tomato

Is it ready?

I’ve asked myself that question, the question really, several times each day in the last month.

On the tail end of June I planted 5 tomato seedlings at the side of my house. Full sun. Rich soil. Big idea. There was no plan. Ironically, there was hope though.

By common measures I planted kinda late in the season. At frost break, plants go in and I missed the mark by about a month and half.

Watching a tendril turn to branch, then to flower, and finally to fruit became both an agonizing exercise of the-pot-ain’t-gonna-boil-if-you-watch-it and a necessary redemptive gesture in the light of my delayed start of my vegetable garden.

I noticed little. I looked a lot.

Yet each day, a change happened.

The proof sits on my sill.

And I still ask – ‘is it ready?’

#canIeatthemyet?

The juvenile plants became hashtags in our family convos. My son in particular would ask to eat the tomatoes at least once a day. Our meals were punctuated with disappointment – ‘Daddy you know what would taste great in this salad … our tomatoes.’ The question became synonymous with ‘how ya doin?’ And as disheartening as bad weather.

Do I pick it? Prune it? Leave it alone?

At some point observing the cool hidden growth happening on the daily, shifted to craving an outcome. And with that, an expectation. And with that, my mind became fixed. I guess the slight rosy blush appearing on the butt sides of a few tomatoes hyped me up a bit.

The image of eating fresh produce from our own garden made me impatient.

Suddenly I felt conflicted with what ifs. What if I pick too early? What if I pick too late? What if what if what if.

What if I mess this up, now? So close to an end.

Google didn’t help.

Neighbours had different opinions.

The local garden center encouraged me to join a Facebook garden group. Unfortunately for me, the chatter was consumed with the woes of lawn grubs, so no hits on my inquiries.

Fate made the decision easy. A thunderous rainstorm shook one of the plants enough to damage it. The sole survivor now sat before me on the window ledge.

Am I ready?

The ripening process fascinates me.

As the fruit sits contemplating its own mortality, slowly decomposing, it becomes the ideal version of itself. Gaseous eruptions cause the skin to redden and the flesh to sweeten. The mind boggles.

And I have continued to watch, with nervous anticipation, as the blush tide rises up to meet the sunshine falling in from the window. Two watermarks slowly meeting at the middle. Top reaching down. Red chasing green. Inside emerging outside.

My teacher side clucked condescendingly. ‘You should have mapped this out ahead of time.’ And more pointedly. ‘While we’re talking … why didn’t you capture any pix?’ I mute the mental memos for a minute. What this moment needs is for me to get comfortable being outside the centre of it.

Picked at the peak?

There is a burr on my conscience – I did not get to make a decision about picking the tomato myself. The second stinger is that I still am unsure about whether the tomato is ready to be eaten.

It does not look like the tomatoes in the store. The rules I know do not apply. This is an unmediated outcome. And the sense that I have of being a passenger is unsettling.

Maybe my teacher side is right. Maybe I should have captured some media along the path. Maybe I would have developed some deeper understanding of what is going on just under the skin. Maybe the sequenced and posted story of my garden could have unlocked the deep almanacal truths of farming. Maybe next time.

I’m good for now, being confused.

The tomato did this on its own.

It didn’t need me.

 

tomato on Medium.

Prep

Psst. Whatcha doin’?

Halfway through my breakfast, it happens.

Between the sleepy household sounds of my kids giggling in the basement, my wife shuffling around in the other room, I get a pulse off of a memory. Unprovoked. Unannounced.

And like the surprisingly disturbing realization that a sleepy hand added salt instead of sugar into my coffee, the thoughts were a bit distasteful.

With an ungrateful sigh, I can’t help but throw some shade on my #teacherbrain for calling me out. But just like a willing student, I connect anyways.

It’s the tone that gets me, a sort of AM radio turned down low, starting just on the outside of my awareness and edges into my nerves. The funny thing is, I am nowhere near school thoughts. I’m lounging in the fuzzy field of ‘what day is it?’ playing with butterflies and dandelions. So, this shout out has me tripping on memories that are anachronistically untethered from any reality. Part dream. Part lived experience. Part ‘I need another coffee. ’ type of kaleidoscopic #thoughtfuel. Still I know the message that will appear in one or two more cursor blips.

A voice, maybe mine, taps out ‘time to start prepping…’

When you leave the class, how long does it take for the class to leave you?

And despite the dusty pile of June classroom artifacts still sitting in my office, with their desire to be reshelved, organized, recognized, and respected – their attention has gone unrequited. Denied. Ignored.

Until now.

Whether being a teacher is 24/7 or 9to5 job, I can’t really claim affiliation with either camp. Sipping tea on the porch with ‘always on’ teachers gets draining pretty quickly. With everything as a teachable, makeable, codeable, learnable moment, when is my coasting downtime? Absorption time? And having coffee with the 9to5’ers can get me feeling a bit self-loathing – sans cottage or major travel plans or hot yoga retreats to speak of.

What now?

For now, I am missing the middle ground where I was sitting 5 minutes ago, just happy, being. Truth is, I have a mound of prep to do. So with my chill stolen and my mindset slightly ratcheted I send my first email of the school year.

 

Prep on Medium.