Communion Of Dreams


“…and a time to every purpose…”
October 17, 2011, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Art, Failure, Gardening, Predictions, Publishing, Writing stuff

Six years ago I wrote the following for my newspaper column:

This is the heavy harvest time for my garden. I’ve been bringing in 20-plus pounds of tomatoes daily: sweet golden tomatoes that make a perfect sauce, meaty Romas great for salsa or drying, Celebrity and Brandywine tomatoes chopped up and canned for enjoyment later. I’ve also got bell peppers warming to red, brilliant Cayennes for a little spice, and hot hot hot Habaneros to roast and use in sauces to shake off winter’s deepest chill. All thanks to the extra time and work I put in this spring, prepping the ground, selecting plants, laying the soaker hoses, putting down a thick mat of straw to retain moisture and keep out weeds.

I was reminded of this passage this morning as I harvested what could well be the last tomatoes of this season. It’s been a late harvest this year, delayed by a very wet early summer, but the fall has stayed warm long enough that in the last few days I’ve brought in over 100 pounds of just beautiful tomatoes. They now cover the kitchen counter two deep, and I have already cooked up about two gallons of thick sauce. Friends will come by over the next day or two to collect a portion, and my good lady wife and I are gorging ourselves on them, enjoying fresh, flavorful tomatoes while they’re here.

* * * * * * *

The subject of that column, Naoma Powell, is still alive, though her fall season is now also coming to a close. We recently attended a special event honoring her and the program she nurtured for so long. Naoma was able to attend for a while, happy to be surrounded by those who still love and respect her, even if she was no longer sure who they were.

It was a well attended event, and I was surprised by how many of the people I knew. My roots into the arts community here are still deep, even after long years of neglect. I closed the gallery over 7 years ago, and stopped writing my column on the arts at the end of 2006, when the demands of care-giving for Martha Sr because such that I could no longer reliably maintain involvement with the community.

I’m not thinking of opening another gallery or anything like that. Legacy Art was a good experience on the whole, though the financial losses were quite painful. For a long time I carried a bitterness over the difference between what people professed (supporting the arts) and what they actually did (not opening their wallets to actually buy art). But that bitterness has mellowed, perhaps ripened.

* * * * * * *

You know how when you try a new tomato varietal, you can’t be entirely sure what you’re getting yourself in for? I mean, yeah, it’s a tomato, and will fall within a certain range of flavor profiles. But a Lemon Boy tomato tastes completely differently than a Brandywine does. You just have to dive in and try it, savoring it for what it is rather than what you expect it to be.

One variety I tried growing this year is like that: “Black Prince” It has a dark, earthy flavor I didn’t really expect. But I have come to enjoy it a great deal for what it is, and the plants are doing quite well this late in the season.

Expectations are like that. I expected that our book would be a lot more popular than what it has turned out to be. For a while I was again bitter at the disappointment, feeling that I had made the same mistake that I had made previously with the gallery, believing what people professed rather than what they actually did.

But the truth is, you can’t know what people are going to do, until they do it. All you can do is plan, and prepare, tend your garden to the best of your ability. And then hope that the weather favors you, and that the harvest, when it comes, brings something you enjoy.

Jim Downey

Cross posted from the HFY blog.

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