An Ode to Summer Delights
I have frissons of existential fear every time I wander past the news headlines these days. There is only one explanation for what is going on today – either the world has gone mad or I have gone quietly insane and I’m the one hanging by a thin thread, gibbering into the void. The words “hell” and “handbasket” come to mind. Frequently.
But then, I went to Joe’s Garden.
We were introduced to it several years ago by friends who smugly knew what a treasure they were introducing us to. We’ve been in the orbit of this place for years and years and years.
You walk into the little building between their fields and their greenhouses, and you fall into punnets of flowers, into ranks of tin pots holding handfuls of scented bouquets of sweetpeas and daisies and lavender, you walk with an expression of silly ecstasy past tables bearing zucchinis twice as big as their puny brothers in supermarkets, past heads of lettuce still damp from their last watering and barely out of the ground, past stout heads of garlic and three different kinds of onions, past carrots which are just imperfect enough to let you know that they haven’t been factory-produced, past punnets of blueberries and strawberries and blackberries and strawberries, past (when they are in season) the best apples ever grown (the Gravensteins), past shelves of hand-bottled honey, of free-range eggs.
You walk past peaches which bear signs that say “Don’t squeeze me, I’m perfect!”
There is a story here, because this place is on the way to Hospice House, where my father spent his last days, the place where he ate his last perfect peach of the last days of his last summer, taken from these luscious piles of summer fruit straight to his bedside. This was, perhaps, his last taste of life. I do not forget this, I never can.
But life goes on, even after that. And then, today, there was a large tabletop above a sign that said “REAL tomatoes!”
And oh, there was a pile of them. And oh, they were.
They smelled real. They were ridged and misshapen and not always completely and uniformly red like their gas-ripened cousins always are. But oh, oh, oh, the smell of them.
“Just smell that,” I said to a complete stranger standing beside me staring at the bounty on the table.
And she, holding a tomato, brought it up to her nose and inhaled, and we exchanged a blissful smile.
I bought more tomatoes than I probably need because I could not bear to leave any behind. My eyes devoured them way before my teeth could sink into them, before my taste buds could swoon, before the juices ran red and sweet in my mouth.
I brought them home and I sliced into them and we ate them, fresh and red and sweet and ripe with the sun of summer.
And for a little while I could close my eyes and let my soul unclench. It is summer. In this mad whirling world there is still a summer. And it existed in the bright slices of REAL tomatoes which reminded me that sometimes it’s just okay to take a moment… and live.
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