The Garden at Mariandale was put to bed for the winter. As I stand before the seventeen raised beds, now seeded with winter rye to bring fresh nourishment for the spring, I am caught in a kind of reverie.

I recall the fresh energy of new beginnings from former spring planting. Japanese and Peruvian families co-mingle; little children hold tiny seeds as older ones poke holes in the soil with wonder and anticipation in their eyes. A once-pregnant mom takes turns now with her seven-year-old daughter, to watch the baby in his stroller, so she, too, can plant. A Salvadoran mom plants while her shy daughter stays at a distance. The next year, she comes closer, and the third year she comes bouncing in with fresh energy and a can-do attitude, eager to help.

One year, two friends plant a bed in late February, so eager to get the seeds in the soil that they forget this climate is unlike their native Ecuador. Their seeds give way to snow and frost in March, and they learn by experience to wait to plant until May.

Sister Bette Ann with Co-creators Gunnel Rydstrom (middle) and Regina Blakeslee (right)

Sister Bette Ann with Co-creators Gunnel Rydstrom (middle) and Regina Blakeslee (right)

A new family joined us this year, Jamaican-Americans, with all the energy of six children under the age of thirteen, including two sets of twins. Their mother, a long-time gardener, aware of the limits of their small apartment, wants her children to spend safe, quality time outdoors and to eat healthy food. Among their favorite things: planting, watering (spraying each other), and swaying on the low hanging branches of a nearby grove of Japanese maple trees. They hike with us across the land and then watch while the youngest helps water the new swamp milkweed plants around the Labyrinth. She was ever-so-careful in tending this “planting for the pollinators” as her brother and sisters helped water the herbs there, too. Together, they were helping food grow for monarch butterflies and for the bees.

Together, our Garden Committee (Regina Blakeslee, Gunnel Rydstrom, Amy Monahan, and Bette Ann Jaster, OP) enjoyed the fruit of the harvest and shared with hungry neighbors in the Village of Ossining. We garden for the common good. That’s why we call it the “Hope Community Garden.”

The Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit ecumenical retreat center and a sponsored ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Hope located in Ossining, New York on the Hudson River. For more information about the “Hope Community Garden” located at the Center, call Sister Bette Ann Jaster at (914) 941-4455, ext. 116.