Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Civano's Community Garden

Civano Community Garden event.Sometimes the great places are not those designed by the town planners—though the openness in such designs leaves the possibility. They are, sometimes, the ones designed by neighbors, by those who have a vision that cannot be beaten down by a developer's dwindling funds or an HOA's maniacal fascination with legal liability.

One such place is Civano's Community Garden, built in a shape most resembling the outline of Minnesota, wedged behind an alley of colored garage doors, not far from the "neighborhood center." Sited on a leftover parcel donated due to the sheer badgering of Civano pioneers like Deirdre Calhoun and Ingrid Anderson and Caryl Clement (who created the landscape plan for the garden), the garden—with the exception of the hand-crafted adobe wall that surrounds it—was fully built on the bent backs of volunteering neighbors who moved earth, rock, sand, and concrete blocks over many months.

The community garden is not a great place so much because of the 51 raised and irrigated plots available at $50 per year---although many neighbors do indeed grow their fruits and veggies there. It is, rather, a great place because of the unplanned and planned gatherings. My family and I have met many a neighbor there for the first time, even though we don't maintain a plot. The fruit trees are still small and there is otherwise no shading from our harsh desert sun, yet it is nonetheless a lovely place to stroll, to smell the peppers ripening on the vine, to sit and relax on a hand-built, wildly colored bench.

The planned events are just as colorful: last holiday season's gathering to fill over 500 small paper bags with sand and candles for Civano's luminaria display, a marshmallow roast followed by an impromptu chorale of favorite campfire songs, the make-your-own stepping stone party, where buckets of broken tiles, polished glass, and other decor was available for neighbors of all ages to ply into freshly poured concrete pavers for the paths of the garden and community school.

In a community where the "activity center" is locked night and day, with access provided only on special occasion; where the beautiful adobe meeting hall sits empty and inaccessible, and has for months; where even the pub promised so long ago stands on the corner of our main intersection, an externally completed shell mocking us—or at least mocking my thirst; in such a community, the community garden is truly a place for us to grow.

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