SFU Community Garden Replaces Less than Golden Memories


I drove up to Simon  Fraser University on top of the mountain this past week to see the garden plot that my friend Gwen and a friend share. They both work at SFU. As I drove up the hill, I thought back to all those times when I was just 18 years old and would always take that first long wide corner too fast on the last stretch of the long journey from my parent’s house in Langley. Some things don’t change. I did that again, pushing 80 mph, for old time sake. Nary a cop in sight.

When we met up in front of where the old pub and coffee shop used to be, and a much bigger one now is, the first thing I said was,  “You know, every time I come up here, [which is almost never], all these memories come flooding back and they aren’t particularly good memories. My memories are of being isolated and out of place and alone. Of wondering what I was doing there. Of grey and concrete and more grey and more grey and socked in clouds and feeling depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m now glad to have a degree from SFU. But, had I been less shy, more confident and sure of myself, I wouldn’t have gone to university at all. I would have done what I should have done. I would have bought a knapsack and travelled.

I never could figure out how so many other students managed to pay tuition and travel all summer which meant they didn’t work. I think it must have been called the Canadian National Bank of Parents. Strangely enough, given my recent history where formal working environments have not figured prominently,  I worked every summer and paid tuition and my money ran out by about March every year when the Canadian National Bank of Parents would have to kick in the difference. But I digress.

I’m sure my reaction to driving back up the hill would not be something SFU would be happy to hear but it wasn’t their fault. It was mine. It just felt overwhelming. At least in the first year or two. SFU is a commuter campus. And, I didn’t know how to get involved even though it was all around me. Silly me.

I asked Gwen if she had good memories of Waterloo. Her answer was short. “No. Not really.” And, we laughed thinking about how the Alumni Associations of both places would be very unhappy to hear that.

As we walked over to the community garden plots all those bad thoughts quickly dissipated. And, it reminded me once again how nature is the world’s best relaxation therapy.cabbageforweb

I love beautiful little cabbages because they remind me of this favourite book I had as a kid called Home for a Bunny where the bunny always hid inside the cabbage leaves. I can never see a cabbage without wondering if a tiny magical imaginery bunny might be hiding in them.


Here’s Gwen watering the plot which is thirsty thirsty because of the dry weather. When Gwen first started gardening all she wanted to do was grow the ingredients for Borscht. Strange but true. She’s not even a Mennonite.


 I loved the way these bean vines were practically painting themselves across the late afternoon sky.


This little flower is a dainty jewel fit for a princess. Do you know what they are?


Someone has decided to make their own beer. At least it looks that way. Hops are wonderful and delicate and papery crinkly.


As I was wandering around with my camera, I didn’t notice that I was disturbing a hungry visitor who couldn’t get enough of someone’s plot until its hairy brown back scared me through the viewfinder of my camera.


These little baby garlic look as if they’re out on a hot air balloon excursion.


This is an asparagus plant that has gone to seed. I just liked the way the golden beads are looking ripe for a necklace.


It’s a jungle up there. And, given all the bounty, it’s strange that Gwen says she’s almost never seen anyone else there. Maybe little garden gnomes and fairies are watering at four o’ clock in the morning.


At the end of the watering session,delicious green beans to cook, just right and whatever you do, don’t overcook them. A little salt. A little pepper. A little butter and some of that baby garlic and you’re good to feed yourself from the greens of your labour.


  1. That’s what I did. Went travelling. Around the world at 21. Didn’t go to university and then always wished I had. Started going in the 90s, got 3/4 through a degree then a demanding job with the union got in the way. Still thinking I might get it done. I was waiting for free tuition at 60 at SFU but they cancelled it. Buggers! UBC still has it at 65, so maybe…. But really what I need to say is travelling young was an amazing education. I have a PhD in life. Or as they say in New Zealand: ‘I did my OE.’ Overseas Experience. As if it’s a degree.

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