Thursday, July 26, 2012
The summer after Fred died, continued
Two summers ago as Fred’s grown children and I tended to his garden, we started talking about the possibility of turning the garden into a working urban farm. We brainstormed about how to connect with the local community gardens program, about how to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with community organizations – schools, senior and community centers, and churches. Inspired, I began to dream about Fred’s garden – his future urban farm – as a potential space for intergenerational collaborative learning about localism, permaculture, food security, and beautiful food for all. We three we were quite excited about the possibilities, and we agreed to continue to work together into the future and committed to the principle that at all costs Fred’s garden plot and his house must stay in the family (Although I am not an official family member, I felt a sense of deep conviction that I had a right to weigh in on the matter, given my true friendship with Fred and my commitment to his legacy.).
I must say yet again that I imagined that the summer of 2010 was the first of many summers working together to continue Fred’s legacy, perhaps even re-visioning Fred’s garden and extending his legacy in new directions, though I’d have been quite thrilled with keeping his garden growing and going in the form and shape it had been for decades. And, as I’ve admitted, I quite innocently, perhaps even naively, assumed that the garden would continue at least for the rest of my lifetime, and that as long as I lived right across the street I’d be intimately involved in watching over it. So, I took all of these conversations with Fred’s family very seriously, even began putting feelers out into my own networks to see what friends and colleagues thought about the idea of expanding Fred’s garden into an sweet little urban farm and place for community-based education.
As I write this I realize more clearly than I have previously that my vocation as the caretaker of Fred’s garden was for me a blessing and responsibility of such profundity that it became a significant part of my identity and lifeworld. I began to write about my experiences, informally and formally, personally and professionally; I also began to participate more extensively in the local sustainable food movement. I was discovering yet more ways to enact Fred’s legacy, as well as ways to do some legacy work in my own right. And, fundamentally, I suppose my relationship with Fred’s family and our shared commitment to his legacy was the way Fred continued to have a central daily presence in our lives. Fred’s garden served as the location for us to continue to cultivate our individual connections with him, and to form new relationships with one another.
As I worked in Fred’s garden, as I dreamed about future possibilities, I was thinking all the while about him, about our relationship. Though he was back in the stars and I was still here on this planet, Fred was still very much present to me, and it felt certain to me that his garden and our relationship would continue to grow.