February 19, 2005
He worked his way up from retail sales to upper–middle management, but now he labors by choice as a gardener in a plant nursery, tending the herbs and roses, handing cuttings to customers like sacred vessels. The happiest moments in his life have come while transplanting seedlings, cradling their root balls in his cupped palms, tenderly patting the soil around them, slowly pouring just the right amount of water. He’s a good decade older than any of his co–workers, and though he’s told them he’s willing to work the cash register if needed, they’ve gotten the message not to ask unless it’s urgent. When a customer asks a question, though, he can stand there answering with his elbow on a rake for half an hour. On days off he takes side jobs, planting, weeding, pruning, for a ridiculously low fee. They don’t know he would pay them for the chance to do it.