Long term residents, going back to the 1940’s and 50’s, who are still alive, talk in the hospital waiting room about California being a Garden of Eden.
” Down that street, ” one says, “: there were acres and acres of orange trees….. ”
” And grapefruits as big as your head, ” another chips in from his chair as he looks out a huge window on the third floor.
” When we were little, ” a gray haired matron with granny glasses says, almost so quiet you can’t hear her, “my little sister and I would walk to an orchard and buy a bag of lemons for home made lemonade. Our mother made it so sweet…..”
The Garden of Eden has been sold, divided into planned communities with covenants.
There are still berry farms scattered in Los Angeles though, operations that take up a few city blocks,not bulldozed by progress and not covered over by cement or asphalt. This strawberry patch is on the street I follow to the University of Irvine Medical Center where Chris is on life support and his mom sleeps in the hospital room at night.
I imagine a little Japanese man as this farm’s owner and operator, who opens early and closes late, who uses a hoe to keep furrows clear of weeds, who carefully carries boxes of strawberries out to SUV’s for domestic Goddesses. His grandchildren help him, and,for lunch, he eats rice and fish at the small table back of his stand.
Some people are born to get dirt on their pants, hold soil in the palm of their hand, taste a fresh picked strawberry and let the juice run down their cheeks.
Chris, as of a few hours ago, isn’t exactly alive, or exactly dead.
He is in the gray area.
Flown to the hospital in a helicopter, his soul is walking the top of the fence, struggling to stay balanced, leaning first one way, and then the other.
This strawberry patch is grounding me to the Earth today.
My Dad loved growing and I always loved helping him weed his garden in the early morning, pick tomato worms off the plants and harvest squash.
Even though I didn’t inherit his love of gardening, it calms me to be standing in this strawberry field, watching a friend struggling to stay alive.