Oh, Buddha-ji,
may I share a story
about a filial moment
in your fragrant garden’s embrace?

My son and I
cycled through
the morning’s toil:
cut mesh,
move soil,
plant lavender,
and pat fir mulch.

He wore
bright, supple, and
what he called “OG”
bike gloves.

Buddha in the garden (Image Credit: Rajesh C. Oza)

I wore
drab, weathered, and
what I called “hole-y”
work gloves.

He asked me,
“How do those holes
protect your hands?”

I chose to answer a
different question:
“Why do I wear tattered gloves?”

Neither of us were
with each other
together we
cut mesh,
moved soil,
planted lavender,
and patted fir mulch.

An old woman,
hunched from bones
accustomed to
carrying loads, said,
“Your garden looks good.”

She returned with a smile
to her stroll on the sidewalk
that her ancestors might have
poured, smoothed, and cured with
bare hands determined to work and suffer.

We thanked her,
appreciated her neighborly
appreciation, and returned
to the soil, breathing in the sweet
perfume of a familial curve of purple plants.

My son felt
me groan as I bent to
shovel mulch;
he pointed to the
terracotta Buddha,
in repose beneath a garden ficus,
and suggested I rest.

I declined,
protesting that I had 
many years remaining,
insisting that it was not my wont
to sit while others worked.

In years to come,
perhaps my son,
and his wife,
and their children
will see the lavender
encircle maturing trees:

Or perhaps
some other
family will make
this garden their
home to food that
will be their luxury.

Decades on
when the trees bear fruit,
the brownish Buddha crumbles
back to unbaked earth,
and my bones hunch
from carrying loads,

Buddha-ji smiled a blessing in response:
“May you long enter the gardens of
your children and grandchildren.
May you remember the gift that your
son presented you in that morn’s fertile, dark soil.
May you always know that life is enriched
by a determination born of samsara’s struggle.”

Dr. Raj Oza has written or contributed to Globalization, Diaspora, and Work Transformation, Satyalogue // Truthtalk: A Gandhian Guide to (Post)Modern-Day Dilemmas, P.S., Papa’s Stories, and Living in...