About a week ago, I got a tough phone call. My college roommate's father called to pass along the sad news that my friend Gabi had passed away. Though deeply saddened, it didn't come as a surprise. It also has led me to some soul-searching thoughts as I think about my friend, dead at just 34. Her father asked me if I ever thought I'd go back to social work, as Gabi and I went through the Master's of Social Work program together at Pitt. Although I spent quite a bit of time & energy attaining that degree, my reply was no. I really feel that what I do here on the farm is what I was put here on Earth to do, and that I am blessed to have found something that I love and that makes me happy, but is meaningful. I think that's why I went into social work, because I wanted to do something meaningful for others, but I found it was not what made me happy. Farming is bigger than yourself; it is life and death. Beauty and heartache. Though my heart was heavy, I still had chores to do, animals who depend on me to feed and care for them. I had baby chicks to pull out of the incubator, their tiny lives just starting. There is a special kind of peace you get inside when you find what you're meant to do, the place in life you were meant to be...it's the answering of a calling. And it makes me sad that my friend never found the place that she was always supposed to be, because I think if she had, she might still be with us today.
My siblings called to offer condolences, and we talked about happier times, shared memories. My sister Laurel made my day by buying flowers and putting them by the house Gabi & I shared in college. As I looked at the photos Laurel sent, I cried a little, laughed a little. There, in the background, was the weedy patch of gravelly dirt you'd expect on a city street known more for keg parties than local food. But, oddly enough, it was the site of my first garden. While we had flowers planted around my family home, my parents gave up gardening when I was very small, so I don't remember tending anything but flowers. Gabi always had a garden, and missed it, so the two of us got a couple of tomato and cucumber plants and plopped them right in our little yard. I added some marigolds and mint I dug up from my Dad's property. Our plants grew, the soil was so bad the weeding was minimal, and when the tomatoes needed staking, we found some old white metal curtain rods in the basement. We put them in the dirt and tied up the tomatoes with baler twine I brought from home. We laughed at our little "ghetto garden", but we had fresh veggies for our salads that summer!
So to honor Gabi's memory, and that first little garden...I'd like to "pay it forward", to you. Send me an email (send to pleasantvalleyfarmpa at yahoo dot com) and I will send you a packet of seeds, for free. I'll need your address, and I'd like you to share something with me. Let me know if you're an expert gardener, or if this spring is your first try. Or why you garden, or where you find your peace. Share a homesteading dream. Anything at all, really...let's just make it a little more personal than a blank email with your address, OK? I'll send out seeds until I run out of packets I can part with.
It's my hope that these seeds will arrive like a special present in the mail, and you will plant them, watch them grow, and reap the benefits. Gabi shared the magic of gardening with me, and I would like to pass it to some new friends as a way to honor her memory and her kind heart. I think she'd like this idea.
I hope you smile like this when you get them.