We've suddenly become the kind of people who have a gardener. A gardener named Everett.
First a confession: I'm a crummy gardener. That's the truth. I love to have growing things around and we spent a whole lot of money to have a garden put in around a slate patio, but I just can't manage to sustain caring for it. OK, there are extenuating circumstances that I could use to justify my inability to garden--like not being able to kneel for more than about 30 seconds on my bad leg. But the bald truth is, it's just...such hard work. And I'm not all that good at hard work. And Beve, the man who works harder than almost anyone I know who doesn't make his living off the land itself, has almost no time to work on our yard. He'd like to, but with everything else in life, it's just not possible.
So he came home a couple of weeks ago and told me that our friends' friend, Everett, loves to garden. Everett. He became a tennis partner of our friend about four years ago. He hits the ball hard, and wins more often than he doesn't, and as long as he doesn't have too much cash on him, he shows up when he says he will. Everett, you see, is homeless. He's been on the streets of Bellingham about eight years now, ever since he got out of jail, was handed a no-contact order from his then-wife so had no place to go. Lately, he's been doing some work for our friends, helping with some house repairs, gardening, cleaning up rubbish. He wants to get his life together. So Beve asked if he'd come over and try to make some order of the disorder in our so-called gardens. He was supposed to come last week, but he was too flush with cash and had disappeared. This happens with him. Too much cash in his hands and he'll drink it away. Not show up for a week.
But today, bright and early, he was out on our front patio, gleeful at the work ahead. Ready to get down and dirty pulling weeds, pruning bushes, revealing the garden that we knew was there. He stopped for a break and told me a little bit about his life. He's a talker, Everett is. "I'm a felon," he told me. "Like to drink too much." He talked of ''back when I had a life," as opposed to "living in the homeless community." He told us where he likes to sleep (baseball dug-outs when it's raining), where he eats (there's a large enough Homeless community here that he eats different places every night of the week), where he washes his clothes (again--a service provided by a church in town once a week!), and where he showers. He's a pro at this 'life' he doesn't call a life.
And he's a pro at gardening, too.
By the time he finished, eight hours, several bottles of water, a couple of cherry colas, one grilled-cheese sandwich and a few handfuls of potato chips later, he'd made serious progress. We're astonished and pleased. And Everett? As I was driving him to the park where, when the day is nice, he hangs in hopes of scrounging up a game or two, he said, "That was a lot of fun. I think I'll get it finished in about a week, but then I'll have to keep up with it." I smiled. Everett feels a little purpose here, feels some ownership of our garden already (clearly more than I feel). And he told Beve just to give him twenty bucks and to hold the rest for him (as our friends do), so he can build up a savings. He has hopes, you see.
It's a sweet thing to see hope grow like this. To be a part of it. And...our garden is very happy to be in the hands of a man who knows what he's doing. A master like Everett.