Jessica was planning the watering system for her vegie box built from discarded timber. It was the size of an old galvanised bathtub, long discarded.
The vegie box is a project while under lock down – an excuse for an old man to spend time with his granddaughter. The box took shape under the watchful eye of the old man, Jessica providing the labour. Measuring, assembling, drilling and screwing one piece at a time, the box standing assembled in the back yard.
“Can we paint the vegie box to make it look good”? Jessica asked. “Sure” said the old man. Arriving at Bunnings we joined a queue. People standing, distancing, isolated, living in their own world. Once inside, paint colour selected, paint and brush purchased. Back at the vegie box, Jessica singing to herself, applied dark grey paint,
Later, when installing the watering system, Jessica called out. “I have missed painting the back corner of the vegie box. She looked at it and sighed, “O well, I guess it’s not perfect”. We both moved on, drilling holes, laying out plastic piping, installing four small sprinklers.
Then, a moment of anticipation as the tap was turned on. Silence, then a noise, a hissing noise as air, then reluctant water began to spit and splutter out of one, then another sprinkler. A look of shear enjoyment crept across Jessica’s face. “Let’s see if we can have the sprinklers spraying equal amounts of water” she suggested. A change to the system was discussed, planned and the work began.
The vegie box brought back memories of another time, other place. It was at the rear of the hub, nine vegie boxes standing in three neat rows, neglected, in a state of disrepair. The site where they stood was to be demolished to accommodate a new building, a community centre at Templestowe.
I had offered to remove a donated vegie box. With Range Rover parked nearby, I began to dismantle one of the boxes. It was hard work. The weight of soil made removing the vegie box difficult. Then I discovered dry rot under black plastic lining the box.
I turned my attention to salvaging the soil, a black plastic liner and the small sprinkler system attached inside the box. Looking around, I found discarded containers to shovel soil into. I then loaded the soil, black liners and the four sprinklers into the back of the Range Rover and drove home. There they lay abandoned beside the drive waiting to go somewhere, but nowhere to go.
It was Jessica, who asked the question “What soil are we going to use in our vegie box”. “Why not the soil from the vegie box at the Hub” I suggested. The soil, black plastic lining and sprinklers were transported to a new home and relocated into Jessica’s vegie box.
With four sprinklers now creating a fine mist over the vegie box, I asked Jessica, “What’s your favourite vegie”. “Carrots” she replied. The project moved to its next phase. We have called it ‘new life’. Jessica’s work is built on the vision and hard work of others who created a community garden in another place.
That comment “it’s not perfect” by Jessica has stayed with me, caused me to reflect, to ponder. Was it a throwaway line to describe her mistake, an acknowledgement the vegie box was not as she had wanted? That sense of being ‘imperfect’, of seeing ourselves as imperfect, not good enough, has shaped my life, perhaps all our lives.
Jessica chose to leave her vegie box imperfect, flawed, yet able to support new life in the form of her favourite vegie, carrots.
It is in the planting of a seed, in a vegie box with rich soil tendered by others, protected by the black plastic, and watered by sprinklers, that a carrot emerges.
Perfection emerges from imperfection.
But then, a carrot, by itself, is not perfect. It may be distorted, bent out of shape, but it sustains life for all who eat and consume it. Perhaps perfection is a mountain to climb, a peak beyond reach. It is in the climbing we find new life. It brings hope, it sustains, it is created by many hands and brings great joy to those who are touched by it on the way.
This vegie box project with Jessica is more about new life, than perfection. It is a continuation of life itself through this time of isolation. A simple gift from those who created a community garden at the hub, lives on in a vegie box painstakingly constructed by Jessica to grow her favourite vegie, carrots. But then, it has brought a great joy to an old man who continues his own journey locked up in a compound, most of the time.