The People’s Garden

After a long exhausting day at work I come home to my amazing dog who is so full of energy, happy & excited to see me. Despite my exhaustion I head out without even sitting, because I know If I do, my tiredness will kick in and I wouldn’t move for an hour or more. Plus It had been unexpectedly raining, and I didn’t wanna deprive my boy of a beautiful sun-filled walk. 

We never know where we’re going, we just walk. Where ever the moment takes us…or whatever block looks good. This time we headed towards Fulton but turned towards Bushwick because those blocks looked nice. We came to this awesome community garden that we often walk past and have visited on several occasions. There’s sometimes music and art hanging and the gate is always open. There’s plenty of seating and secret pathways where you can just sit & chill. We glanced in and there was live music and a woman singing. So we decided to make our way to our usual spot- off to the side by the wall, away from any people.

Then I hear someone’s voice: “Miss, Miss, excuse me Miss.” This older man with a Puerto Rican flag hat on asked me if I was with the group that was performing.

I responded “No”.

To which He replied: “Well you can’t be in here.”

I responded: “I can’t just sit right here? Pointing to my usual spot. 

“Not with the dog,” he said. 

“But isn’t this a community garden?” I said.

 He said “but not for dogs, you can stay but the dog can’t be in here. They have dog parks, where you can take dogs.” He started going on and on. “ Dogs shit & piss and leave a mess, they’re dangerous, they bite people…”

In situations like this I’ve learned to take the high road. Even though everything inside me was burning with RAGE. At that point I said you know what, “You have a nice day sir” and directed my dog to the exit. I didn’t curse, I didn’t raise my voice. Then he said, “You have a attitude, I’m just tellin’ you.” To this I said “ You’re the one with the attitude. Enjoy your community garden.”

My heart was pounding, the arrogant asshole from a mere 2 years ago (pre-zen) would have blurted out whatever vile curse word came to mind, several in fact. Never thinking about the consequences words & actions have on the world. I would have caused such a scene that everyone who had noticed this old guy kicking me out would have looked at my behavior and thought it was justified. I left with a continuous “Have a nice day.” The only phrase I could utter to stop me from completely going off. He disappeared into the port o’ potty by the entrance.

As I made my way down the block, my dog stopped to smell some trees. As he was sniffing away oblivious to what had just transpired, I peered into the garden. The RAGE was taking over. It was filled with hipsters, young white people, who had gentrified our neighborhoods rapidly. I thought, you know it’s not the huge real estate developments that are chasing us out of our homes & neighborhoods, it’s our own people. By not allowing me, a brown woman to take up literal physical space in a community garden, he was sending the message that I did not belong. This is what I was going to say to him. I pulled my dog back towards the garden entrance. I was gonna lay into this old Puerto Rican man HARD. I was gonna lay it on thick and make him feel the guilt. I was determined that I was going to stand up for myself and therefore, for every Brooklyn native who was experiencing gentrification at every level.

How could he chase me out while welcoming these New York transplants with open arms. The lack of humanity in the situation hit me the hardest because I was at a point in my life where practicing daily mindfulness made the world make more sense. I had been focused on the connectivity of existence, but his actions only caused me to see division. My whole being hurt, because this kind of anger isn’t even who I am. Why was he kicking me out? It wasn’t about the dog, this was the personification of the gentrification trend that was rampant in this area. Moving me, a brown woman out of your beautified outdoor garden, literally not allowing me to take up space, so that this band of white performers could “jam”. My thoughts & words weren’t even in any coherent order, and a lump was forming in my throat. But the RAGE was controlling my movements, moving my legs closer & closer to the garden. As I got to the entrance, the man had just come out of the port o’ potty. 

“EXCUSE ME!” I said. Ready to fire. HERE IT COMES…

“Im sorry.”he said, “Please come in. I thought about it & you were right. Come in, just clean up after your dog.”

“I understand why you didn’t want the dog inside.” I said, “Thank you.” He kept insisting: “We have music, there’s gonna be different musicians”. “Thank you, but I’m gonna walk my dog”. I showed him my poop bags & said I always clean up after him. He kept apologizing & telling me to come back & I kept saying thank you. 

Im so glad that I was wearing sunglasses , because I would’ve burst into tears if I wasn’t.

Half way down the block I stopped my dog, knelt down and hugged him as my eyes filled with tears. I dunno if I was crying from the RAGE or that the whole situation turned around in a matter of minutes and it gave me so much faith in humanity or that I had been up since 6am on 4 hours of sleep & I really just wanted to sit and rest. I needed sleep.