Three months of quarantine: almost no casual interaction face to face except with my husband and our rotating neighborhood cashiers at the grocery store.
My husband and I walk back from the local deli with goodies, he carries them while I stroll next to him, it’s 20 minutes before curfew and we have a deeply engaged conversation. We talked about Austrian tourism, which regions are the most beautiful, about book publishing etc.
A lady on the sidewalk next to her car with an open trunk, looks at us with an overwhelmed and nervous look.
She sees us and uses this opportunity to ask, in an apologetic way almost, if we could help her unload the trunk. Inside, three huge bags of potting soil and two gigantic pots I complimented for their beautiful indigo color and their large size.
Since the quarantine, I upgraded from “occasional plant person” to “devout care giver for plants” so I can’t help but comment:
“WOW good quality soil!”
She adds with a cute smile
I take them one by one and lay them on the sidewalk per her instructions. In my head there is like this lingering thought:
“Fellow plant lady, I’ve got this, you don’t need to hurt your knees here, I am there for you!”
These bags were huge, heavy and soiled my clean jeans instantly. But somehow, my inner self was finally back into her natural element. She disappeared toward her front yard, a lush city-forest of plants, grabbed a bunch of lavender and gifted it to me for the effort, saying I can try propagating them. My husband took it as I returned to the “duty”. (Fast forward a couple weeks, sadly the propagation didn’t work)
She watches me, trying to help, and raves at my strength in an endearing way. In my mind, I kept having images of the famous 2000s “Techno Viking” a bit like he was my spirit animal.
No one was watching, as my husband realized it would take long and asked if it was ok for him to go home unload our own heavy bag but of groceries.
“Wow you’re so strong, do you work out?”
“No actually, it’s not so bad, I’ve got this!”
Then, together we opened the potting soil and started to fill the two gorgeous pots she actually nicely arranged on the sidewalk. They needed to be positioned a certain way, which I totally understood, sharing some of that “OCD” as they needed to be arranged accurately.
I couldn’t help but touch the black soil, a bit like Amélie Poulain inserting her fingers in a sack of lentils. The soil of the third bag was darker and contained more moisture, obviously I had to touch it as well. She commented:
“I like women who are not scared to get their hands dirty”
I smiled and felt like this was such a heart warming human interaction. Given the context with days of quarantine, curfew, mask wearing, social distancing, it was like a breath of fresh air, an air of human warmth, something that would fill your heart with what human being have in common: same passions, simple joys and appreciation of goodness.
Her Brooklyn Brownstone residence was filled with gorgeous plants and they were flourishing everywhere, taking over the sidewalk, pouring outside the fence with their colorful life.
As a matter of fact, I have noticed her house a long time ago. More recently my husband and I have been exploring the neighborhood with more diligence and have discovered the beauty it was hiding.
I always enjoyed looking at the flowers and smelling them on occasion, it’s a way to reconnect with simple pleasures, appreciate the little things in life. I shared that it was an immense pleasure for me to help her, as I enjoyed seeing her flowers as they made our neighborhood beautiful. She let me inside the front yard to wash my dirty hands, they were white peonies, lavender, succulents, Irises at the end of their blooming life but still alive, I also saw various succulents, those “velvety” plants, bushes with cute orange flowers she said were keeping well because of the warm temperatures, I could have stayed longer. They were all sorts of beautiful flowers that were like nourishing my eyes and spirit.
Then all of a sudden, I look at her face framed by short silver hair, and exclaimed “oh we are not wearing masks”
She adds something like “whatever happens, happens”
I continue ,“It’s curfew in 20 minutes!”
She didn’t know but we still continued to briefly exchange about our professions and backgrounds. The lady Executive Chef from Chelsea, London.
I helped this lovely lady, I forgot to wear my mask that was inside my pocket, does it make me a good or a bad person?
She could have asked the other neighbors strolling around wearing masks, but she asked us.
Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
June 3rd, 2020.