long. As my neighbors joined in, it was no longer just me alone; we were together in our crazy plan to make the pit into our magic garden. It’s no longer mine; it’s ours. A space for all of us to pause, maybe smile at the whimsy, hopefully enjoy life coming alive, and for a moment, be a part of something magical.