Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oh, A Great Unhappiness

I haven't written for a few weeks, mainly because I've just been too damn busy with work and visitors. But a couple weeks ago there was another development that will directly affect my garden, and thus me, and thus my blog.

My upstairs neighbor, who is also American and doesn't speak Turkish, knocked on my door to inform me that there were some really official-looking people at the gate. I came out, asked "who?" and he pointed to the four uniformed policement coming down the garden path. Well, not exactly police as in criminal police, but zabıta, municipal constables or something like that. They were from the belediye, the municipality, and were asking about a person whose name I'd never heard, but evidently was one of several different official owners of the property. The reason they were looking for this man was that the city is planning to expropriate the land which is my garden. There are two different stories circulating among the neighbors about what will be done with the expropriated land - which also includes a large vacant lot next door, and all of the gardens of the apartment buildings on the back side of the property. One is that it will become a children's park, which means basically a paved space with some swingsets and if we're lucky, a tree or two; and the other is that it will become a big bus transfer point. The first would be somewhat tolerable, the second, with the noise and exhaust, would not be.

I called the landlord, and he said "don't worry, they can't do anything, it's deeded property; even if they do it will be years down the line before they actually start work." And maybe because I hoped it was true, and because I was too busy to dwell too much on it, I accepted his answer.

So the other day I took a container of mulberries to our neighbor (she has diabetes and they lower blood sugar, so they say), and caught them having a late breakfast. They invited me to join them and as we talked, they said "what are you going to do?" "About what?" I asked. "They are going to take the land here in August."

I called the landlord again, and it seemed he hadn't quite understood - when I said they were taking the land up to the back wall of the garden, he thought I meant from the other side.

Further questioning revealed that it will be at least two more months before anything happens. But if it progresses, a lot has to be done before the work starts, as our gate, in a very high barred fence, is our only real security, since we have that, our house has no bars on the windows and the doors, with their glass windows, are something left from another time, a merely symbolic deterrant to would-be robbers.

The "good" news is that my house won't be expropriated, and actually, if I can convince the landlord that the ugly cinderblock depot is really useless and should be torn down, I'd be left with a rather nice-size space, with a bit more shade but infinitely better soil.

I find I'm not nearly as upset as I "should" be, possibly because despite all the work I've done, the soil is horrible, still full of rubble, and still infused with infinite millions of weed seeds and lots Ailanthus roots. Our sudden early heatwave meant that only one of my squash plants set any fruit, and at this rate it is likely to be a spaghetti squash the size of a large potato! The tough hangers on in the perennial department can all be put into pots until they have a new home. The question is simply what the new home will be like, and when the move will take place!

But there's another reason I'm not horribly upset. Seattle garden writer Ann Lovejoy once wrote, when faced with giving up a garden she'd put years of effort into, that "A garden is not something you 'have,' it's something you do.'" I think she's quite right; even though this garden has not been spectacular and I've watched lots of nice plants creep along, die (but sometimes unexpectedly flourish), I've been "doing" my garden for two years, watching things come up, develop, go to seed, compete...croak... learned something of the timing of things here, which plants fail in this environment and which ones take a month of drought and 90-degree temperatures in stride. In short, I've been doing all the things I love about gardening, and learning in the process. And one way or another, I know I'll continue doing so.