By Sister Geraldine Garbarino

I grew up on Shafter Ave. in North Oakland, and our home had a garden that covered the back yards of three homes. My father loved his garden, and each day, returning from his hard days of work which began at 5:00 a.m., he could relax among his vegetables.

At the end of the garden there was a three-room chicken coop, where the chickens provided us with fresh eggs daily. Near the chicken coop was a gate that gave me access to my friend Kathryn Delucchi’s home. Surrounding the yard, on all the fences there were Logan and black berries. Apple trees were plentiful; they had been planted by my father. We also had a wonderful apricot tree. As soon as the apricots had a little color, they disappeared as our treats.

My father planted all kinds of herbs and vegetables—onions, zucchini, potatoes, green beans, corn, carrots, garlic, fava beans, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and celery. I would sit on an apple box among the tomatoes with a salt shaker and enjoy the fruit. My mother was so fortunate to have all the vegetables she needed for minestrone soup, stew and sauces.

During the summer months when I was in high school, I learned to make delicious apple pies. They were fun to make and disappeared fast. The ground was a rich soil, and I still can see my father with his hoe turning the dirt. Even though this was tedious and hard work, their early days in Italy taught them to appreciate the fruits of their labors.

These days taught me the value of being near the earth, and the closest I get to it now is my Monday gardening at Ardenwood. Then I am among the flowers, squirrels, peacocks, palms, shrubberies and other trees. I love autumn as I rake the different leaves in their harvest colors. Often I pick one up and study its shape.

When we take time to touch the earth,

We feel the closeness of God.