Garden

Manuel Quesada Nylen - Senegal


November 21, 2018

My family’s garden represents the time I’ve spent and will spend, here in
Senegal. We arrived here during the rainy season, and now it has
transitioned into the dry season, when the weather gets a bit colder, (Not
as harsh as Boston cold, I can tell you that). I never considered the
symbolism this garden held until one day when I came out to it and noticed
that the low hanging branches with leaves that touched the ground, were
gone. Now, there was at least 4 feet of space from the lowest hanging
branch and the ground. It struck me, that as the seasons change and the
branches fall and stop bearing fruit, so do I; and in the coming months, as
new branches begin to grow in spontaneous shapes and bountiful fruit starts
to sprout from every branch, I will grow in ways I could have never
predicted and will learn more about myself that’ll help me down the road in
life. This garden, just like me, has gone through immense changes in the
past almost 3 months, changes that maybe made it less helpful or a bit
harder to look at and tend to; just like me. In the days before arriving at
my placement, my language tutor had been hyping up my host home because of
this garden. He sounded like a storyteller, telling me of coconut trees
that grew taller than the roof of the house and of mangoes that were the
size of my head. I can’t exactly say that I thought he was exaggerating
because I knew he had been there, but nothing he told me could’ve prepared
me for the joy I would come to find in this garden. Everyday I come here to
read and write. I sit under the tree in a chair, a bazan or even in the
sand. If it’s hot, the breeze cools me off and, if the air is cold and
bouncing off my sweater, I am reminded of home whilst being in my home away
from home, (an incredible feeling). If I’m hungry, I can take a break from
reading and have an orange or a mandarin or a banana or an apple. One of
the many days where I put down the book and swapped it for a fruit from a
branch, I realized the state of my affairs here; peacefully reading and
writing for however long I want, an abundance of fruit hanging above my
head and the only time when I have to put the book/journal down is when I
have to go and eat a meal with my family. After having this thought, I made
a conscious effort to appreciate this garden, because I imagined my last
day here in Taiba Ndiaye; I imagined that I’d come into the garden one last
time before I’d leave and cry, cry because I took it for granted despite
all the time I spent in here. So, I made the conscious effort to appreciate
it. I spoke out loud, to myself, to the leaves, the fruit in the trees, the
sand that nestled in between my toes, the roaches in the landfill and the
water in the well, in order to come back to that garden on the last day,
and instead of feeling regret, feeling relief slightly at the fact that I
was finally going home but more so at the fact that I have spent my time
here well and that I never took one square inch of that garden for granted.

Manuel Quesada Nylen