We moved into this house last fall because we wanted a garden, so we long ago had committed ourselves to the effort involved. Starting with a yard full of weeds and hard-packed clay for soil, we knew we’d be starting from scratch. Restoring any bit of this soil will take years, but we have done this before. At least this yard isn’t sewn with rocks like the last place we planted.

The onset of COVID19 has changed our plans, however, as it has seemed to change every aspect of life around the globe. We’ve all been forced to have draw inward as schools and stores close and entire aisles of the grocery store contain nothing more than a few neglected cans of cream of chicken. Suddenly, our motivation to start a garden turned from a stream to a gush. I’m writing this post not about our garden, however—all our plants are still indoors—but about what pursuing our garden brought.

My wife and I spent a day building raised bed frames. What started as two 4’x8’ beds multiplied into five… seems building them was easier than we thought. Now, if only we had some soil… We began calling around.

The first four companies we called wanted to deliver the following week. Then we got an alert that all of Colorado was ordered to shelter-in-place starting at 5pm the following day. Would soil deliveries still be allowed next week? It seemed dicey. One company was able to deliver the next morning, however – we would have 4 yards of soil the next morning! I felt giddy with joy – I am a soil ecologist after all. The thought of having soft, organic-matter-rich earth brought to me brings a special delight. I also felt we had gotten away with something, like a kid sneaking in the house after curfew unnoticed. The soil company assured me that all operations in their facility and for delivery could be performed at a safe 6-foot distance. Who ever thought that would be something we’d worry about?

The next day, as promised, the soil truck showed up and emptied a beautiful mound of black gold onto our lawn. Now, if only we had a wheelbarrow and some way to cover the soil until we moved it…

Sometimes I get caught up in the news and start to question humanity—so many people acting selfishly, so many people in need—that weighs on a soul. Yet sometimes there are little moments that remind me of our immense capacity for good.

No sooner had the delivery truck pulled away, the driver waving farewell with his pup as co-pilot, then a pick-up truck pulled up in front of our house.

“Is this your pile?” the driver asked from his window, gesturing to the four yards of soil we now had piled in our lawn.

“Yes,” I answered, at first wondering whether he was upset about the unsightly dirt. The driver and truck looked familiar, but I’d never spoken to him before. He must live nearby.

“Would you like to borrow some tarps?” the driver asked.

One of countless loads with the soil protected from wind by our neighbor’s generosity & thoughtfulness. Another neighbor lent us the wheelbarrow.

“Tarps?” I looked at the pile. I’d placed the only tarp we had on top, but it was a bit like trying to cover the water in a bath tub with a wash cloth.

“I work in construction, and we find these tarps come in handy.” The driver got out of the truck, went to the back, and tossed two massive blue tarps from his truck onto our lawn. “My name is Sam – I live on the corner over there. The house with the big, white dog. I’m sure you’ve heard him.”

I smiled, very familiar with his dog and completely blown away by the gesture. “I’m Laura. So nice to meet you. These tarps would be very handy. Thank you.” We chatted briefly, discussed how to return the tarps once we were done.

Yard with most of the beds constructed and filled with black gold!

Imagine. You are in your house – you hear a sound that is familiar – and you think to yourself, “Hey, I bet I have something that would help whoever is near that sound.” You hop in your vehicle to go find those people to see if you could help. How many people think like that and act on those impulses? I was touched Sam had gone out of his way to share something he had that might be helpful. And the tarps were helpful – even though the day was sunny, the wind picked up, and the next day (we didn’t quite finish moving all the soil in one day) was rainy. The tarps made shoveling a lot easier and minimized the amount of soil we lost or let go as dust.

Lettuce and arugula sprouts are thriving indoors while we prepare the outdoor beds.

Our garden-to-be brought other gifts as well. One neighbor lent us their wheelbarrow. Others saw us shoveling and, though we’d not spoken before, stopped to chat and introduce themselves.

Each person reminded me that we all have something to offer, even if it’s as simple as a brief conversation, and that these moments bring us together – even as we maintain a safe six foot distance.

So much is uncertain now. Will someone I know get sick? How long before I can hug someone outside my home? When can I get back to my lab work? When will my friends get back to work? Am I over-reacting or under-reacting?

Yet if there is one thing that this pandemic has made certain is that people long to connect, and that uncertainty can bring out the best in us. It brings neighbors to greet each other, share with one another, seek out ways to help. You can be sure if any plants thrive in our garden, we will share with Sam and our neighbors. Perhaps a token of our times, we returned the tarps with a small thank-you-gift in COVID19 currency: a roll of toilet paper.

– Laura van der Pol, April 1, 2020



2 thoughts on “COVID Connections

  1. Laura, thanks for sharing this wonderful story! From a garden enthusiast. I also found that building raised beds was easier than I thought as well! We used landscape timbers, that are surprisingly low-priced, and a tool that Ace Hardware recommended that hooks onto a drill and drills holes in the timbers big enough for rebar. I couldn’t believe I could build the boxes with my son! Not sure how to post a picture on here. So glad you found kindness from neighbors! from Julie


  2. Dear Laura…..You are a shining light and a beacon of hope in a topsy turvy world. When I checked this morning, I saw signs of growth from the seeds you so generously shared. For an urban urchin, this is nothing short of a miracle. Thanks for everything.

    Liked by 1 person

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