Friday, March 26, 2010

A Sign

Yesterday, I began a post on this topic. The opening lines - the paragraph and a half that to set the scene - ended up growing into a different, but related topic, and becoming a post of their own. The original post is still worth writing. The original opening paragraphs still fit the story.

It was really about eleven months ago. But the flora of Portland seems to be on a schedule that is a month ahead of New Jersey's, so this event feels like it happened a year ago.

It was at the Community Garden. I was at work. Something I've realized since being out here, where I am happy, is how much I miss the rare things that made me happy when I was in my last NJ town, where I was unhappy. It is because those things that could make me happy, in the midst of dissatisfaction (at best; at worst, misery) were special. They seemed sweeter than anything; they were hard to leave. They were fantastic, almost magical, with a hold on me that would make me forget the way things were. I would lose perspective. I'd be afraid to leave or lose these few special things and wonder if the rest of my life--the bad parts--could be adjusted or ignored. Many of these things were physical or natural; alive, but not people. Things that could-let's face it!-not love me back.

My garden was one of those things. One late April morning, I left my desk to do something at the Community Garden, such as hang up a sign or open the gate, and I took some time (probably my 15-minute break) to check on my own plot. It had been two or three weeks since I'd planted my seeds. I'd planted radishes, carrots, and beets, as well as a wildflower mix and borage. I'd also planted yellow and red onion sets and Swiss chard, pak choy, and cauliflower transplants. At that time of the season, I would have been pulling weeds from my path and watering the tiny plants and seedlings. I'd fill my watering can at one of the pumps, carry it back to my plot, empty it, and go back. I probably made three trips each time I needed to water my plot.

As I emptied the last pot of water onto my radish seedlings, I felt immeasurable bliss. Seeing their little healthy leaves gave me a feeling of satisfaction. I regretted that I wouldn't be there to see all of the wildflowers grow. I regretted that I wouldn't be there to plant tomatoes.

At this point in time, I had recently made the decision to move to Oregon, but I hadn't told everyone. I hadn't done anything to make the decision official; I hadn't given notice to my job or to my landlords. No one had noticed that I was only planting early season crops. It was, at this point, not too late to turn back.

I gazed down at the seedlings, love filling my heart. Maybe I don't have to leave, I thought. Maybe I can stay here. Maybe I can make things work out. Maybe I can stay here in New Jersey!

I'd like to pause here to state that I am not exaggerating or altering the following events for dramatic effect. This really happened.

At the exact moment that I thought those words-Maybe I can stay here-I heard a loud CRACK. I looked up, searching for its source.

A beautiful dogwood tree in full bloom had collapsed in the forest next to the Community Garden. I looked up in time to see the top of the tree as it crashed straight down, like white lacy parasol thrust violently to the ground. It was the native dogwood, Cornus florida, which is very common in people's yards, but you do not see it often in the woods. It is not common to see a white-flowering dogwood in its native habitat. I was seeing one now, just as it died.

On the other side of the Community Garden, beyond a scant forested border, was Interstate 287. The buzz of North Jersey traffic was like ocean waves, a sound both gentle and loud. The only other gardeners present were at the opposite corner of the Community Garden, so for them, the sound of the interstate drowned out the loud crash. No one but me saw the dogwood tree die.

If ever there was a sign...


I looked in my G-mail history to see if I had written anything different about that day. I found the folllowing:
I thought, maybe that's a sign! but of course it's not. Just, when logic can't help me make a decision, I start to act superstitious. But today when [someone I worked with] was rude to me, I thought, that's my sign!

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