A harvest of plenty in special garden

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 


Somewhere in Harrison, there is a magical place. If we were telling this story as a fairy tale, it would begin:

Once upon a time, there was a small plot of land on which a happy home had stood. But one day, the king’s men came and tore the house down, leaving the land lonely and forsaken. Soon, bad people found the place and used it as a trash heap, and it got uglier and lonelier, because the king’s men didn’t do anything about cleaning it up.

Good people who lived nearby would try to remove the litter, but the bad people always came back and dumped some more.

Then, an angel appeared. We will call her a Gardening Angel. And she planted lots of wonderful things, which grew to giant size and which she shared with her neighbors.

Soon, the land was beautiful and bountiful, because the angel watched over it in every season. Just because this was the right thing to do.

The End The best thing about this story is that it’s true.

We have not met the Gardening Angel. We don’t even know her name.

Which is fine, because we would not identify her anyway, lest the king’s men get annoyed. Besides, we are told she speaks no English.

We learned about her from a Harrison man, Tony DeOliveira, who showed us the garden and told us its history. We are not going to give its location, either.

The folks in the neighborhood know where it is and appreciate it, and that is enough.

“I’m here 16 years,” DeOliveira said, “and it was an eyesore until three years ago, when she started the garden.”

The land, which belongs to the state, had been more or less abandoned, and it became an illegal dumping ground.

“It was disgusting,” he said. “People would pull up in trucks and throw their trash over the fence.

“I contacted the state to put up No Dumping signs,” He told us. “That didn’t work. No sign in the world would stop it.”

“This,” he said, waving his hand toward all the greenery, “stopped it.”

The plot is overflowing with plants. From a distance, one might think it’s all wild growth. But venture closer, and you see the herbs and fruits and vegetables.

Squash, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelons, cilantro, and many wonderful things whose names we do not know. Most of them of enormous size.

“She likes to grow massive things,” DeOliveira said, pointing out some 4-foot-long squash and 2-foot-long cucumbers hanging from a trellis. Nearby were some eggplants, which appeared only slightly larger than normal. “The eggplants are late-bloomers,” he explained, and we recently learned that they are now the size of watermelons.

Flowers also bloom there, but these are not purely decorative. “Every flower bears a fruit,” DeOliveira noted.

Since there are no pipes in or near the plot, how does the Gardening Angel water all this? She carries water there from her own home. Carries it in large, heavy buckets. And she’s a senior citizen.

“But she’s strong as a bull,” DeOliveira said. “You should see her in the spring. She’s out there clearing the ground with a pick-ax. God bless her. Every year, she removes more weeds, and the garden grows.”

As we stood there talking, several people walked by, pointing out the giant veggies and smiling. “See how people stop?” DeOliveira said. “No one steals anything. No one damages anything.”

The Gardening Angel doesn’t keep all this produce for herself. Far from it. “She hands out things to the whole neighborhood,” DeOliveira said.

So, on one block in Harrison, on one small lot, one small woman has shown what hard work and determination and neighborhood pride can do.

As DeOliveira said: God bless her

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