I tried once to tend to a little house sparrow with a broken wing. Picking it up was a long frightening ordeal. I could not hold the poor thing in my palm. I was scared of crushing it with my strength. I got a hollow container; white, plastic with a wide mouth. And the bird run away from me each time I drew closer toward it. Until its little legs couldn’t take it any further. There was a concrete wall opposite me. Its wing was broken. Flight was not an option. I took it to safety on the balcony of our home. I placed some rice grains into the bucket and water to drink bouncing off walls of a red jerrycan cover. I left home briefly for town. A man who had come to read the water meter also took my Bird.
There is a garden outside the apartment I rent now. It is on a lane of soil running 22 metres along the wall fence and 60 centimeters wide. It is a narrow straight garden stretching out along the lower quarter of the fence. Small rectangular stone bricks are lined 22 metres and beyond on this part of the fence. It is not my garden. It was nurtured for me and the other ten tenants to enjoy.
One of the tenants bought two pot plants. There are small brick-red plastic buckets guarding at the balcony of his apartment. One bucket is promising with a whimpering green shoot. The bucket with no shoot at all has egg shaped grey and black stones placed decoratively on top of the soil. After a few days, the pot plants are moved a step below the balcony where the concrete tiles make up a drive way in front of the lined bungalows. (Maybe the sunshine was not reaching them.) Next they are moved to the narrow garden.
The garden hosts a very short shrubby butterfly bush whose yellow brightness competes with the purple ruellia. I pick interest in the dry leafed shoot still standing in the brown bucket. It is a marigold plant. I pluck a branch of its tiny leaves and the scent takes me back to Rukungiri in Kafunjo village. I remember passing through bushes and gardens on the way to fetch water from the spring, a childhood memory more than 20 years old.
The next day I check the shoot out when I step out of the house feeling sun deprived. The buds have shriveled before they blossomed! The leaves are crisp dry and the branches are stooping with shame. They still hang from the stem which has not shed them with hope they will come by.
The soil in the pot is thirsty for water. The cracks in it are gasping for moisture; moisture that will replenish the buds until they burst with beauty into flowers. I rush to the kitchen and fetch 300 ml of tap water using a Rwenzori mineral water bottle and I drench the dry soil in this. I make a follow up visit minutes later suspicious the cracks have gulped all water leaving nothing for the plant.
The soil is wet. I am pleased.
The November rains have been generous since the pot plants were moved, falling daily these past three mornings. The leaves are green and sturdy now. Any dry leaf I see sneaking into this green paradise, I pull off instantly. This brick red bucket parked on a narrow stretch along the fence is the only garden I have tended to.
My hope is that the other shame faced flowering buds will sprout into tiny orange marigolds I can hold in my palm without fear of crushing them.
Photo Credit: Feature Image from the movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”