A Sense of Community

Last Friday morning we got a call on our landline from a retired Lutheran pastor named Roger, who wanted to know if one of us would be available later in the morning to give his horticulture club a tour of our church garden. They were touring several local gardens as well as the NDSU Extension gardens in town. I had time, so I met him and his group in the garden along with our senior pastor, Lisa. It was a blast!

I have known of Pastor Roger for years, as he worked in some smaller communities south of us, and also was a licensed counselor. We often referred clients to one another. He is retired and lives in Medora, our cowboy town in the Badlands. He is kind of a character. As Pastor Lisa said “You never know what Roger is going to ask you”. I had never met him in person, though.

Roger and about 25 retirement-age garden club members arrived at the church garden, which is located just behind the church parking lot. Some club members were from as far afield as Valentine, NE and Hermosa, SD. I knew several of them as former foster parents . Most lived in smaller towns in our region. Lisa and I told them the history of our garden, and then the questions started.

Our garden consists of six, waist high. raised beds for vegetables, a central space with a fire pit and benches for gatherings and contemplation, and walkways with flower beds. Husband and I primarily take responsibility for the vegetable beds, all the produce going to the food pantry. We invited the congregation to adopt a flower pot to plant flowers in this spring, and there are about fifteen pots lining the walkways. We planted everbearing strawberries that are spreading all over. The children like to eat them after services. As hard as we try, there are weeds, and congregation members weed sporadically in the flower beds. The questions were numerous.

“Why don’t you have fruit trees? You should plant fruit trees. There are disease resistant varieties, you know. You could have a grape arbor, but if you plant pear trees, make sure you plant two. What kind of cabbages are those? (They are savoy cabbages). What do you cook with them? Cod bundles? Minestrone? How interesting! Where did you get the recipes? What do you use for cabbage moths? Bacillus Thuringiensis? That is organic, isn’t it? What seed companies do you get these from? Do the people at the food pantry even know what pattypan squash are? Cold hardy spinach? How do you spell that variety name? Oh, come here so we can take your picture as we give you this gift card”. I answered the best I could. I was thankful I had reminded myself of all the vegetable variety names ahead of time.

All through this barrage of questions, the club members couldn’t stop themselves from pulling up every weed they saw and pinching off the spent blossoms from the flower pots. It was as though a swarm of weeding locusts had descended on the garden. Roger lectured every chance he got about the link between horticulture and spirituality. Husband and I are now invited to his house in Medora for supper. He has some white iris to give us for the church flower beds.

I love being part of a community. I chuckled all Friday about the meeting with Roger and his group. With Pastor Lisa’s blessing, I plan to use the gift card for more iris.

What communities are you part of? What do you have a hard time stopping yourself from doing? Who were the “characters” you remember in your life?

28 thoughts on “A Sense of Community”

  1. Fun story, Renee.
    I feel lucky to be part of several communities, and this blog is one of my favorites. Who could have guessed that an online entity could be this meaningful?

    There are the two Board of Directors Unitarians, with all the various committees that are starting to work again after our summer hiatus. Our membership on the Board at the Winona Art Center gives us plenty of chances to contribute – esp. Husband, since there are some painting projects there this summer.

    And there’s an unofficial group of Winona East-enders – several people, some of whom we knew when we lived here before. Although we haven’t done a pot-luck for a few summers, there are subsets that have gathered for various reasons – walks at the cemetery during the first Covid lockdown, and more recently an occasional happy hour…

    I could go on, but you get the idea – the feeling of community we felt whenever we would visit, esp. when our friend W’s partner was dying, was why we wanted to return. For us, it’s easier to access in the small town setting.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Trail Baboon, my golf club, the generally vague club of music lovers/musicians who feel a spiritual connection with music, MN authors, and authors in general. My motto: If you like (what I like), you’re my friend. . . . Until you aren’t.

    Memorable characters include a large handful of golf buddies: The Dog, Mighty Oak, Taco Jim, the Blind Pilot, the Bad Noble, Flinty, Nellie, the Gong Show, Lumpy, Lefty, DJ, Z, Rodes. I know, sort of looks like bizarre, multiple iterations of the Seven Dwarves. We do have several “Docs” in that club too, but they tend toward normal, being doctors, of course.

    Hard to keep from occasionally falling down the social media rabbit hole. YouTube especially, since I love music.

    I WISH I were in the habit of pulling a handful of weeds every time I went out in the yard. I was better at it years ago but have pretty much given up on organic lawn beautification because the weeds outnumber me a zillion to one.

    Also hard to stop myself from correcting my wife’s pronunciations. She’s spelling/grammar/reading challenged and doesn’t easily remember how to say certain tricky words in English (She’s a totally visual person. Prefers to look at diagrams instead of the written instructions when assembling a piece of furniture or electronics or whatever may come from IKEA in 57 pieces.) Yet, she’s quite sociable and has no problem with small talk at group gatherings. Just don’t ask her how to spell a spoken word or pronounce a written word. 🙂 (My cross to bear in life since I’m an excellent speller, grammarian, pronounce, and have an ear for language.)

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This garden sounds wonderful, Renee – esp. the firepit and gathering space -how many does seating allow, and how often is it used?

