I encountered a friend yesterday afternoon, a woman who would certainly prefer to remain anonymous here and probably everywhere else as well. She is a passionate gardener but has very little space to garden at her apartment, so she has for many years gardened small plots of dirt alongside city roadways and parks, wherever she feels that a few flowers would do most good. She is a practitioner of what I call guerrilla gardening.
During our conversation yesterday, I happened to mention that I had finished ripping out plant matter from my new garden and that I was looking forward to doing some planting, beginning with some trees and shrubs this fall. She asked me why I was not now planting any of the edibles that I would eventually like to grow in the garden. I responded to the effect that I would like to do things in order, to have the large plants and landscaping done before I begin introducing the perrenials and finally the annuals. She brushed off this explanation, informed me firmly that it is possible to do both things at once, and insisted that I take from her a selection of vegetable seedlings, arriving at my door a few hours later with seedlings for several varieties of tomatoes, brussel sprouts, chives, and some ornamentals.
The gift was not inconsiderable. This woman has little enough in the world to give, and she gave out of the plants that she had so patiently gathered and seeded for her own gardening. She gave out of the things that she loves most. I was moved, and the plants that she has given me seem a little different than those that I would purchase myself. To plant and tend these gifts becomes a response to them as gifts. They become more than plants because they represent something given and received between friends. The gift of friendship has transformed them, as it transforms everything.