Earth Love

“…When we love somebody, we put their wellbeing at the top of the list and we want to feed them well. We want to nurture them {…} We want to bring beauty into their lives {…} The Earth loves us back in beans and corn and strawberries. These are the wonderful gifts that the plant beings, to my mind, have shared with us. And it’s a really liberating idea that the Earth could love us back.”

— Robin Wall Kimmerer

Berries have become, to me, a symbol of the Earth’s love for us in the here and now. The understatement of the beauty of a fresh strawberry or raspberry, ripe off the plant, is the understatement of what we are, where we are, and how we are. The world’s love manifests itself to me in vibrant, plump berries, shared often with bees, bears, bugs, and all other matter of strangers basking in the moment alongside us.

But with no one do I so much enjoy the sharing of a berry as my sweet and beautiful daughter. The act of feeding her berries brings unspeakable joy to my whole existence. Early on Friday morning, we found ourselves in the lively raspberry bush in the open lot next to my neighbor’s house. The sun was beginning to warm the sky; the dew was cool and refreshing, and the bees, bugs and greenery were alive with full force. I put Ella into a backpack carrier and into the middle we went, to compromise our momentary convenience for the bounty of the berry.

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As I walked and picked, we both toughed out all the mosquito bites, nettle stings and raspberry pokes, which brought tangible presence to the moment. She was a trooper, and protested only briefly, and only intermittently between fistfuls of juicy, messy raspberries stuffed crudely into the mouth hole she’s still busy familiarizing herself with. It was beautiful.

The patch is on a broad lot on an open corner where 5th Avenue turns into Pulaski. It’s a small slice of heaven in the midst of the city. We ignored the obnoxious street sweeper and city trucks from our small haven, mesmerizing ourselves instead with the smaller demonstrations of life in our midst. The tenant of the adjacent property, a young woman not much older than me, arrived home and rode her bicycle into the driveway. I waved and she glared.

We turned our back and went to picking some wildflowers for a bouquet. She busied herself for moments, and finally approached and cleared her throat. “This isn’t a public park, you know?”

“I know.” I replied. “We are not trying to be up in your space. I called the landlord a couple years back and he said it was okay to come and pick. We will be leaving soon.” I slowly made my way for the fence, gathering some more gorgeous little flowers along the way. This seemed to irritate her. She fired up a push mower and started working the edge. We were no more than five steps down the road as she pushed that mower into the center of the berry bush and ruthlessly mowed the lovely patch of ripe raspberries and flowering milkweeds. My heart broke for the first time that morning.

I’ve been wondering lately if the opposite of love is actually hate, or apathy. Either way, I can’t imagine a more apt metaphor than mowing down ripe berries and wildflowers on the heels of a young man and his toddler enjoying nature’s bounty – all on behalf of some warped sense of ownership. I feel sorry for that woman. I’ve no idea what drove her to this place, but I hope she can come to experience the love of the berries someday.

I got home and shaped my wildflower bouquet. Centered by a head-heavy milkweed, stemmy little yellow and white flowers filled in the radius, along with a seeded blade of grass, and a dead stick of silver, crunchy raspberry leaves.

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I think it’s valuable to represent all stages of life in a wildflower bouquet. It’s easy for us to forget, in our ceaseless quest for the aesthetic, that the flower is a temporary state of being—no more than a phase in a cycle much more complex and dynamic than we are comfortable acknowledging. The flower, I believe, is also a manifestation of the Earth’s love for us, but I could say the same for the leaf, the seed, and the dead stem.

Somehow, the link between beauty and survival seems inextricable. The wildflower may not know how beautiful she is; only the attractiveness to pollinators, and the vital importance of pollination on the way to seed. The seeds are encapsulated in that flower, which is in turn encapsulated in the seeds of the next generation. Having completed the cycle, the plant – which may or may no longer be considered a wildflower – relieves herself of the burden of the seed, which is itself relieved from the burden of its mother, and free to set, grow roots, and start anew. Both pursue their individual destinies to their fullest capacity, in the continued cycle of life and beauty.

Likewise, I have come to a seed of new growth. The time has come to focus on rooting and growing anew. The carrying capacity of this platform can no longer hold the weight of exploration in this new frontier of examination, and I will be leaving you here for some time. Let our love manifest in the bounty of the food we grow and share with our families and yours. Taste it. Smell it. Feel it. Love it. With that, I wish you whatever it is you need. May your summer be summer, and your fall fall. Hopefully winter takes care of itself.

Louie

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