I went out in the garden today and this is what I found. I'd say it's about two quarts of some the most delicious strawberries you'll ever find. Nothing tastes better than food just picked from the garden.
Gardening, like writing, is a meditative activity. Leaning over, brushing the leaves back to look for ripe berries, a mind drifts on a placid sea of memories and thoughts, ideas and notions. I can't even look at a strawberry without not only thinking of, but actually feeling the presence of my grandmother who had a strawberry patch in her garden many times the size of my entire garden. Strawberries were a special food in my family, because they were attributed to my grandmother, a wonderful, gentle woman who I can't ever remembering hugging me but I still, somehow, knew loved me.
A special treat for everyone was some of her frozen strawberries ladled over vanilla ice cream, especially in the winter, and of course I thought it was miraculous, because, yes, it was most definitely miraculous. Distant flavors and memories frozen in time in her farmhouse kitchen, unleashed in your mouth; if you can't see the miracle in that, I'm sorry to say, you're jaded and need to unplug--now. To show how important strawberries are in my family, they were the last food my mother, dying of cancer, craved. They made her so happy.
In the same way strawberries always conjure my grandmother and mother in my mind, I use a double-edge razor, the kind my father used, to recall him, even for that brief time in front of the mirror when I can see myself and see his face in mine and wonder what he'd think of me now. We plant irises in the garden, a few more every year, because they were both Sue's and my father's favorite flower.
And today in the garden my mind went to the church in Charleston, and the killer who took nine lives. I recall the people who made me what I am today, who were instrumental in my development, who were church-going people, even though I'm not. I never understood the peace and joy my own family received from church, but then, I'm sure there are some who don't understand what I get from pulling weeds. Imagine if it had been them, my family, killed while doing a simple thing they loved? What if I were shot in my garden?
I've always been a writer, an artist, who worked with words and pictures, and even during all of the years when I made my living in soulless corporate America, I was more eager to rise above it all and show people what I could do, artistically, using words and images and sounds to tell a story. I've always been one who preferred to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty so I could finally hold something up to the world and say, See what I created! A story in a magazine. A play. A garden. It has always been my urge to make the world a better place, and move on. It's never been my urging to injure or kill someone.
I'll continue to create, to make gardens wherever I happen to be, leaving them behind as I move on, filled with irises and strawberries in memory of loved ones. And I'll continue to make theater, steeped in my family history, named after my daughters, diverse in all colors and races and genders and ages, telling stories usually not found on the stage, ephemeral in nature. My choice is to keep things alive: memories, people, ideas. It's my choice. But it's also who I am.