So I've recently learned about a few different urban gardening efforts that are going on in Mobile. I must say that with the tradition of Mobile County farming, all those communities surrounding the city-limits, I would have never envisioned this city being a hot spot for urban gardening. However, I think it is an outstanding idea to utilize space within the city-limits to not only grow food, but to bring a sense of community responsibility back to the neighborhoods of Mobile.
As a kid I can remember life in Mobile as being unique in many ways, namely the ongoing efforts that people gave to upholding traditions and doing what Mobilians just did, as part of our Southern lifestyle. I remember summer evenings outside- they were always part of the daily family agenda. I remember green, green lawns, walking around in my grandmother's weedless, St. Augustine grass barefooted, pulling at random weeds in her flower beds, all bordered with the thickest green Monkey Grass. I remember riding into Crichton to buy seafood. I remember what it looked like outside the car window. Mobile had a certain look to it. I've always thought about it as a special place because of the simple things like colorful flower beds, backyard gardens, and shady Crepe Myrtles. I remember, as a child, riding up and down Old Shell Road and Springhill Avenue, gawking at the beauty of the various blooming flowers, like Azaleas, Camellias, and Crepe Myrtles, and thinking to myself how big they were- filled with thousands of flowers. At a young age, there was something special about those flowering giants. They made life colorful and private, often serving as street side barriers to some giant old historic home.
As an aged man, I experience the same feeling when I see these Mobile flowers. It seemed to me, back then, that neighborhoods had an unspoken competition going with one another- who had the prettiest flowering bushes and trees? Today, I can see the struggling existence of these Mobile flowers up and down Old Shell, Dauphin, and Springhill. I see them but they've sort of lost their place in the overgrowth and they stand alone perhaps from a lack of care. Why? Why do these icons look less appealing? Why don't they 'pop' like they once did when I was a kid? Is it because I've gotten old and the sight of things like flowering landscapes have lost their luster? Or, is it because I, along with many others have fallen asleep at the wheel, forgetting to tend to the basics of life? I think it is because I don't take the time to pull the weeds, prune the trees, or replace the pine straw in my flower beds. I think it is because I live faster than my grandparents. I think it is because I quit caring about what makes my yard a sign of my own inner peace.
When I turned 16 and got my first car, I made it a point to get to know my city. My high school buddies and I would drive into the depths of Mobile's organs trying to get lost. We often equated ourselves to viruses, looking for anything that had life and could host our inquisitive natures. We found ourselves in places that most 40 year old Mobilians at that time didn't even know about. My point here is to say that Mobile, over the past 35 years, has literally reflected the attitudes of the generations that have occupied it. It has gone through subtle and slow change. It has always reflected the mindset of the generation leading it. Today however, things are obviously changing. The landscape is taking on a new appearance, retaining some of the old appeal sprinkled with new ideas. There's progressive thinking and social action taking place and the colorful appeal of those old flowering bushes and trees, along with green, green lawns that have imprinted themselves into my mind's eye are coming back.
My kids and I uphold this still today. We drive around and I tell them about my life growing up in Mobile. Recently, we discovered a community garden in the Oakleigh area. We got out and looked around at how meticulously the area had been cultivated, noting the rain water irrigation, and the tool shed. We were amazed that a group of Mobilians had come together to make this gardening space. We were amazed that they did it together. We were amazed that everything seemed to be in order and was so because of agreed on processes and cooperative management. I asked my son how could this be? He, being only 11, replied with a question, "What do you mean dad?" I looked at him and said, "This garden shows me that something is changing in Mobile. This garden is a sign that Mobilians are becoming Mobilians again." He just smiled.