The mosaic memorial at Strawberry Fields as seen today in NYC (my photo)
Each time I visit New York City, I make a point of visiting Strawberry Fields, the memorial in Central Park dedicated to John Lennon’s life and legacy. As a child, I grew up in a house filled with Lennon’s music and still recall vividly arriving home from school the day he was tragically murdered-- my parents’ sorrow joining the thousands of New Yorkers I saw on the television who spontaneously gathered in Central Park to hold a candle light memorial in response to the unimaginable event. To this day, whenever I hear any song from John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy album—the music my parents played for months following Lennon’s death—I am taken back to that time.
The outpouring of grief eventually lead to the plans for Strawberry Fields, a 2.5 acre landscaped section of the park just outside the Dakota, Lennon’s home and site of the fatal shooting. The focal point of the memorial is a circular mosaic set in the ground with the word IMAGINE placed at is centre. Made by Portuguese craftsman in Lisbon and modelled on an original mosaic design from Pompeii, the memorial was officially inaugurated on what would have been John Lennon’s 45th birthday on October 9, 1985.
As a public space of ritual, John Lennon's memorial also operates
as a site of continually changing artistic expression (my photo)
But more than just serving as a site of pilgrimage for Lennon’s fans, the mosaic has also evolved into a form of public art, becoming a place and space of expression for both known and unknown contributors who admire the ideas of peace Lennon wrote, talked, and sang about. When we arrived today, fresh flowers, leaves and, yes, strawberries decorated the entire mosaic. Other visits, only the centre portion has been treated with flowers, or strawberries alone lining the mosaic creating a peace sign (simply Googling "Strawberry Field Memorial" gives you a sense of the creativity). Listening to one of the “keepers” of the memorial today—a fan who devotes a good deal of his time to maintain the art work and educating those who visit the mosaic about Lennon’s life—the mosaic is in constant transformation and is found decorated in a range of materials from the more typical flowers and strawberries, to pine cones, other natural materials from the park, and even pennies. This is very much part of the draw to Strawberry Fields, seeing the ritual of artistic expression unfold daily in the same park that Lennon loved so much and in full view of the Dakota where Yoko still maintains their home.
If you ever find yourself in New York, make sure to visit.
Here is a wonderful clip from the PBS American Masters documentary LENNONYC showing John Lennon and Yoko Ono strolling through Central Park. A longer trailer that examines Lennon’s connections to New York can also be found here.