Ancient Truths of a Secret Garden

Aerielle in her avocado tree

I drove to the Santa Ana foothills this Saturday to help volunteers from the Harvest Club and OC Food Access Coalition restore the vitality in the once thriving orchard known as L’Avocat. A few months ago, Aerielle, whose grandfather had cultivated this amazing landscape of avocado, citrus and stone fruit grove, decided to leave a high profile job and devote her energy instead into nurturing the earth.

Every weekend since May volunteers have been steady at their work, to find the beauty of the Secret Garden. The jade plants have been removed. The agave left to grow. Pathways have been staked off. A drip irrigation system is in place. Heirloom vegetables grown from seed are sprouting from pots waiting for us to build the raised beds. Aerielle had placed the tomato seeds under her tongue, which will encode the seeds with her DNA and provide medicine just for her, and planted them on the lunar calendar.

We cleared weeds and grass in a wide circle around the citrus trees to just underneath the furthermost branches, which mirror the roots’ reach beneath the earth. Trickles of sweat dripped down my face from the late morning sun and humidity. But every once in awhile, a cool breeze carried the sweet scent of orange blossoms.

When complete the orchard’s yield will be donated to our local food banks. School children will be invited to learn of the wisdom and wonder in nature; so that we may pass along ancient truths we have forgotten and must remember.

Taken by Brad Pettigrew

I wrote down these thoughts sitting on the refurbished wooden floors of the 1919 citrus packing house, while I waited for Vlad, a professional photographer to capture the raw elegance of this historic building. The images will accompany an article about The Anaheim Packing District.

This is my job. To share the history of a bucolic past, of pastoral roots and deep love and connection for earth and community.

Next we took photos of the two thriving businesses, Umami Burger and Anaheim Brewery, in the Packard Car Showroom, built in 1925. We toasted a fine day’s work with a hand crafted beer. I discovered the bartender’s great grandmother had packed in the packing house more than 60 years ago.

I hope to hear and tell her story soon.

And as the ancient truths of this Secret Garden continue to reveal themselves to me, perhaps a novel will be born.

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