Kneeling in the hot sun, covered in dirt, my coworker Kathy Blake and I pulled and yanked ferocious weeds from the DTE Energy Community Garden in Pontiac. The mercury had risen above eighty degrees, but thankfully, clouds provided a bit of shelter for the two hours we played in the soil.
When I first arrived, I parked behind the Gleaners building and saw a small, neat garden in what appeared to be an empty lot. I grabbed my hoe and backpack and walked over.
"Are you looking for the community garden?" asked a man who was hosing down his driveway.
Laughing, he said, "It's across the street. That's my garden."
I had wondered why the garden was so small. But as I directed my gaze to where the man pointed, I couldn't see the community garden. The reason, I found out, was that it resembled sod.
The garden had two rows of neatly planted tomatoes and onions. The rest was waiting for us to give it a good digging. A creepy, crawly vine-like grass covered most of the garden. Dandelions the size of oak trees had grown deep roots, roots that my meager spade could not dislodge. So, I dug out what I could, and like a man sweeping dirt under the rug, buried it underneath the soil.
There's something gratifying about gardening. It's purposeful and it's tiring.
Kathy and I talked about our lives and our work. Dare I say we bonded while we kneeled, clearing paths? It's cheesy, but yes. Our cleared row was not neat, but it was improved.
"It must be because of my astigmatism," Kathy concluded.
This was my favorite volunteering experience yet. I didn't have to talk with strangers after a hectic day. I didn't have to battle traffic. Instead, I did some honest work on a hazy Tuesday evening, knowing that our bit of effort will eventually help feed our community. Does it get any better than that?
To learn more about volunteering at a community garden, call Marc Zupmore at 313-235-3579.