Aika Sarkasova came here from the Ukraine, as my own family had generations before. And she gave me some seeds from her heirloom tomatoes, brought from her native country, with which I’ve grown Aika's heirlooms for many years since.
Today, hundreds of asylum seekers in caravans from Central Americans are waiting to enter the US at the port of entry in San Ysidro, across the US-Mexico border from Tijuana. If they have to return home, they may well become victims of persecution. Yet our government refuses them entry.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are also on hold while they wait to hear if they can remain in the US, while others have already been deported by ICE. And many children have been separated from their parents at the US border.
I remember a potluck we once had at the end of the growing season at the Tommy Thompson Community Garden in the Intervale in Burlington, where I’ve gardened for years. Gardeners who’d adopted a hippy lifestyle brought carrot sticks and celery stalks. I baked bread. Several Bosnian families offered delicious ethnic casseroles. After we ate, I asked everyone to stand in a circle and share their country of origin – the homes of their grandparents. And we learned we were all immigrants.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Emma Lazarus who wrote her sonnet in 1883 for the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." It reminds me that one of the things that's made our country great is the ethnic diversity brought here by refugees from around the world.
Phoebe and Ramundo from Managua, Nicaragua brought native peppers with them. And they invited me to their home in the Old North End one cold winter's night for a barbecue of grilled peppers and ribs. The rich aromas took me back to a time when I’d traveled in Nicaragua to rural farm villages where the compasinos cooked meals on wood fired stoves.
I've found that the act of gardening promotes generosity and a sense of community as it encourages sharing the richness of diverse cultures. It’s a kind of cultivation that I look forward to again this year.