The raspberry vine speaks to me. The first story she told me was of her beloved Monica. Monica Pombo was from Brazil and my partner’s wife. Monica planted the raspberries, the blueberries, and blackberries so that my partner and their son would have fruit for food when she died. The raspberry vine tells me she is an ancestor of the vines that Monica planted but that the love in her veins and lineage remains. Monica died of cancer 10 years ago, so I’ve never met her, yet, every time I touch the vine or pick the berries, I feel Monica’s kindness there as a presence.
Yesterday, as I picked a bowl of blueberries, I think of how Monica’s love remains and brings the fruit of love and kindness to our present day. Can we be fruit and multiply love through plants? I think so.
Another time I picked berries, I thought of my dad. Though he didn’t grow raspberries, he grew grapes, muscadines, and scuppernongs. He always had a garden too, but mostly the vines remind me of the time we last stood in his vineyard. He was so proud of his grapes and standing there with ripening fruit, I felt the love of my dad for nature and me, but I also felt the sacredness of the moment. Lingering at our feet was a black cat that deddy said wasn’t “his” cat but that cat followed him everywhere at his barbershop and in the vineyards outside there. “That old cat” is all I remember dad ever calling her, but in the mornings, he bought my sister’s dog and that cat a sausage biscuit every day for breakfast. Love and fruit are communion with nature, animals, and humans.
Later, after lingering in the memories of dad and wishing I knew Monica, another wonderful memory came to me in the raspberry patch. As I picked the berries, I remembered a man from my church in Charlotte at Advent Lutheran. He was a big gardener and faithful church leader. Once when I visited him and his wife, Mabel, I saw how beautiful his garden was as well as bountiful. At the time, I was trying to start a square-foot garden in my small city lot. The raccoons, possums, and birds thought I planted it all for them. So, I asked June how he kept the birds and others from eating everything. He smiled at me in the sunlight and said, “Oh, I plant enough for them and me.” That memory is at least 30 years old. Did the birds sing it to me? If so, did June whisper in their ears to remind me to leave enough for the birds of the heavens? That love of gardening and nature courses through the earth. Like my dad and Monica, June died many years ago. Yet, that love, that fruitfulness, that kind love of the earth remains humming through the vines, singing from the thrush, the cardinal, the sparrow.
This morning, I waited much too late to pick berries, but I promised my young friend some for her and her sweet daughter. As the sun beat down, I remembered picking strawberries with mom, dad, and my sister in Grandma and Grandpa Poplin’s strawberry patch. I know our grandparents on both sides always did their work in the mornings before it got hot. Was it so hot that the hardening red clay was baking us in a hot summer morning, or was it later in the day so that mom and dad could be there after work? Most likely, it was the latter. I remember the four of us on the ground picking berries while grandma and grandpa walked around the gardens nearby talking to us of harvest, the things they had done earlier in the day. We were visiting with each other, but also communing with the beauty of family, earth, and sky. Their love and care for the earth flows through all of my family who still has gardens, and love family.
As I write, I remember the verses in Jewish and Christian scripture that speak of being fruitful and multiplying. Most often in life, this text has been interpreted as meaning the creating of children. Yet, there are many of us who don’t have children, all of which is personal and often traumatic. What about those of us who cannot have children? How can we be fruitful and multiply? Also, now in this day and time when overpopulation and climate change constantly endanger our earth, is the procreation of children (when so many are unwanted, refugees, orphans, or homeless), how is this good stewardship of our lives, our resources, our bodies?
What if instead, we assure that we multiply joy, love, and respect for the earth as the way each of us choose to be fruitful and multiply? How can we multiply that beauty of life and love that was giving by Monica to her family here, but that also extends to me? Can we live a life that is so beautiful that the vines, the berries, the birds, the earth sings of us? I continue to be an idealist even though it feels the world is being rent asunder. I plant more seeds of love.