Autumn came quickly yesterday, and with it, a feeling of abundance. Cool morning air kept us snuggled together in bed a little longer in the morning. Eventually, with the help of a hoodie and a space heater, I emerged from the warmth of the bed and settled onto the cold mat for my yoga and meditation practices. I felt a little better once my blood was flowing, but I knew it would be a day for layers.
Just before noon, I headed down the road to attend my first ever Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Fighting nerves and some strange sense of imposter syndrome, I took a deep breath and walked into the sunlit room at the front of the Quaker house. Throughout the meeting, my hands stayed busy with nervous fidgeting, but my mind remained focused on hearing the stories of the five older men who welcomed me there. Despite our outward differences, we found things to relate to in each other’s stories. They told me that other meetings on the weekends have younger people and women, “it’s not all just old guys like us!” they chuckled. Of course it would be nice to be around people closer to my age, but it was still a good meeting and I’m so glad that I attended.
After the hour was up, the man who led that day’s meeting lingered to talk with me one-on-one. We found some common threads as we chatted and he handed me a packet of AA literature. As we walked toward the door, we paused at the threshold where a large basket of pears laid on the floor. He explained that they were left by the Quakers and were free to anyone, encouraging me to take a bagful. At first I declined but he insisted, and I could not deny that I wanted to try them, so I picked out two large fruits and balanced them among my other belongings as we walked out into the sun.
It was turning out to be a beautiful day—still cool enough to keep a cozy hoodie on, but with sunshine to warm your cheeks and just-yellowed leaves fluttering in a soft breeze. I went home for a spot of lunch, then Leo and I went out for a walk around the neighborhood. We said hello to all the cats and dogs in people’s gardens, and I snapped a few photos of a monarch caterpillar munching on a strange plant. At the foot of one driveway was a cardboard box full of apples and feijoas, free to anyone passing by who might need a sweet snack. These neighborly gifts are abundant in Whakatu, and it brings such warmth to my heart to see.
Later in the evening, I went to work the dinner shift at the restaurant. Toward the end of the night I noticed that a large grocery sack of apples appeared behind the bar, and with a confused smile on my face I asked my coworker what all the apples were for. “Oh, they’re from Jilson! You should take some home with you.” Our manager had brought in the surplus from the apple tree in his garden. Mind you, this is in addition to the other manager who regularly brings in a couple of pears and apples, cuts them up and tucks them behind the bar for us to snack on throughout the shift. At the end of the night, I slipped two into my jacket pockets and took a bite out of one. Sweet and crisp, with a flavor that you can’t get at a supermarket. Another moment of shared abundance that brought light into my soul.
It’s funny to me, because this probably seems like such a simple and obvious thing for those who live here: your garden produces more than your household can consume, so you bring the extras to your church or workplace or even just to the edge of your yard so people can help themselves. Why wouldn’t you? But this simple act is missing from so many American neighborhoods. It’s one of the things that inspired Comrade Co-op’s foundation—the idea that we could encourage people to garden and grow their own food, and then share their extra produce with unhoused neighbors who had trouble accessing fresh foods. Gardens shouldn’t be such a revolutionary idea, but it still amazes me every time we walk around a neighborhood in New Zealand. Almost every home has a garden of some kind—whether it’s a couple of potted tomato plants on the patio, or several flourishing raised beds, or apple and olive trees shading the yard. There is abundance around every corner, and people are happy to share.
Gardening is something that I’ve missed greatly during my years of travel and nomadic life. I love to get my hands into soil when I get the chance, and it’s always a delight when my best friend sends video updates of her garden’s progress back in the states. I know that many of my friends keep small gardens where they can, and I hope that it continues to catch on in the US and elsewhere. Growing your own food can not only provide fresh produce for your family, but for your neighbors too. Plus, it’s a much better alternative to grass when you consider the impact on the planet.
Fall is bringing its chilly air and fruits of harvest to us here in New Zealand, but to all my friends in the Northern Hemisphere: as spring warms your faces and you turn toward the sun, I hope you consider planting seeds in your gardens.