The front area of our garden is open to the public. Benches and a small ornamental bridge invite passersby to sit under our flowering trees and consult their smartphones, or watch their dogs sniff around our prairie grasses.
Sometimes, of course, people put the front area to less innocuous uses. We are accustomed to picking up confettied lottery tickets, spent forties and empty tallboys on our Saturday morning workdays. We find the occasional thumb-sized plastic baggie emblazoned with a cannabis leaf, or the suspicious glass tube. Once, I happened upon the contents of a pocketbook in one of the beds near the street: detritus from a purse-snatching, a sad tale strewn amidst the allium stalks.
We notified the police, who have promised to keep an eye on the garden on weekdays when we are not around. We hope that the increased scrutiny will ward away those who would use the garden as a shooting gallery. We will also keep volunteers out of the corner where we found the rig, and only work in that area with heavy gloves.
I realize now that I have always secretly believed that the garden was an oasis from urban ills like crack or heroin, and protected from unpleasantness because of its mission. That belief was childish. If we are to be an oasis, it must be by choice, and awareness, and diligence.