As flowers go, crocuses are excellent role models. Every spring they stretch their resilient little faces skyward and unfurl their tight little petals to whatever it is that will greet them. It doesn’t matter how much dirt and debris lies on top of them, how much snow or sleet or rain falls on them, they always seem to find a way to wriggle through winter’s thickest layers and emerge triumphant.
Recently, when I returned back to the city after a weekend away, I noticed a cluster of the royal purple variety peeping through the tops of leaves and trash that had accumulated outside of our building over the winter. I nearly swooned. But I also got to work. Seeing that one tiny sign of life made me want to see more. I went inside to get the garden gloves that I usually reserve for my own window box gardening and I got to clearing.
I yanked up overgrown ivy, I did my best to disguise hideous garden sculptures, I filled an entire trash can with leaves and sticks and plastic bags and yes, even dog poop. The work felt good in the get-your-muscles-moving-and-the-wind-in-your-hair kind of way. But after spending just an hour outside, I realized that the real work had little to do with flowers and everything to do with people.
There was Luca, age 3.5. He lives on the 22nd floor of a nearby building and his favorite thing to grow are flowers. He told me. Then there was Jordan, mother of two and a woman who I have passed roughly 300 times without ever introducing myself. She and her sister cleaned up the gardens in every apartment they ever rented, she said. And finally there was the young man who lives in our building, whose name I didn’t catch, but who has a soft spot for tacky garden sculptures (alas) and a visiting father who wanted to make sure that I have a green thumb.
In the single hour that I spent outside clearing brush and debris from the front of our building, I had more actual conversations with my neighbors than I have ever had. It’s not surprising, really, but it is encouraging. New growth, two ways.