Thursday, September 8, 2011
the beauty of ripeness
I am awed by this picture. It seems simple enough. A tomato plant with varying stages of ripeness portrayed. And yet, it is the ripeness, the redness that awes me.
This is my first year tending tomato plants. I was late in the joining in the gardening community and restricted with how deeply I could commit. I live in an apartment complex with only a small patio to claim for growing space. I found 3 tiny plants at Walmart for 50 cents each - I figured I wouldn't be over extending myself if the investment to tend didn't pan out. I had 3 medium-to-large sized pots and planted them with an inexperienced, still-hopeful thumb who wished to be green.
It was a very matter-of-fact attitude with which I told the plants, "You have soil. You'll have full sun each afternoon. And I will try to remember to water you as much as possible. If you are going to grow, have at it. If you don't, I don't blame you."
And they grew. I was amazed.
I purchased a wire frame so that they would feel supported as they grew taller.
I about jigged around the patio when I realized buds were giving way to actual fruit. Little pea-sized tomatoes were sprouting at different levels of the three plants. I considered it miraculous, since I wasn't a good tender; meaning, I wasn't consistent with the water they so needed to combat the full-sun afternoons.
And yet, they grew.
Bulbous spheres of would-be juicy fruit plumped-out in front of my eyes. I was delighted and proud. And thankful.
Green started turning to yellow. My mouth watered with anticipation.
And then, a storm popped out of nowhere. This storm was strong, the winds raging. In fact, it produced a tornado only a few miles away from my apartment complex. I wasn't prepared. Had no idea that it was coming. Didn't know to protect my growing plants from the violence about to ensue. A hail beating came first. Then winds so hard that they rocked the plants back and forth until they toppled over, slamming the growing vines and fruit to the cement patio. I saw this unfold, knowing it wasn't safe to go out into the storm, but feeling so sad for something that I had been caring for, had been tending towards growth being dealt hard, hard blows of nature's reality.
After the storm, I inspected the plants and turned them right-side up. Three of the tomatoes had disconnected from the plant and were brought tenderly inside to continue ripening on my counter.
The others looked intact and I asked them to be okay.
"Boy, that was tough. I hope that you are going to be okay. I mean, I understand if you feel set back and need to recalibrate or something before growing again; but know that I would really appreciate your continued growth. I thought you guys were doing so well."
A few mornings later, during a routine inspection of the plants, I saw this beautiful sight and my heart welled with pride. This little tomato, my first really red one, was proudly coming to terms with its growth cycle and would be ready to eat at any moment. I saved it's picking until later in the day, just before dinner. I figured one more morning and afternoon of sunlight would be a perfect end to its story of becoming ripe.
I couldn't help but appreciate how many of us are like this little tomato. Doggedly honoring the growth cycle, no matter what trials come along, in order to reach our full potential of ripeness.
I can't help but be proud of us all.
Posted by J. A. Busfield at 10:25 PM