I have to get going on this garden. Too much of it looks like the gravel-strewn mess you see here, the place where the crew mixed concrete and left too much of the debris. The bushes behind are the only sizable remaining area of mature growth, so apart from occasionally pruning it back, I have left it alone.
You can see that it is totally overgrown. I figured that my first step would be to thin it out to give the “keeper” plants some air. Hahahaha, silly me. You see, threading its way through all this miscellaneous greenery is a happy, healthy and well-established blackberry bush. Or are they vines? I don’t know but they are viciously thorny and they are everywhere. I figure it’s karma.
When I was little my great-grandmother read me the Uncle Remus stories. That this was before they became unfashionable gives you a hint as to how old I am. I loved those stories and I have to admit, the whole racial angle totally escaped me. What I keyed in on was the trickster, Brer Rabbit. He was smart, clever, subversive and funny. Uncle Remus is a trickster himself — who, after all, is choosing which stories to tell and how to tell them? — but at the time I saw him as the male counterpart to my widowed great-grandmother, kindly and giving me permission to be whoever I might want to be.
For anyone who does not know the stories, they are a collection of African folk tales. They were collected by Joel Chandler Harris, a Southern white guy who made the black narrator, Uncle Remus, at least on the surface, completely nonthreatening. The characters in the stories were animals. I have read that Harris was retelling stories told to him, during his childhood, and were an attempt to create empathy for black people, maybe avert a lynching or two.
As I say, I was a little kid, probably preschool, and apart from my great-grandmother — I grew up in a family where a woman of 16 or 17 really ought to be married and with child, so she would have been about the age I am now — I knew that the situation I was raised in was one I wanted to get away from. And though I couldn’t articulate it, I knew that a girl would not have a straightforward path toward choosing her own destiny. I knew I would have to be sneaky, like Brer Rabbit. He became my role model and I wanted to be thrown into the briar patch like you cannot believe.
It worked. I got out. Times have changed and I have not always had to use stealth to achieve my objectives. And now look, I have a briar patch to eradicate. Serves me right. But there is some great stuff in there. I have shown you the fragrant white flowers that bloom in May. And just today, in among the blackberries, I found what might turn out to be an apple tree.