verge (vʉrj)
the edge, brink, or margin (of something): also used figuratively the verge of the forest, on the verge of hysteria

to tend or incline (to or toward)
to be in the process of change or transition into something else; pass gradually (into) dawn verging into daylight

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Common Good Gardens

Common Good Garden
Old Saybrook, CT

This little garden is a quiet wonder.  It sits on a very long and narrow strip of land Grace Episcopal Church made available to the Common Good gardeners.  The stone church sits neatly on one side of the garden, and the Connecticut River gently passes along the other.  The garden's quiet and peaceful presence seems fitting for what happens here in this little humble spot. 

The care and devotion to this magical garden is unmistakable.  Each neat and tidy row is marked with a detailed note about what was planted and when.  Soaker hoses are securely in place, providing gentle moisture to each little plant in each row.  Thoughtful attention is given to each section of the garden so that the true essence of each different vegetable visibly thrives.  I couldn't help but notice how much the vegetables seemed to be enjoying themselves, hosting what looked like festival celebrations of their occupancy in the garden. The peas were being very pea-like as they danced along their stringy fences, leafy romaine stood proudly at attention while beets flexed their bold red veins at the muted and waxy cabbage heads.  Beyond these glorious beds you'll find the just-as-glorious compost section--a hotbed of science and earth and my father collaborating to create organic nutrients to feed the garden.  The simplicity of compost-making, as laid out in Common Good's piles, seems almost too simple to comprehend.  Green and brown plant matter--along with water and air--equals magic.  My father has learned how to work with these elements, and the compost production is uncommonly magnificent.   (Please, if you are ever in need of a spiritual transformation, ask my father to tell you about compost.)

But here's the real magic. The beauty and productivity of this garden is a reflection of its dedicated volunteers.   Yet this garden isn't for its volunteers.  This isn't a community garden where people raise their own food to take home to their own tables.  All of the food produced by Common Good Garden is given to the needy and homeless.  A corps of 20 or so people work this piece of land on a day-to-day basis while a variety of others help as they can.  Cafes and coffee roasters donate their used coffee grounds.  Young submariners from the nearby navy base help to do heavy jobs a couple times a month.  Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pitch in when they can.  A local builder donated a shed. Someone else donates manure.  Volunteers collect day-old produce from other local farm stands and, combined with Common Good's yield, they donated nearly 35,000 pounds of produce to local soup kitchens to feed the needy and homeless last year.  I think of it as The Little Garden That Can.

What strikes me the most about this endeavor is the quiet goodness of the Common Good people.  Like their gardening practice, they have kept things pretty simple and pretty quiet.  They work very hard.  They care for this garden as if it were for their own selves.  Humus, humility--they are as humble as the soil they work and the people they feed. Common Good-ers do the most important work there is to do.  Those dancing peas and proud romaine leaves and red-veined beets not only feed the hungry with fuel for the body, but also goodness for the soul.   I am quite certain that the fruits of such work extend far beyond the garden gate.

To learn more about Common Good Gardens, visit their website at