My husband and I moved to Silver Spring, Maryland two years ago. As a transplant from the Midwest, I found the Greater D.C. Area overstimulating. The structures. The rat race. The narrow pace of the ambitious professional who thinks she’s running to something, only to find she is being chased by time.
In the spring of our first year, I escaped.
Behind a community center, hidden from a busy street, I found a garden near some woods. It was a county-owned plot, a 10 by 20 foot pile of dirt, and it became my refuge. Goldfinches greeted me atop the community garden fence. Baby rabbits snuck by my feet, hoping to grab my spinach. Deer waited to see if I’d forget to close the gate.
That summer, while the political machine whirred downtown, I planted oregano. I planted tomatoes and basil, too, but nothing took off the way my oregano did. After a bit of rain, in the hot humidity, my oregano clung to every bit of clay-filled earth it could reach… It was a wild thing.
By June, I had to contain it.
I placed a short cage around the oregano and stuffed its arms inside. It continued to grow upward and coiled around itself. A few weeks later, I heard a plaintive tweeting from the belly of the plant. My oregano had sprouted a nest. A family of House Finches had moved inside. The babies wiggled their heads up and out, pleading to be fed and to grow. My garden was now a refuge for someone else as well.
I moved to this area to find work because there are opportunities here. There are structures built to support someone like me. Without intention, I built structure in my garden that then brought another family; birds who used the shade of the oregano against the sun, the wind and predators. There is safety in structure and there is growth in wildness.
I’ve learned to appreciate this place that has so much of both.