“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I never needed a playground. Growing up in North Carolina, the branches and flower buds of my dad’s garden were the monkey bars of my jungle gym. I played hide-and-seek, peeking between the Asian apple pear, persimmon, and fig trees. It was routine to grab sweet plum tomatoes and crunchy green snap peas from the vine for an afternoon snack and eat freshly picked winter melon for dinner. We joke that in a former life, my dad must have been a farmer, spending every day digging into fresh topsoil.

Seeing my dad care for his garden defines many of the values I stand by today. I look up to him for his dedication, patience, and generosity. Every year of my childhood, I watched him diligently water new seedlings and protect them from curious bees and gnarly weeds that came their way. These seeds sprouted into towering trees and vines, blossomed flowers, and released the sticky nectar of orange persimmons and brown turkey figs. Standing by his side, I observed my dad creatively experiment with recycled reflective compact disks to keep the deer and robins from having an early bite. After the season ended, I watched as he always thoughtfully stored the best of the season’s harvest to give away to others.

As a kid, I never quite understood why my dad enjoyed gardening so much, but today, I know that I too will have a garden of my own that will grow beyond my time here, one that I will nourish, protect, and love just as much as he does.

— Alice Yen