The Bittersweet Taste of a Green Tomato



I don’t exactly know why it is I daydream or drift off.  It could be like the sunflower, turning its head again to get the best view of the sun.  I don’t exactly know what daydreaming or staring off into the clearing does to a person; surely there is a consequence to it all, like turning long-grown forests into cut-grass meadows.  That is, to say simply, cutting down everything I’ve worked on to begin something else.

There is a certain courage in starting over; there is also the cowardice in doing what is only familiar.  And replanting, unfortunately, seems to be my natural inclination.  This would be my fourth or maybe fifth year in rotation: moving from farm-to-farm, mostly by incident or accident, in some serendipitous circumstance or out of some sort of boredom.  I was never meant to be a farmer for long.  And I have a hard time understanding my affinity to this vocation for that reason.

Something about nurturing a plant for a while offers that sense of pride and satisfaction of being the parent I wish to someday be.  But only caring for such a short while—to clean up, to clear the beds, wipe the slate clean, and pick up and leave—seems to instill a false sense of mature growth.  I say I have a difficult time understanding my affinity to farms, but truth be told, I do know.  I want to be able to care in this world, for others and of myself, but I’m realizing—stealing this from Elizabeth Gilbert— that the most magical things and that necessary work are often pretty boring but demand of my time.

Meanwhile, I’m planting the last request of spring: the last of the young tomatoes.  They will grow up, meanwhile, I will wonder how I’ve grown older after this past six months. I have become acutely aware that root development is a sign of maturity as opposed to what’s visible on the surface. In which case, in spite of uprooting so much, I do understand the value of waiting and staying, of patience and persistent work.  The tomatoes all seem to understand this, too.  Holding green fruit full withfuture, the tomatoes offer a summer sweetness of an unfailing gratitude, bite-after-bite, but it is a sweetness that only tastes like hard earth if I was never willing to stay to do the work.

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