A sharp scream fills the air. The young woman with amber hair looks up, startled to see her small child pointing enthusiastically at a little bird, a Carolina Wren, which had landed two feet from her, on the railing outside the market house. A smile crosses her lips. The birds often hang out around the Market House in the early morning, but they retire to the garden as soon as the activity builds along the street side.
She takes her daughter’s hand as they walk inside the brick building.
Although the woman enjoys coming to the public market, this is her husband’s pet project, not hers. Ever since he had heard about the market place opening, he had been raving with excitement. Before the Agricultural Center and Market had opened, he would occasionally take some produce from his backyard garden to the Augusta Market on the River, but since that only happened on Saturdays and only for half of the year, the idea of this permanent market place had captivated him.
It was a new idea for the area: a place where people, plants and animals can all come together to strengthen the urban community. The market place has united the people of the area with the natural systems and developed a relationship of interaction and interdependence for this area of downtown Augusta.
The woman and her child walk among the vending stations, searching for something in particular. As they approach one stall, the child unexpectedly takes off running, screaming “Daddy!” The man at the stall turns as his 4 year old slams into his knees, burying her face into his legs. He picks the girl up and embraces her before sitting her on forearm to hold her. He then looks at his wife, and gives her a peck on the cheek.
“You’re early!” He exclaims with a smile in his voice. “Ethan is still in the learning center.”
“I know,” she says, “I was thinking of taking Lainie to get a smoothie while we wait for you two to finish up.”
Ethan, a bright eyed 14 year old, hadn’t initially wanted to be involved with his father’s farming activities, but once he realized that
there was money to be made and that he was too young to get a “real” job, he had volunteered to help his dad out. The man had insisted that his son participate in several of the training lessons at the learning center, because, as he had explained, “this ain’t your grandpapa’s farming methods.” What was the term they used around the market? Permeative? Permanence? No, it was permaculture – sustainable living with self-maintained agricultural systems modeled after natural ecosystems. Self-maintained? “Sounds easy enough,” the son had thought to himself.
And while it was simple, it wasn’t necessarily easy. There was work to be done and a lot of initial time investment, but it had been worth it. They now had a flourishing, naturally sustaining, ecologically maintaining, permaculture pertaining garden in their back yard. “I think we’ll walk through the learning center on our way to Herb’s” the woman said, referring to the restaurant on the other side of the garden, “Lainie wants to see the sprouts she planted a couple weeks ago.” With that, the woman and her lively daughter ventured off, disappearing among the crowd.
As they step through the walkway that connects the two buildings, the woman with the amber hair cannot help but notice that the breeze which had been gently flowing through the market was following them into the learning center. The light shimmers on the floor as they move along the length of the building, to the shelves at the other end of the room. The woman notices the speckled sunlight, which is seeping through the long windows. It appears to be dancing across the daughter’s loose tuffs of hair. The woman looks out the window in search of the cause of the stippling. She can see the light seeping through the vines on the trellis wall that is attached to the exterior of the building. As the woman continues on, she passes a group of teenagers and spots her son as he pulls a small tomato sprout from one pot and transplants it into a larger one. She waves subtly to him. He sees his mother and gives polite nod of his head, before returning his attention to the task at hand.
A squeaky voice distracts the woman from her thoughts. “They’ve GROWN!” the four year old shouts to her mother, with authentic surprise in her voice. The woman walks over to where her daughter has found the sprouts she planted in a small starter bed on a table.
“My, oh my, they sure have!” The woman says. “And they’re going to keep growing and biggerin’ and biggerin’, until they’re ready to be planted in the garden.” The child smiles delightedly at the Dr. Seuss reference, as she takes her mother’s hand and follows her outside.
Leaving the building, they step softly into the gardens. The trail before them is lined with short, dense shrubbery, permitting only their eyes to stray from the edges of the guided paths. There are fruit-bearing trees in the area surrounding them, known as “the orchard,” and those trees shade the vegetables and herbs that grow beneath them. The small restaurant stands among the trees, rooted into the Earth, as if it is part of the ground itself. A gentle gust of wind passes over the woman and her daughter, on its way across the gardens. She can see its influence on the vines that lay across the large glass window wall of the restaurant. The vines sway lightly, making the whole building appear to move.
They walk closer to the entrance, with the young girl frolicking and skipping and playing along the path, as young girls are wont to do. The child stops suddenly realizing where she is. “Ma! ma! Can, can we sit at the water lights?” The woman doesn’t have to ask her daughter what she means. She just smiles and says “sure” as the walk inside. The hostess, with a friendly disposition and a kind voice shows them to their seat along “the water lights.”
These lights are glowing tubes, imbedded into the back wall of the restaurant. The woman knows that they reach to the surface, where the sunlight can reflect down the large glass tanks that have been filled with water. The girl thinks it’s magic.
While the woman with amber hair sits, she watches her daughter, who is standing, mesmerized by the light shimmering through the tube and bouncing around the room. The girl puts her hands on the glass and presses her face to the wall. “Oh, honey. Don’t do that.” The woman insists, so the little girl backs off and decides to spin around in circles instead.
Once the smoothies arrive, the girl sits down in the booth with her mother. Her legs aren’t long enough to reach the floor so she swings them wildly as she sits on her hands. The woman grabs a straw, unwraps it and sticks it into her daughter’s strawberry banana smoothie. Grinning slyly the little girl grabs for her cup and moves it slowly towards her mouth.
As they finish up, a voice calls to them from behind. “Hey,” shouts the woman’s husband as he and Ethan approach. “It’s a beautiful day,” he says, “How about a walk along the river before heading home?”
“Yeah!” the four year old screams, answering for the rest of the family as she runs over to the glass door to the courtyard, yanks it open, and takes off. The woman just shakes her head with a sigh and a smile as the three of them follow the girl to the stairs outside which lead to the rooftop terrace.
From the top of the building, the family can see the rest of this urban agricultural center: the market house, the learning center that’s attached to it, and the ecologically responsive garden that weaves between and around the buildings. On the other side of the roof top is the trail for the river walk. It is buried among the more natural, less controlled looking ecosystem that continues down the ecological corridor of the river.
The woman grabs her husband’s hand, directs her children to “come along,” and the four of them disappear along the path.