The iconic song Strawberry Fields by John Lennon celebrates the place he used to visit as a child where his mind could wander. Apart from the restrictions of society, he felt inspired and freed from false expectations.
Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
I was a child much like Lennon who sought out places where people couldn’t bother me. Possessed of a wild and somewhat ripe imagination, I’d find places in the woods or meadows with bugs and birds to keep me company. Sometimes, I’d find mulberry fruit growing on trees. And when they ripened, I’d eat them. Forbidden fruit.
As I aged, I kept this sense of wonder about nature despite teasing from friends who thought my interest in birds meant that I was weird. I loved learning about such things, and began to draw and paint what I loved most. But those patrons of middle school ignorance pursued me nonetheless.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
One can imagine the hunger that John Lennon must have felt to know more about the world at time when so much loss came his way. He father left and his mother died early in life. In later years, Lennon wrote many songs about those aching griefs. But one song stands out as the ultimate survival guide.
No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you can’t, you know, tune in
But it’s all right
That is I think it’s not too bad
I felt pain as a child due to the tragedy my father experienced at the loss of his mother at age seven. His father Harold also suffered in life, being subject to depression worsened by the death of his wife, the loss of his farm and livelihood. My grandfather needed mental health treatment so my father and his sisters were sent to live with aunts and uncles on a farm hunkered beside a Catskill mountain. I don’t think much counseling took place to help my father and his kin deal with such changes. They absorbed the pain and moved on.
Some of that pain got passed along to us boys during the early phases of my father’s parenthood role. As a sensitive child, all I knew to do was heal in the open air where natural sights and sounds were took me away from the tension and anxiety I sometimes felt around home. It wasn’t an entirely unhappy childhood, just a complex one.
On those days when I’d wander afield, I’d sometimes find wild fruit on the trees of fields. In summer I’d dine on mulberries, that strangely seeded faux grape that turned from white to pink to purple. The taste was sweet, and the juice stained the fingers. It always felt a bit naughty and exotic to eat mulberries. Did one need permission? Could they harm you?
To this day I still worry that some form of worm or other nasty bit of exotic nature might lurk in the heart of a mulberry and cause me sickness. The fact that wild creatures like coyotes dine on mulberries is not much comfort.
Many times the squashed fruit of mulberry trees falls onto running or cycling paths to be run over by passersby. The berries stain the path and even flip up from the bike tires to strike you in the face.
Birds dine on mulberries and excrete them on cars. That’s nature’s way of reminding us that while some people view themselves as separate or specially created, we’re really just part of a cyclical flow of life from seed to juice to a stain in history.
Always, no sometimes, think it’s me
But you know I know when it’s a dream
I think I know I mean a yes
But it’s all wrong
That is I think I disagree
Yes, life is often confusing. As I write this I’m both excited about things that I’m accomplishing and feeling the effects of personal and financial challenges wrought from the long line of life’s vagaries; caregiving, cancer, emotional intelligence and the lack of it.
All we can do is keep eating mulberries where we find them and being as honest as possible about ourselves. As for me, for better or worse, I’ll be living in Mulberry Fields Forever.