In a large garden planted on the slope of a hill, facing the sun, I walk with my grandmother. We step gingerly between rows of beets, lettuce, tomatoes, and raspberries until we find our way to the currant bushes.
Once there, she tells me the currants before us come from cuttings she took from her mother’s garden years earlier.
I watch as she drops to her knees in her own private form of benediction. Kneeling there among the shrubs with her yellow strainer and small paring knife, she teaches me how to pop the berries off the stem.
As we move down the row we develop a joint rhythm; she cuts the cluster and hands them to me to de-stem. As I toss the berries in the stainer she talks about the jam we will make, and how, because the currants are so bountiful this year, we could set up a roadside stand to sell what we don’t use.
Her movements are quicker than mine and as she maneuvers through the garden I sense she is slowing down for me. The warmth, the scent, the variety of food within arms reach distract me, and all seem directly connected to my stomach.
She tells me stories about what she has planted and why, and I am too young to understand the importance of what she is saying. I am somewhere else entirely, focused on these berries in my hand, all I can think of is how they must taste.
When I think she isn’t looking, I take a cluster between my thumb and index finger, tilt my head back to face the sun and pretend I am a Greek Goddess eating the fruit of the soil.
While I pull the stem slowly against my teeth I feel each currant, warmed from the sun, as it plops on my tongue infused with a tartness that surprises me. I look at my grandmother and she is looking at me – smiling. A moment of pure bliss before we move onto the lettuce.
This is my natural history, and because of it, I am compelled to plant in spring, to nurture, and to reap the harvest. Through the garden gate I am put in touch with the source of life and offered sustenance, both emotional and physical.
Then, at the table, the meal brings me to the center of the human experience. Brought together in community, I am nourished and reconnected to traditions and pleasure. I invite you to join me there.