These days I get most of my breaking news through Twitter. Uprisings, political scandals, supreme court rulings and celebrity deaths all come through Twitter first it seems. I was shocked to hear about Michael Jackson’s death, sad to hear about Whitney Houston, nostalgic about Davy Jones and the best word I can give to my feelings about the news of Andy Griffith’s death is that I am grieved.
I grew up watching The Andy Griffith Show re-runs, probably most of us in the US grew up watching those shows at one time or another. There is something enduring, something timeless, about those shows, about those characters. Maybe the grief I have comes from the affection I held for the characters or for the actor himself or maybe it comes from the sense of place that Mayberry offered up. I wanted the apple pie on the windowsill, I wanted the safe streets in which to ride my two-wheeler and deliver newspapers, I wanted the nosy but well-meaning neighbor ladies and the seemingly simple, seemingly clear morality. The Andy Griffith Show and the man himself painted strong and lasting pictures in our collective American souls. Looking back at them now I begin to realize how much we lack, how much we’ve lost, the innocence not just of small town life but of the nation itself during those strange days of black and white television.
I’ve often written about how this modern world exhausts me day-to-day with its machinery, chicanery and banality running full blast on every possible channel my senses pick up. It makes me wish for a simpler life and a simpler time. At first blush the idea of living in Mayberry in a time before Facebook and iPods and laptop computers feels as though it might cure just what ails me. No matter how much I profess to love my social media (and indeed, I do love it) I also admit that I make life complicated and busy. I forget the value of sitting still and listening, watching the light change on my porch, folding an entire load of laundry without checking my email, hearing the long, winding stories my children tell me, watering my plants.
So, Andy Griffith reminds me to water my plants. Perhaps it’s clearer to say that his death reminds me to pay attention.
I dropped a little coin on a load of potted plants for my deck a couple of months ago. It dresses up the soot covered timber, it covers up the view of the pallet yard a bit, sometimes I get a whiff of the rosemary or the jasmine when the wind blows right. I had some small thought that placing them correctly might mean they’d get “watered” on their own when it rained. Hello, drought-like spring and summer. This means that at least once a day I’m filling up a watering can several times and making trips out to the deck to water the plants. It doesn’t take long, really and it’s not particularly taxing physically but because there is no hose available I have to stop what I’m doing and slog the can in and out the kitchen door day after day. For fun, I might pretend I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder watering the crops for Pa. When that fails I talk to the plants, sometimes apologizing for neglect, sometimes complimenting them on their foliage, often wringing my hands, wondering where I went wrong. I hope they survive til Fall.
Today Andy Griffith reminds me to water my plants. Today Mayberry is on my back porch, looking for attention. I realize today as I grieve the loss of Andy Griffith that I’m grieving simplicity, I’m grieving paying attention, I’m grieving the loss of rest and listening and clear thinking and settling things without a gun. There’s so much lost today with the passing of this man and I’m thinking about watering my plants. I am a modern woman, I doubt I’ll ever escape the machinery, the chicanery and the banality of this modern era, I doubt I’ll ever give up my social media addiction. In my own way, the grief I feel about the loss of Andy Griffith professes the inner struggle I feel; wanting what I don’t have, the plants being greener somewhere else. And so I am watering my plants and thinking of Andy Griffith, and praying peace for our busy, mechanical culture. It may be the only way I’ll ever get back to Mayberry.