Digging In

Last week, I wrote about how busy everything is at our house right now (Breaking up the Busy-ness). Sometimes, when life is so packed with activities and changes, threaded with the emotions that accompany such busy-ness, there is only one thing to do.

Dig in.

And that was exactly why this past Sunday morning found me with dirt on my hands (and knees and parts of my sweatshirt). My daughter-in-law Beka invited a bunch of us to help with a Beans on the Boulevard project on St. Paul’s West Side. So, Sunday at 9 a.m., Mick and I joined Beka and her parents, along with one of her students and a woman named Maureen who heads up the Beans on the Boulevard project at La Placita on Cesar Chavez St. in St. Paul. We dug weeds out of the dirt. We moved perennials that had grown unattended. Some of us (not power tool challenged me) built boxes for raised beds. All morning, we got the space at La Placita ready to grow a bean-tasting garden for the community.

It felt wonderful to be with other people doing that kind of labor. We were outside, we were contributing to the community, we were building something that would benefit others in the near future. We were making a garden that would help people be well-fed.

And it fed us. Doing community work shifted my own focus away from all the things that have been clamoring for my attention within the tight circle of family and got me to think in a broader sense. That’s exactly what community work should do. Make us think outside ourselves.

At lunchtime, we walked down the street to eat in a local cafe, El Burrito Mercado, where the staff are bilingual. I felt utterly stupid that I not only didn’t recognize several of the food items at this place only a few miles from where I live, but I cannot speak Spanish other than to ask where the bathroom is or if I can have more beer. So, I asked the guy in line ahead of me what some of the foods were after learning he’d been there before. The rest of our crew was in line behind me and we all ordered different things. Tacos, tamales, burritos, and beans that have no resemblance to the stuff Taco Bell serves filled our plates. We dug in once again with forks. No dirt. It was one of the best lunches I’ve ever had.

Later in the afternoon, back at home, I was struck by how empty the house felt. My daughter was out, the dogs were quiet, Mick fell asleep in a chair in the living room. I couldn’t sit still. So I headed back outside, picked up some gardening tools, and went to the front yard to dig some more.


  1. This post is making me all teary-eyed. To give back to the community in the way you have makes such a difference, as you so poignantly stated, to the recipient as well as the giver.

    And then that standing in line in the restaurant reminds me of my second daughter, a Spanish medical interpreter in northeastern Wisconsin. She possesses such a passion for her work and the people she helps. She has also introduced us to her wonderful Hispanic neighbors, who welcomed us like family, invited us to dine with them. Thank you for rekindling that memory.

    At least you know how to ask for the bathroom and more beer in Spanish. I can't even do that.


  2. This is such a beautiful post on so many levels. Grubbing around in the dirt grounds me, in more than just the obvious way. Combining meaningful community support with garden play would be bliss. I wonder whether I can provide crisis counselling in a garden? I am sure both of us would benefit. Perhaps not. Yet.
    I loved your positive experience with Mexican food. Franchises (whatever the flavour) do tend to 'dumb down' the food don't they.


  3. Aww, thanks, Audrey. My own contribution to the Beans on the Boulevard project at La Placita was just a tiny little bit. Maureen is the one who keeps things going and my daughter-in-law is contributing lots of time to it. They deserve lots of kudos.


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