Harmony: Harlem’s Celebration of Life Earth Day Concert

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Importance of Gardens, for me

I've grown up in gardens, or maybe that statement in and of itself can't help but be a lie; so instead I'll say, I've stayed around the age of 5 because I've always come home to gardens.

My grandmother had a garden. She grew vegetables and tobacco for a living, but around her house she had a flower garden. "Crazy Lottie's Crazy Garden" a sign made by some children at church said. In the South women have a way of sticking "trash" into their gardens, little doo-dads and knick knacks that someone found in the dump, wires and tires somehow turned into beautiful, creative art to give the garden intrigue when the flowers aren't blooming. My grandfather grew petunias in the beds by the river, and every Sunday after church the two of them would walk beside the river picking trash out from in between the blooming plants.

At the church they used to attend, the grave of my aunt and now my grandfather we have covered in Hasta and Day Lillies. We have sprinkled seeds of wildflowers yearly. My family goes to these graves, kneels, and tends flowers. We've never believed much in death, we've got too much power for creation for that. Things die when you let them. Our flowers tell us that's true.

My mother had a garden that took up half our front yard when I was a child. A giant rectangle completely full of flowers. The nieghboors hated it. She had Carolina jasmine climbing on everything, strangling the roses. There was Wandering Dew seeping into the drive way. Honeysuckle was all tangled in the Azaleas. But it was always blooming. The neighboors saw it as a mess- they wanted to see something more manicured. To mother and me, it was an amazing dance of color.

My first job was in a garden shop. Whenever I travel I am sure to visit gardens. There is something special about the creation of a place solely for the purpose of allowing plants to bloom. And there is something special simply about blooming all together.

My grandmother has a pillow sitting on her couch, (She now lives in a retirement home, her patio overrun with potted flowers, and she's begun to dig up the landscaping outside her door to make room for some collards) that a friend embrordered for her. It says "To cultivate a Garden is to walk with God." She's 92 and still planting flowers, so I think the pillow just may speak a little truth.

To have a life permeated with flowers, so richly saturated with every aspect of their being, I am delighted to have Harmony taking place in a Garden.

Dr. G told us she had started the garden ten years ago. The kids in the neighborhood would come to her saying, "Miss Vicky, Miss Vicky, come out and play."

"So I came outside, and we made a garden," Dr. G. said.

We can say the commonness of humanity is enough to keep us all understanding one another, to keep us all connected. And I've got faith in that. But I know I'm a white girl from rural North Carolina, whose spent a good deal of her life chasing flowers. And that's real different from growing up in Harlem, or even just growing up in New York City or LA. And the truth is, in dealing with city folk, communication bounderies pop up looking like glass, but I keep ramming my head into them and find out they're real.

But gardening, now that's a language I can speak, one I can understand. So the boundaries are still there, but now we've found a room all of us can fit in, one I can finally fit in.

People are different. Every day I'm realizing that is actually true. People have completely different value systems. People stand so far at the other end of the spectrum, they couldn't see you, or even imagine you. I think the location of the garden gives us just enough space that we can all come together, and small enough a framework that we're all truly seeing one another.

And the garden has cats. Adrionna and I have always loved cats.

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