Thought is the blossom, language the bud, action the fruit behind it.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have I mentioned how much I love living in Florida? Growing up in the Chicago area, I don’t think I will ever take the year round sunshine for granted. While the extended growing season has not helped turn my gardening thumbs green, it has turned our family into enthusiastic pickers. Mangos, key limes, lychee fruit, starfruit, grapefruit, there is always something in season. We don’t have to leave our funky, old neighborhood to find abundance. Thump. Thump. Right now, the avocados are falling off the trees.
Yesterday, driving home from school, we spotted a knotty, loaded tree a few blocks from our house. My son was not shy about knocking on the front door to introduce himself. We always offer to pay. No one has ever taken us up on it. We met Barbara, who told me she planted the tree from a seed 37 years ago. The seed came from an avocado that fell from a tree that was already well established when they bought their house. She reminded me a bit of 90-year old Agnes, who we met in March when we asked to pick her starfruit tree.There's no place like home Agnes and her husband planted their tree more than fifty years ago. Now, it produces hundreds of pounds of carambola a year.
They call our historic neighborhood a front porch community. Neighbors still know each other partly because of little things like there are inviting front porches to sit and visit. The fruit trees give people a reason to share. After we left Barbara, we gave avocados to three of our neighbors. One new neighbor let us in on her trick for ripening the fruit. Wrap it in a paper bag overnight. I don’t know why, but it worked! The last time we picked strawberries, we gave some to a different neighbor and she taught me how to can jam. Today after school, my son will bring a thank you card and flowers to Barbara. We don’t just live in a place, we are engaged in a community.
Tampa and Saint Petersburg still don't rank on any of the lists for best places to live for young singles, retirees or families raising children. But isn't that up to the people moving in, like me, to step in for Barbara and Agnes and help it grow?
What attracted you to your neighborhood? How will you keep it going?