By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"This garden was established by Françoise Cachelin," explains a garden volunteer. "She was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and she ran an underground abortion clinic in New York before abortion was legalized. Protecting and establishing community gardens were her final acts of activism."
"She was also a pioneering squatter in the Lower East Side," adds a man in a crown of flowers. "She homesteaded in a building not far from here until she died."
"La lutte continue," shouts the crowd, repeating her favored phrase, "The struggle continues."
Under the sweet-smelling trees, amid piles of toys and a fleet of Big Wheels, members of the Stop Shopping Choir amuse themselves on teeter-totters while everyone else partakes of free ice cream offered by a bicycle-driven mobile refrigerator.
At the Peach Tree Garden, Aresh Javadi, founder of More Gardens,lifts his wolf's mask and reminds us to "hydrate our heads." Our water break is accompanied by a riotous dance routine by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Happily watered, we make our way to Le Petit Versailles and Orchard Alley, where we are invited to fruity tea amid fruit trees.
At El Jardín de Paradiso, we flop down in a sea of tall grass, relishing the musky odor of mushrooms and a full day of arboreal delights. Children young and old leap into the trees, perching in branches and holding court on a tree house platform that overlooks the garden.
"The weatherman told us there would be rain," shouts Reverend Billy, "but the sky decided to bless us and our carnival of gardens with sunlight and a little shade, and at the end of the day, this consoling wind. We are grateful for the mystery and the wisdom of the sky . . . Sky-elujah!"
"Sky-elujah!" shouts the crowd, joining hands for a spiral dance while three police officers stare from the asphalt outside.