I dragged myself out of bed to go to an early morning session of CrossFit. Afterwards, I drove home wondering why I was subjecting myself to this abuse. As I got out of my car, I saw the sun announcing it’s routine arrival. But there is nothing routine about this beauty. My aches fades and I’m reminded of the words of (Auntie) Dawn Davis, “I’m alive.”
“In that story I gathered up the historical and psychological threads of the life my ancestors lived, and in the writing of it I felt joy and strength and my own continuity. I had that wonderful feeling writers get sometimes, not very often, of being with a great many people, ancient spirits, all very happy to see me consulting and acknowledging them, and eager to let me know, through the joy of their presence, that, indeed, I am not alone.” ― Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Prose
I garden for many reasons, some are clearly practical. I am fortunate to be married to a woman who loves cooking her take on her culture’s food with fresh, organic ingredients. I grow it, she cooks it. Win, win. But, it has quickly become ‘a quiet place’ for me. For reasons that are deeper and more in line with the Alice Walker quote above where presence is felt against the backdrop of one’s history.
Like many in the cultural melting pot of this experiment called the U.S.A., I am an immigrant (although, if I am honest, I came to this country as a young child and am very ‘Americanized’). Coming here, I grew up seeing my parents work, sacrifice and made sure that my siblings and I had everything we needed. While we spent the first decade here living in apartments, I had vivid memories of formative years in Barbados.
My maternal grandparents owned approximately an acre of land. My grandmother, Mum, had quite the garden. She grew pepper, herbs, watermelon, yam – to name a few. The main garden plot was surrounded by banana trees. Interspersed, she had coconut trees, mango trees, and an ackee (ginep) tree. While I don’t recall helping her garden, I know my sister and I would play spend hours playing together as my grandmother worked in the island’s rich, black soil and, then, we would happily devour the garden’s offerings. I can still taste the watermelon she’d grow.
Suffice it to say, my parents did not garden after moving to America and living in apartments. Their focus was on their children’s day to day and long-term needs. They moved into a single-family home whilst I was in college – primarily to care for Mum, who now, was in her 90s, going blind and begrudgingly in the States. After she passed away, I went on to law school, where I, ultimately, met my wife. Now, I am blessed to have two strong, curious, intelligent and beautiful girls. I garden for them. Like my sister and I, they may not remember helping me plant seeds, take care of seedlings, water the plants in the summer, pick the vegetables or nibbling on tomatoes, but it will be a part of them. An heirloom of sorts. I am passing along history, as it was passed along to me by Mum.
I also garden for my parents. In time, you will hear stories of my mother. Know this; she is the strongest, fiercest woman I know. She is also waist deep in a losing battle against Alzheimer’s disease. My father is her primary caretaker. It is draining, both physically and emotionally. When she visits in the summer; when she sees the tomatoes, the callaloo, the Scotch Bonnet peppers, and the herbs – particularly marjoram, she is in her mother’s garden. She is happy. My father is too. It is an ephemeral moment, yet a small balm for my father. For me, it is priceless.
So this is really about that. And that. That, too!