This writing is part of a larger work in progress called, "Every Garden I Have Known." Originally written May 2021.
I always seemed to be in the car when he got the inkling to score some weed.
“Wait here a minute. I just gotta see a friend.”
I think we were at odds about the real length of a minute, because even factoring in the way kids measure time, I know it was a lot longer than that. It was often too cold or too hot in the car and scary. I sat on edge, half expecting to be kidnapped or killed. “Here” was always some behind the way, unfriendly, broken down neighbourhood. Of the sort that are next to a rail line, with a street that dead ends at a muddy driveway with flags and stained sheets hung as curtains, and a stressed out German Shepard tied to a stake.
Sometimes I got to wait in the “yard.” Usually, it was really just the parking lot for tenants behind a boarding house, or a neglected patch with a fence that was flopping over to one side, smashed up toys and brick-a-brac nestled into the tall grass. I would explore the perimeter of such places. Poke around in the overgrowth looking for signs of life underneath rocks, rotting T-shirts, old plywood boards, a broken betamax tape of Porky’s, some kid’s lost Mad magazine.
None of the “good” wildlife lived there. Certainly not of the colourful, magical sort profiled in my grade school encyclopedias. Instead it was lowly brown snails, beetle orgies, spider mamas, and detritivores. Colourless creatures that scurry, creep, and crawl.
But there was that one time when the yard turned out to be a garden on the side of a quaint wartime cottage. There were snails there, too, accompanied by the pungent fragrance of crushed ground ivy underfoot. And black currant bushes at the fence line. I ate the berries. I’d found my manna. Did someone give the okay to eat them or did I chance it? It could have gone either way given how I’d been hospitalized not long before for consuming mushrooms off the lawn. Curiosity hasn’t killed me yet, but it has come close.
I have since grown up to write about gardens, of all things. For the last ten years, in a rented backyard, I have grown the most magnificent black currant bush I have ever known. It has provided us with an absolutely astonishing abundance of berries every single year. Whenever I rub a leaf or fill bowls with the harvest I am transported back in time to little me in a yard somewhere and another black currant bush that played no small part in pointing my way toward an act (gardening) that has come to define me and much of my adulthood.
Top photo of me picking black currants at sun set by Davin Risk.