It’s funny the things you don’t pay attention to when you are on your way to the bus. Most mornings, I’m on some kind of auto-pilot. If you asked me how I got to the bus stop, I would probably stammer something about crossing the street, or stopping at the corner and looking both ways. The details would typically escape me. I keep my head down and just get there somehow.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something. In an empty tree well on one of the side streets in the neighborhood, I noticed weeds. Weeds grow everywhere so noticing weeds is like noticing stop lights. They’re there, so what, move along. But these weeds were big and big weeds are not common, at least not around here. Somebody usually comes along and cleans them out.
These big weeds became how I started my day. I’d walk out the back door, swing by the weeds, see how they were doing, and move on down the street to catch my bus. In just a short while, they were eye-high and I found myself looking forward to seeing them, to catching up with them.
“How’re you doing, weeds?”
“I’m eye-high, how’re you?”
I checked in with the porter who was taking out the trash bags one morning. I asked her if there was something special about these particularly large weeds, if someone was going to clean up the little plot they were growing in, if she knew what kind of weeds they were. I fully expected to find out they were about to be mown, if that’s the word for taking out the weeds and leaving the little square empty again.
“Those are Joe’s pumpkins.” Well, that would explain the squash blossoms.
“Oh. Have a nice day.”
The next morning, I ran into him. Joe is the superintendent in this building. Had he really planted pumpkins in a three by four foot empty tree well in the street?
“These your pumpkins?”
In fact they were. He planted them.
He told me the tall red stalks in the middle were something the “Indian people” like for lunch. Apparently, Indian people had been harvesting the stalky things and leaving the pumpkins alone. It didn’t look like rhubarb so I was at a loss in my attempt to identify it. He was fascinated that anyone would want them. Keep in mind, they were growing in the street.
But alas, there weren’t any pumpkins behind those huge blossoms. Joe explained that the pumpkins usually grow right behind the blossoms and this year, nothing. Strong, beautiful blooms, but not one pumpkin. He was clearly disappointed.
The next day, the tiny plot was empty. The stalks, the blossoms, the weeds were all gone. There were the usual bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam, the stuff you see on the street. In the place of squash blossoms and stalks, there was a simple, plain rectangle of dirt and debris. You’d never know that his garden had been there.
This is just a footnote, a subset of what happens every day in a big city. He had planted pumpkin seeds, he had looked after this tiny garden, some random stalks had appeared that became lunch for the Indian people, and in the end, there were no pumpkins and the whole exercise was cleared away.
What makes this extraordinary is that while everyone knows a tree grows in Brooklyn, not too many people know that pumpkins could be growing in the Bronx.
Photos by me 09-21-2013