The generosity of strangers

By Maureen Foley 05/31/2007

Last week, as I walked back to the office after lunch, a glint of color caught my eye. I turned and noticed a gorgeous side garden on the edge of cute house on Kalorama. Colors and textures from thousands of flowers hovered over the ground, like a living quilt. I paused to admire the red and pink cosmos, California poppies and many other flowers and to soak in the beauty for a moment before returning to the colorless reality of office walls and computer screens. Just then a woman popped out of the house and walked down to the sidewalk.

“What a gorgeous garden,” I said to her.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

Then I explained how much I enjoyed the technicolor diversity of her plants and how I wanted to create a similarly chaotic and wild garden in my own backyard. With that, the woman offered up some of her extra seeds. She even pulled seeds directly from the dried flower heads of some of her own faded blooms.

Then, the woman ran back inside to find envelopes for the loose seeds, carefully marking the outside with the proper name of the seeds contained within. Before I could protest, she filled my hands with three packets of cosmos, nasturtium and calendula seeds. She even handed me a single blossom from her calendula plant, remarkable the petals are one color on the back than a different color on the front. I walked back to work, my mood transformed. Back at my desk, I placed the calendula in a glass of water. Every time I saw the blossom, I would remember the garden and smile at the woman’s generosity.

The encounter with the woman and her garden was especially meaningful because I had already begun preparations for leaving my position as editor for the VC Reporter. Now, as I write my final editor’s note, I see the casual exchange of compliments and seeds in front of a gorgeous panoply of color as a metaphor for my relationship with Ventura County. I’ve met many generous and kind individuals during my months at the editor’s desk, each one with the patience of a small town citizen and the worldly perspective of an urban dweller. I am impressed with the many Ventura County people I’ve met who, like the gardening fanatic, have been remarkable for their kindness and keen interest in improving their pocket of the local landscape.

As I prepare to leave my post here, I would like to thank the VC Reporter staff and everyone from the community who has helped me better understand the area’s culture, politics and people. I also appreciate the readers who have contacted me, over the weeks, with their concerns and ideas. Now, armed with six months of great editorial experience at the VC Reporter and three packets of seeds, I have new work and new adventures to pursue. First, however, I will take a moment to plant a few of the garden lady’s strange curled calendula seeds in my own backyard. And when the plants blossom, in a month or so, I will think of her and remember the best moments of my brief tenure here.

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