No expertise needed

At a retreat I did once, after meals the men would hang out on the deck outside the dining hall. There were chairs and a couple of tables, as well as a bench built onto the outside railing.

I’m tempted to say that a chair facing away from the building was a prime spot, affording as it did a close view of a small grove of Douglas firs and hints through the foliage of the road beyond. I’d be making that up, though. All I know is that I preferred facing the trees rather than the gray siding of the dining hall.

Amongst the trees were many other plants, several still in pots. I didn’t know what the potted plants ought to look like, but I didn’t think they ought to be turning brown or drooping like that. The drip system didn’t seem to be doing anything but leaking around the timer.

I could ask the men’s manager about irrigation, but everybody was a volunteer with a full schedule, and if there had been somebody to fix the irrigation it would have been fixed.

I thought of all that several times while I sat in a preferred chair looking out at the land that I’d begun to think of as a garden. I tried to make sense of the timer and looked for drip outlets along the partly buried feed lines. It wasn’t quite as useless as when I look under the hood of a car built after 1970 to diagnose a problem, but almost. Some of the lines had no emitters at all.

I couldn’t keep watching the plants keel over, especially the ones still in pots, and one day after breakfast I dumped the contents of my water bottle on one particularly listless specimen. By that evening it was perking up. The next morning it was obviously vigorous, and I gave each of the potted plants a couple of bottles of water and later did the same for the droopiest of those in the ground.

Each time I passed by I’d water something, a few ounces at a time until I found a 2-quart plastic tub to place under the irrigation leak. Whenever I saw that the tub was full, I’d water some plants and put the tub back under the drip. I wasn’t fixing the irrigation system exactly, but it was the best I could manage.

One day I was late for a sitting and, although the tub was already overflowing, I didn’t stop. When I got back, someone had already emptied it. Later that day another guy emptied his water bottle on a spindly little pine seedling over by the fence. Simple.