I am so excited about my trip. It has been 6 years in the making, and the weather could not be more beautiful for a journey to Aunt Alma’s Abundant Community Garden. Today’s temperature is in the upper 80s, not unusual for September in the Bay Area. With my faithful walking companion, my 6 year-old grandson, Isaiah, at my side, we head out of the house just before noon. Aunt Alma’s can get pretty busy on Saturdays, but today is a special day for both Isaiah and me. He is as excited as I am because we have been taking this trip to the garden since he was just six months old. The fact that there will be lots of people there only makes the occasion more festive, like a holiday. Yes, today is a special day.
As we make our way down the breezeway onto the sunny side of the street, we grab hands. My rule. Whenever we walk we must hold hands, especially at busy intersections and when crossing the street. Isaiah doesn’t mind, and is the first to reach out for my hand. “Gimme your hand, granma” he says. I smile down at this little person on my left. He smiles back. “We are going to see the Persimmons, huh, granma?” he asks as if persimmons were a family and not the beautiful orange fruit that makes a delicious bread, something I’d promise we’d do today when we get back home with our bounty. Isaiah loves helping me in the kitchen. Like his dad, I think he is also going to be a chef. “Yes, baby, we are going to see the Persimmons. We have been waiting a long time for them to arrive, and today we’re in for a treat.” My handsome grandson begins to skip a little making sure not to let go of my hand; I move faster to keep up. “Oooooh” he says, “I love treats!” I laugh as we make our way around the corner onto the next block. Above us, a spattering of white clouds paints the blue sky.
Aunt Alma’s is only a few blocks away. It is owned and operated by Alma Rodgers, a fixture in the community for at least five decades. She and her husband, John began planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables in the late sixties. Before that, they ran a produce market and would buy their green goods from local farmers. Mr. Rodgers would take weekly trips to various farms along the north coast to pick up their greens, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables in season. He’d take his two sons, Marshall and Conrad along for the ride to keep him company. The boys would be eager to join him since some of the farms had animals that they could pet and feed. When Mr. Rodgers got ill, the trips came to a halt and Aunt Alma decided that it would be good for her and the boys to grow their own produce. It took years of work, but it paid off. The community embraced the effort and would often pitch in on weekends to assist the Rodgers family. Before long, the garden became the most green place in the neighborhood, and not only did the garden grow, it fed many in the area and beyond. Abundance.
It is fall, the time of the year that persimmons are in season. It is also the time when many of the trees begin to change colors, so there is an array of shades from dark to golden, a kaleidoscope of red, orange, burgundy, green, yellow. It reminds me of those lights that we used during Christmas on the silver tree. Captive beauty. I can hear the rustling of the leaves as a slight breeze sings around us and everything that breathes; it brings relief from the heat of an Indian Summer.
I am in awe of what I see. My surroundings are like something from a Paul Cezanne “Apples and Oranges” still life painting, a work of art that will last as long as the eyes can comprehend it’s beauty, take it in slowly, consider its splendor and intention to fascinate. I want to lock it in my memory, open it whenever I need my breath to be taken away…We stand still in this moment. Two hearts beating before creation. Our creation, aided by the ground beneath our feet. We are planted.
I turn to look down at Isaiah, who is still wondering with his sensitive young eyes if we will be able to consume the orange glow in front of us…”does it have pes-ta-cides, grandma?” he inquires. He is smart beyond his years. “Will we get in trouble if we take some?” Thinking about where we are, I tell him that I don’t think that pesticides were used, that it is likely not forbidden to pull a few from the branches hanging just low enough to tempt anyone passing by into grabbing the eye candy. Isaiah wonders aloud if it should be refrigerated or will it ruin the fruit’s taste. I wonder to myself just where does his young wisdom come from, could he be an old soul, my grandmother’s perhaps, who once grew beautiful roses and had a green garden in Momence, Illinois. Could be her soul and knowledge he’s carrying. I am filled with joy at the thought. I’ve missed her. “No,” I said, “the temperature is just right. It needs no refrigeration whatsoever.” I can see he is smiling and believe he just squeezed my hand just a little tighter as if to demonstrate his excitement. I love this little manchild. My grandmother, incarnate.
Moments have passed and people have walked and jogged by this idyllic slice of heaven. Folks are enjoying the weather right for any kind of physical activity including digging and planting and sowing. Being outside is better than being in the gym. I applaud the many who have chosen the membership of nature. A woman, who’d paused to see what we were seeing, to take in the awesomeness that we don’t mind sharing, has since moved on and it is just me and Isaiah standing still in our life and the promise of it. What a spectacular day.