The line of drooping sunflower plants silhouettes the looming, lonely library beyond. From tall, sickly stalks hang brown, wilted leaves that shake uncontrollably in the whip-like wind, like an old woman’s hands.
These sunflowers have already lost their seeds. They bow exhaustedly, their heads too heavy to hold up, in the 500-square-foot sustainable garden managed by Northwestern undergraduates. The garden is located on the right side of the South Lawn of Norris University Center. It is easy to miss without the grand sign at the far end that boldly reads: Wild Roots.
In front of the sign is a forgotten red wheelbarrow. In it, overgrown dill plants wave in the wind like willow trees.
In the center of the garden is a cement platform that houses most of the surviving flower plants in colorfully painted pots on three levels. About 45 medium-sized rectangular plots cover the rest of the garden. They are squared off by orange-colored wood that reeks of plywood, and nothing grows inside but tiny weeds.
The ground of the entire garden is black – almost too black – and unnatural to the eye. In the blackness there are specks of white perlite that sparkle, like the shimmers of snow on a cold winter’s night.
The sunflowers grow in a long plot that is not squared off, to the right side of the garden. Below them are chaotic, deteriorating vines of cucumbers, an alien-like two-headed zucchini plant, thriving collard plants, baby red lettuce, flowering chives and purple-blue flowers. All are carefully labeled.
The air smells of steaming Chinese food when a young man cuts across the lawn to enter Norris, without looking once at the lonely garden. The sunflowers look on like hooded Harry Potter Dementors – dead, yet still alive. Rain drips slowly from their sagging heads, like tears.