Art & Words by Althea Collier
As a child, my church congregation had a small garden that we grew vegetables and fruits in every year. After many years, the garden was sold and converted into a new apartment building.
It is spring Sunday. I have pulled on my white dress and tied it with my favorite blue ribbon. Tights and pinching shoes. But I cannot wait for later. Later, I go to The Garden. At two o’clock I run to find my dad. He grabs my hand and I skip along beside him.
Corner. Man. Nod. Gate. Lock. Key. Grass.
This is our Garden. Tucked between two old buildings, my family and community have tended it since I was born, and I will tend it today. Thrilled eyes wide open, I toss my tights and shoes into the grass and run across the little lawn, under the arch of spindly vines. In the back, empty plots are waiting for the energy that spring brings.
My brother, who has run in behind us, has brought bags of mulch and manure. I roll up the sleeves of my Sunday white and dig my hands in the dirt. Turning, pulling, pushing, my little hands bring the old, hard earth to grow between my fingers. New sun beating on my back, I can feel the warmth of life come back to the dirt. In my white dress, I am rooted in the earth. Soon, corn, tomato, squash, basil, cucumber, and strawberry will find their place next to mine.
It is summer Sunday. Embay parts the thick, warm vines and hands me a prized, juicy, plump, tomato. I hold it in my hands, loving, eager. Under the shade of the 6-foot-tall corn, its juice runs down my chin. Beautiful, tart, and sweet. We are all gathered here today. I cup my treat between my hands and peer out from the vines at my family and friends gathered on the grass. Barbeque and ice cream in their mouths, The Garden in their hearts. The girls and boys whose smiles have brought me here, the hands of those who have lifted me up, day after day. Returning to my tomato, I smile.
It is fall Sunday. I pull roots and pick squash for mom. The vine archway is turning rusty orange, the strawberries are gone. Dead tomato vines piled in my small arms; The Garden goes back to sleep. My father stows away shovels and bags of dirt as I lay in the grass.
“Until next summer,” I whisper.
It is winter Sunday. It has snowed so much that my short legs are engulfed by a wave of pure, sparkling white. Joy hidden under my scarf; I throw the first. My brother; the second. Klyde; the third. We fall and run and throw until our fingers are red and sore and our faces wet and frozen. As my father locks the gate behind us, I remember; Spring is almost here.
It is spring Sunday.
Corner. Man. Nod. Gate. Lock. Key. Grass.
This is not our Garden. Tucked between two old buildings, our Garden in gone. Sold years ago, nothing grows here anymore. Instead, there is a concrete tower. Hard, cold. No more am I rooted in warm earth, juicy tomatoes, vines and grass. My Garden is gone forever, living only in the whispers of old memories in my heart.
I first started out with just a rush of memories of the garden, then I organized those memories into seasons and turned five pages from my collage journal into representations of those seasons and memories.
Meet the Pair
Mentee Althea Collier & Mentor Kelsey Weekman
Mentee’s Anecdote: Kelsey always greets me with a warm and beautiful smile. No matter what I am doing, or how I am feeling, she makes me feel so comfortable and loved. I was worried that I would not get along with my mentor, but she just makes me want to spend hours writing and chatting together.
Mentor’s Anecdote: After a long day of doing nothing but writing, I’m burnt out, but Althea always provides that creative spark that reminds me how much I love writing as an art. She’s like one of the super cool it-girls from years past, but comparing her to someone else feels cheap. She’s bright and entirely her own. She may be ten years younger, but she pushes me to think outside the box in a way that makes me wonder who the mentor is here. What a treasure.
Althea (she/her/hers) is a junior in high school. She loves reading long books, drinking tea, going on bike rides, appreciating nature, nerding out over Lord of the Rings and writing poetry. She is passionate about criminal justice, intersectional feminism, journalism, and philosophy. Her favorite authors are Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen, she loves all things rock, and enjoys watching classic films.