With all our differences, sometimes it is the simple things that unite us, the simple things that hold the key to mending our communities, our world. 

In the quiet coldness of an early spring morning, I left my cocoon, slipping out from the warmth of my blankets and comfort of my solitude, to plant a garden.

I met three women there. We were strangers to each other then, just after dawn on that frigid Saturday morning. I was the obvious outsider—the paleness of my bare skin showing where my sweater stopped—and unsure of my role. I was shy, nervous. This is what I’ve given much of my life to—exchanging wisdom about connecting to the earth, acknowledging the earth as my teacher. Would they accept me? Would I belong? Would they think this was worthy of their time? I would share what I knew, would they share what they knew?

While Baltimore burned in the background—detached communities destroyed by racial tension—our shovels hit the earth, breaking ground, and we began talking, as women do. Shyly at first, we flitted around topics that might divide us, but realized as we spoke that mothers feel each other’s grief, and that unites us, especially in close community.

We dug, giggling over the effort it took to turn the soil, breaking root clusters so we could plant and cultivate new seeds. With time, we hoped, the nourished soil would reveal new life. We laughed together over each other’s antics. Shrieks over bugs and worms brought another round of laughter. We all wanted to be there, to absorb the experience of gardening, but each woman was there for her own reasons too. One, whose yard it was, wanted a way to connect with her daughters, to start feeding herself and her family. Another, loved gardening but didn’t have enough of her own space. And the third, from a family with gardeners, was missing precious memories of her time in the garden.

I was there for the whispered promise that we can fortify our communities with the ancient building blocks of women’s strength and the mortar of mothers’ compassion.

Conversation turned serious as we lamented over the news—war overseas, war in Ferguson, war in our own backyard. We shook our heads and sighed collectively over the economy and politics, as we tenderly dug deeper into our own lives for sharing.

The early morning chill gently morphed into a thawing sunshine. Like our stories, the dirt turned over more easily now as our bodies adjusted. In softer moments, our hearts wept over each other’s grief—a deceased child, bullying, the challenges and pain of single parenting, family far away or gone forever. And, in lighter moments, we celebrated each other’s strengths and successes—motherhood, a child’s artistic talent, success at work, achieving individual goals, and now, the beginnings of a garden.

Their warmth humbled me. I felt accepted and nurtured by their stories.

I looked at each of them, over the now naked soil, deeply aware of the inherent beauty of resiliency etched in every crease in their darker skins, in the smile marks on their faces, and the brown lines in their strong hands. I saw myself in each of them. I hoped they could see themselves in me.

We were reminded of our sameness: our earthy hands, mirrors reflecting each other’s fortitude and gentle determination. Our shared stories whispered the quiet hope for peace—reflecting the soil beneath us as a way to nourish the communities around us. Our stories. Our garden. Our communities.

The digging was done now, the broken roots scattered. We giggled with anticipatory excitement as we carefully planted the seeds—our seeds—in the waiting earth. We each knelt, sowing the tiny vessels of life in the garden, hoping for the growth we longed for and the accompanying wisdom, friendship and love. We knew this was just a beginning—the first step in a process. There would be many storms and seasons before a final harvest, but this, a good beginning.

Laughing, we reached our hands into the same earth, the stories and work of the day had melted our histories together into this moment. Our dark hands, covered in soil, touched in the rich earth. The sun shone on our glowing, smiling faces and, in those moments, we were the same.

Liz Reitzig

Food is the Foundation of Liberty. Nourishing Liberty is where we plant seeds for ideas to grow and flourish A place to be inspired by each other, to join together in peaceful activism, to build community.

Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.

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