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4200 FIFTH AVENUE

I am not the picture of grace and peace--at one with my car--when I make my daily commute into and out of Oakland. For one thing, my path is full of dog-legged jogs and snippets of streets, a quirky route designed to keep me from sitting still too long in traffic. I confess I have a difficult time embracing my journey. Instead I am chomping at the bit to be at my destination.

But maybe that is changing. Last summer, on a tangled little hillside that I pass every day on my way home from work--a porch-sized rectangle of land next to a beer distributor--I watched a man go to work. First, he doggedly sliced down the thicket of tall weeds and vines with a scythe. This took a few days. Then he took a spade and he turned over the packed-down soil and broke it into clods. Finally, he rototilled it and added compost until he had fine smooth soil. It was only then that he was ready to plant.

Now, as all of this was happening in July, a time when most other gardens were already planted and coming along nicely, I was drawn in. What impulse had led him to have his garden in this unlikely spot? What would he plant? Would he tend it or would he lose interest, letting the weeds grow high again, allowing them to choke out his little plants?

Even more intrigued was I when he laid out long, straight, unrelenting rows of marigolds and salvia, just those two--a pretty tame plan after all of his hard work. But there he was every evening, patiently watering the small plants, his back soaked with sweat in the summer heat. And his plants grew in their own sweet time with sturdy, earnest stems. They branched out and they blossomed, and the little hillside was dotted with the golden-yellow heads of the marigolds, spiked with the bright red plumes of the salvia.

I still took note of them as traffic crawled along that road every night. But I wondered less about why they were there. And then one day, I could see that there was a pattern, a conscious design to the placement of each plant--although I couldn't tell what it was yet. Each day, I drove slowly by, hoping for traffic to snarl so that I could study the placement of gold against red, maybe get some perspective. But traffic crept along at the same speed, just enough for one fleeting glance each day. I waited and hoped that enlightenment would come.

It did. And it was worth the wait. "Enjoy," the flowers spelled--one simple word, made profound by the waiting for the word to blossom. "Enjoy," was the message from the tender of the flowers, a gentle gift to all who passed by. This summer he has another design, this gardener. There is a whole poem being written on a hillside. I can't read it yet. But I'm in no hurry. I am learning to savor the journey.

I am pleased to welcome Vicki Glembocki to the staff of Pitt Magazine. Vicki comes to us from Penn State where she jump-started her career as a writer by selling her first feature article to a major publisher while she was still in school. Already she has brought a liveliness to our hallways. Her first feature for Pitt Magazine will appear in the December issue.
Enjoy.


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