What was I thinking?
Nine tomato plants — count ’em, NINE — for two adult people. How did they wind up in the trunk of my car?
Yes, there is that 19-year-old who’s home for the summer, but he stays away from tomatoes unless they’re in a ketchup bottle or smothered in mozzarella. So what was I thinking when I brought home those nine healthy green seedlings, all snug in their plastic nests? A morning spent at my friend’s country nursery had yielded a collection of herbs, pepper plants, kale, lettuce — and those nine tomato plants.
How could I resist the promise of beautiful heirloom tomatoes with names like Lemon Drop, Granny Carter, Blue Berry, Pineapple, Black Icicle and Amish Paste. Tomatoes with history and geography, planted from seed by my friend’s hand and nurtured in her Amish-made greenhouse.
There was just something sacred about them, and I couldn’t get enough.
The afternoon was given over to settling their roots in my freshly-tilled garden, mounding moist, rich soil around them, careful to give them enough space to sprawl. Later, I will cage them, making sure their ripe fruit doesn’t tumble to the ground. And later still, I’ll harvest the tiny yellow and blue tomatoes, wrap fingers around plump slicers and fill my basket with fleshy sauce tomatoes.
I can almost taste the sauce and salsa, the “salad sandwiches” made of thick tomato slices, cucumbers and butter. It will be a feast.
In the freshness of Spring after the long, dark cold of Winter, it feels good to think of future feasts. I’ve walked through a time of famine the past year, a time of hungry longing for the banquets of seasons now past, for those years when my days were filled with teaching, nurturing and raising our brood.
In the not-so-long-ago days when I counted six pairs of legs under our kitchen table, the family garden plot was triple the size it is today. And when we co-oped our garden with three other homeschooling families, we cultivated a “truck patch” for corn and vine crops. Raising four boys in a homeschooling family on a farm in Indiana — it’s just what you do.
The size of our garden shrunk as the demand for food at my table diminished. Nearly 30 years of parenting kids under my roof ended, abruptly it seemed, along with my career as homeschooling teacher, mom, and provider of a bountiful garden.
I thought I was ready for all this freedom, for the days when I could make my own schedule, “do my own thing”. But in this springtime of fresh starts and new plantings, I can see that I have been hibernating, lying in wait while trying to figure out
“Who am I now?
When faced with questions for which I have no answers, I turn to the only source of all answers. And I find this:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)
The Words point the way. I keep them before me, meditate on them while I work, whisper them as I wait. And others who have gone before me add their voices:
“Perseverance is MY essential first response to God’s invitation to Peace of Soul.” Teresa of Avila (adapted)
I’ve persevered and I’m taking stock — doing a “careful exploration” of who I am and the work I have been given.
Today, I am content in knowing this…….I am a grower of tomatoes.
I’m linked in today at Lyli Dunbar’s “Thought Provoking Thursday”. Click on the red chair and join me there for other reflections on life.