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An oasis in an unexpected spot

‘No space is too small to make a difference.’

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My husband, Jerry, is in the midst of a midlife crisis. Well, more like a rebirth, actually. And it has inspired a new fascination – not with a convertible or some other fancy toy, but with a simple, colorful garden. A garden he tends, nurtures, and waters almost daily. A tiny garden in a most unexpected place.

And frankly, it is an ugly place. A gritty, rocky spot alongside busy, litter-strewn Fruitvale Avenue on the route between our town of Alameda and the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, Calif.

It’s a street most motorists rush down without a second thought – just a way to get from here to there. It is stark, lined with weed-choked sidewalks, chain-link fences, and gray-glass factory buildings.

But not everyone drives in a fury of speed down Fruitvale. There are those who walk the distance – across the Fruitvale Bridge, from Alameda to the BART Station – and those who ride their bikes, such as Jerry.

This gas-saving habit is what put him so close to the pavement, leading to quite an intimate relationship with every inch of the grimy street, and planting in his mind the idea of creating a spot, albeit small, of cleanliness and wholesome beauty.

He started from the ground up, of course. Collecting bags and bags of garbage. Food wrappers, rubber gloves, paper scraps – careless waste, carelessly thrown into a spot of no account.

He pulled weeds and acacia roots. He dug and turned the rocky soil, preparing it for new life. And then he planted – petunias and poppies, seeds and seedlings. Sunflowers and the stakes to support their lanky growth.

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