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Half of the tiny backyard garden behind my Brooklyn apartment came back this spring, the back half. Poison in the soil? Toxins from the building? It was a mystery.

It’s my first spring here in a renovated building, and so I didn’t know what to expect from the backyard. As I always do on every piece of earth I’m next to for more than a few weeks, I planted when we moved in last summer. Can’t tell you how many gardens I’ve planted. Sometimes I wonder what’s become of them all, little gifts of medicinal plants left here and there in the earth.

I cleaned out the ragweed, tiles, metal pipes, styrofoam, beer cans, and well a few things I won’t name just to keep it clean. Planted rosemary, lavendar, sage, thyme, oregano, several kinds of mint, roses, and cultivated the native violets and clover. It was a sad looking, bare little garden last fall, as new perennial gardens tend to be, but at least the ragweed was under control.

I anxiously awaited the emergence of the perennial herbs and flowers this spring. The violets came up first of course, adapted to their native soil over countless generations. The roses nearly exploded into bushes, which surprised me. But only the plants in the back half of the garden emerged, the front remained barren.

This caused me considerable anxiety and I had a few toxic thoughts about the poisons that might have been in the ground due to the construction or other unknown dark sources of plant-killing substances. That is, until this weekend.

The mint has emerged all over now in front, and is growing vigorously from half a dozen new runners, next to new oregano. Nothing like fresh mint expanding to fill the air with positive thoughts as you brush by and breathe in it’s beauty. The front half of the garden wasn’t dead, it was late. The back half of the garden gets full sun a good part of each day, while the front half is mostly in shade from the building and fences between the houses. Plants are exquisitely sensitive to light, even small changes in day length. So in my garden, the difference in sunlight and warmth from the sun offset the timing.

Now that I know the place in Brooklyn has fertile soil, I have to give it fertile thoughts, more of my time, and hope.

I think other things may be like this too, when we think their absence means toxicity or death–they may just need a little light and warmth to grow.