    Nice that your visitors had that weeding compulsion, which is also my compulsion when I see them in sidewalk cracks, or anywhere, really. I often have to restrain myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are 4 rickety benches that could seat about 10 people. Husband and I want to buy some nice and heavy teak benches with arms and backs next spring that are more comfortable and that won’t blow over in a strong wind.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Communities? None really.
    Stop myself from doing? Nothing. I mean doing nothing.
    Characters? Many many many. Bet I have told about most of them in here. After todays medical stuff I will try to think of of one I have not talked about

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I also have become a member of the American Cesky Terrier Fanciers Association, which is a fun, on-line group of breeders and owners. I also somehow became a member of the Danish Cesky group just by Association with the US group.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Community is a concept that brings up ambivalence in me. I understand the advantages of social support and belonging that it brings. I have experienced that when it is healing. But I also experienced, as a child, the “shame and blame” part of community that results in alienation and labeling. For example, when my father first became ill with MS in our little town, he experienced balance problems that caused him to weave and fall. Rumors spread that he, a tee-totaler, was drinking. The rumor caused isolation when our family most needed support. I have experienced similar dynamics so many times in the contexts of community and my mother’s family.

    Communities I belong to: TB right here, Master Gardeners, a group of artists who are struggling with community due to behavior of one member, my neighborhood.

    Today I head to N Mpls to assist with a community garden. It is really fun.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Went to one of the branches of Mayo Clinic here in town (it and Mankato Clinic are spread all over town) to get Covid test for Wednesday. Was given vague directions and two times 30 minutes apart. Two places in facility had no idea what I was talking about. Went to big lobby waited in line. Yes that was the place. Why no sign I asked. She rolled her eyes. I was early for first of my two times. But I could go right in as I was only one all day. Tech was more frustrated than I was about lack of signage. Every encounter I have with Mayo here is like that, except the ER. Do what will Wednesday be like?
    I thought she would tell me to sequester but she said nothing do I will go to Sandy today and the game tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. One of the characters from home was was the lumberyard manager named Les. My dad loved to tease him when he came into the coffee shop my dad owned. One of my favorite Les stories is the time he had new sod in his lawn , and patches of dead grass showed up at odd intervals no matter how much Les watered. He found out some little boys kept lifting up the sod to find nightcrawlers. He also just couldn’t understand why the US and the then Soviet Union were in such big talks about table salt (the SALT negotiations). Oh, did my dad tease him about that!


    1. There was a lumberyard a mile from me owned by Yah-Yah. Real name Bob. His first answer to everything was always Yah-Yah. “Yah-Yah, do you have car siding?” “Yah, yah, no.” It was fun to watch conversations with people who did not know him. And, yes, everyone called him Yah-Yah which could further complicate things.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. As Jacque has averred, communities can be a mixed bag. There are communities of mutual support to be sure, but there are also communities of fear and hatred, as we have learned in recent years. Some of those communities—like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers— had been essentially invisible in our midst and met and communicated clandestinely in the past. The various conspiracy theorists also comprise communities of a sort and coalesce to reinforce a particular perception of reality. We know about those now and it makes one wonder what other invisible communities dwell among us. Who are they, what is their common thread and what are the tokens by which they signify?

    This may be entirely unrelated and fanciful, but I was at Menards this morning and happened to notice more than one man, past middle age, sporting a very long, scraggly grey beard. They look like someone you’d expect lived in an abandoned boxcar in the woods or the Unibomber. I see these types a lot in my neighborhood. Is that, do you think, the effect they were going for? Is that a look that anyone unbearded finds appealing? Perhaps my own bias is showing. I couldn’t grow a beard like that if I tried. But what I wonder is if the long unkempt beard represents any particular point of view or orientation or esthetic. If so, what would it be? Are the beards signifiers to other hirsute specimens and is it a community?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think a statement of not being in any community, if any statement, or not a statement. I have a short straggly gray beard.


    2. Speaking only for myself, the ZZ Top type of beard doesn’t do a thing for me. Of course there’s a huge long list of things but don’t do it for me … long beard isn’t near the top of the list.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. In my childhood there was so many. Betsy Schroeder was my second mom. But she and her husband would sure go at it. I didn’t understand how people could yell that much. They divorced later, and, sadly, she died a while ago.

    There was Ivan, who was a very large man, but one of Dad’s friends and they farmed together. Neighbor Stan who always ALWAYS said “What are ya full of, Bin?” and he’d laugh.

    These days there’s Doug, who always has a pun. And Kathleen, the woman who just showed up at the theater one day and I haven’t been able to get a hold of her again for the last 3 years. Don’t know what’s become of her.

    Yeah, community. Here, the theater community, the Township. Kinda farmers / farming as a whole…

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I have several communities. There’s the trail and then there’s Blevins. I know that those two seriously overlap but I think of them as two separate groups. I have another book club that meets every month. And then I live in a great neighborhood so that’s absolutely a community for me. Over the years I’ve managed to blend a lot of my communities together. So that people who belong to old work community are now well acquainted with my neighborhood community or my book club community or Nonny and even all of you guys. This actually makes me quite happy.

    Liked by 2 people

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