NEIGHBORHOOD GARDENER

W. Kelley - Minnetonka Beach, Minnesota
Entered on February 1, 2008

I believe gardening has shown me how caring and sharing can connect people making us better neighbors and citizens.

When I moved back home to Minnesota from New York City in my thirty’s I learned an important lesson about community when I moved into a small village in the middle of Lake Minnetonka.

For our first home my wife and I bought a small summer cottage just “off” the lake. The first neighbor I met was Liza, an older widowed women. Our friendship started because we were both out and about the town. I was a stay at home dad at the time and she was involved in local politics. When I mentioned I was fixing up my yard she told me to come on down to her place and help myself to some hosta…a hardy,perennial that grows well in the shade.We divided some plants and talked about our lives. She talked about raising her five children in her big house “on the lake”,and I talked about the challenges of being a Mr. Mom pioneer.

She called one day and asked me to bring some hosta up to the City Hall. She had volunteered our services for a city beautification project. After the city ignored her offer and went ahead and hired professionals,she was furious. We decided the job looked sparse and needed filling in, and together we set out to protest the wasteful spending of our local government. Even though she was a Republican and I was a Democrat we became partners connecting to an issue that was important to us. The city counsel wasn’t too thrilled with us but what could they say? The town got a beautiful hosta garden and we had our say.

I am now a divorced man living in the top floor of Liza’s house. When I had to sell my house she asked me to move in with her,her health was failing and she needed more assistance. I cared for her and the gardens and she was my confidant during the most stressful time of my life. We were there for each other.

After her death her children asked me to stay and be caretaker of the property where I carry on Lizas’ legacy of providing hosta to anyone in need. I refer to myself as ” the old man in the attic”.

Recently a neighbor called me the ultimate idealist. I think it’s nice that at the age of 54 it’s still obvious. When they say “it takes a village”I know exactly what they mean.Even if people are on different sides of the fence they can still come together with a common goal. After all,don’t we all want the same thing…a place where we can share our lives and pursue our dreams?

I think it’s cool that our town has become connected by a plant that used to be considered a weed. Life can be beautiful if you just get connected.