After college, I managed to be accepted to graduate school, complete with a research assistantship, at South Dakota State University in Brookings. My major was Wildlife & Fisheries Science. I ended up doing research on a couple of minnow species that make up a significant part of the food chain on Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Enough about that, what I did there certainly won't change the world. But what I learned while I was there changed my world.
For the first time, I was on my own. No roommate, no dormitory social structure to report to. I was free to think for myself. I found myself hanging out at bookstores and buying titles like Mother Earth Spirituality by Ed McGaa (Eagle Man). Who ended up coming to my 26th birthday party, playing drums and singing cowboy songs. But again, I am getting ahead of the story.
I had a funky apartment, all to myself, on the ground floor of this big old house. It was basically a kitchen, a living/bedroom, and a huge closet under the stairs that led to the second floor. Orange shag carpet, at no extra cost. I loved it. Anyway, the people who shared the ground floor with me, two couples who were also studying Wildlife & Fisheries, had garden plots in the community gardens just north of town. I had just started dating The Hermit, and he suggested that I(we) get a plot too. On Memorial Day 1990, we planted. Never mind that he lived 200 miles away, and I would be doing all the work, it was just meant to be.
The soil was rich, black, and crumbly. I don't remember exactly, but I know we planted corn. And tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, whatever. I remember eating the corn most of all. At that time, I bicycled everywhere. There was just no point in driving my car, a very fuel efficient Nissan Sentra, any place that I could not ride my bike. So I found myself riding out to the garden plot in the evening, shovel and hoe in hand, to tend to the garden. My schedule that summer was that I spent one week on campus, one week 200 miles away on Lake Oahe. I spent my weekends at The Hermit's, another long drive. So I didn't have much time to tend the garden.
It was what it was. A beginning. Sometimes I find myself yearning for that fertile Dakota soil, for the sense of community I found among people tending garden plots in the same area. For my little apartment, and the 20ish sense that everything is possible.