There is growth in this recession |

There is growth in this recession

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A job at a greenhouse near New Castle is helping my perspective to grow.

I suddenly find myself in a world of growth ” at work and at home.

On the job, my duties pretty much revolve around fostering the health of rows and rows of rooted, living things that stretch toward the sun like a dream within reach. My fingers tickle wet soil all day long and my back sometimes aches from carting heavy loads, but I love my mission.

As I pot each plant, I carefully prune malignant growth and set the tiny, fragile roots into their new home. Shaking soil evenly around its base, I imagine I’m tucking the green sprout in for a good night’s sleep, wishing it sunny days to come and hoping my work will provide a bountiful harvest somewhere in the future.

My co-workers range from a highly educated, world-renowned horticulturist to an old, Spanish-speaking man who simply works hard and smiles constantly. Our backgrounds have great degrees of variance, but we all share a common desire to cultivate life.

When I go home, what I’ve witnessed during the day is personified in my friends’ 4-year-old, Noah. Last week I moved into the family’s basement. They warned me that “it gets loud,” as anyone familiar with small children can imagine. It certainly does. Truth be told, however, I love the noise of the family upstairs in a way similar to my work at the greenhouse. It’s all a wonderful chance to observe the most basic elements of budding life firsthand.

Noah’s dad, Michael, and I have been close friends since age 15. Looking back, I feel how childlike we were then. I remember our parents smiling proudly in the driveway as we left for road trips to South Padre Island, Texas, and Whitehorse, Yukon, feeling grown-up and in charge. Ha! To see the dad Michael is now makes those teenage years seem buried deep in the dirt. At the same time, when I see Noah I feel extra close to roots of mine I’ve mostly forgotten until now. To have any part in raising a child is like being a stitch in a wrinkle of time.

“Noah! Why’d you paint your ears?!” I couldn’t help but overhear the commotion upstairs one morning. I darted up the stairs to investigate.

Michael was vigorously scrubbing Noah’s ears as he sat on the kitchen counter. Traces of black remained in the top folds of his ears. “I wanted to be like Mickey,” Noah explained, almost crying from the hard cleaning. Apparently he colored his ears black so he could be like Mickey Mouse, his current idol. (Damn your corporate, synergistic, brain-washing powers, Walt Disney!)

The episode immediately reminded me of my own coloring incident, which I remember quite well considering I was about 3 at the time. My mom was terribly ill, I definitely remember that. She convinced herself she could take a 20-minute nap without me getting into trouble. I knew she felt bad. I wanted to make her happy. Ah-ha, I thought ” I would surprise her! I took my big wooden box of crayons and, being sure to use every one, I decorated the entire hallway with a mural that was sure to make Mom proud.

Or not. I woke her up on the couch to show her my present. “Look, Mom!” She freaked. Apparently my art did not help her debilitating fever. “Gah!” I don’t remember her exact words, but they were not the praise I was expecting. As she scrubbed the walls she looked greener than the wax she was removing. I looked into Noah’s innocent face staring back at me while his dad scowled in concentration, and I was his age all over again.

Now, when I’m back at the greenhouse, I see people in all these sprouts, including myself. First, I feel lucky to have been planted in a wonderful place like Glenwood, which continues to take care of all my deepest needs. Then I feel an obligation to do whatever is in my power to give Noah a good environment in which to grow. After all, we’re all growing together, so what’s good for him will ultimately be good for us. Let’s keep stretching for the sun.

Derek Franz’s column appears ever other Monday in the Post Independent. He can be reached at

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