Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My father was a lucky man. He didn’t want much and what he did want was sitting around the dinner table every Sunday night. If my father were here today he wouldn’t want any gifts wrapped up in boxes. He’d have been happy to see me tending my vegetable garden and carrying on about all of my tomatoes. He never quite understood why I collect tomatoes, of all things, but he collected exotic cars, so I guess it’s in the blood. Even if he didn’t get my obsession he clearly knew how much it meant to me. So, when I went on about the colors and shapes, he would crack a little smile, sometimes chuckle and would willingly sample whichever variety I put in front of him.

In my backyard, across from one of the original tomato beds lies a small patio area. It’s next to one of the newer garden boxes that becomes a riot of color each spring with bearded irises and then transforms to a growing bed for tomatoes plants and grapevines. It’s just a few floor tiles, a white wrought iron bench, and a dwarf Valencia orange tree. The bench was a Father’s Day gift to Dad many years ago. It graced the front porch at my parent’s home although I don’t think they ever sat on it. It was just something that completed his vision of the porch. I grew up in a house that was in the middle of an orange grove. We squeezed fresh orange juice for my Dad every morning before he made the drive downtown to work. This little patio is framed on two sides by several rosebushes…all with names related to music. As a teenager my Dad was an incredibly gifted violinist and pianist, but young men in the 1930’s had more important things to do than pursue their dreams. Somehow, the rosebushes make me feel that I’m helping to keep his dream alive.

Sometimes I’ll go over and sit in this special place in the garden.. There’s a certain black and yellow butterfly that I’m sure hovers right above me because it carries my Father’s spirit. I’ll chat with my Dad as if he’s right there listening to me… It’s where I go to be with him. This place, this thing that I spend so many hours doing, is so much more than just growing tomatoes.

Happy Father’s Day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Most gardeners who have 100 tomato plants in their gardens also have some type of drip irrigation system. Some are set on timers and some are activated manually.

You’ll notice that I said “most gardeners”. I am not one of them. I prefer to hand water each of my plants, a process that can take well over an hour each time I water. I don’t have any scientific reason for this. It’s not that I have some secret to greater tomato success through hand watering. The fact is, watering time is my down time, my “me time”, my don’t you dare bother me time. It’s just me alone with my thoughts holding the hose to give each plant it’s deep soaking. Somehow I think they appreciate the individual attention by getting their own dedicated drink of water.

Usually being outside in the garden allows me time to imagine, to create, to dream and on rare occasions to just think about nothing. But today, for some reason, the lyrics to a Tim MacGraw song kept playing through my head. “I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry”. That one line kept repeating and in fact, is still doing just that. So instead of my usual watering time thoughts of wonder and whimsy my head goes to a much heavier place. I think of the tears being shed for John Wooden – the athletes, friends and family shown on the television or broadcasting on the radio this weekend who mourn his loss. Some never even met the man and yet, they cry. Last week we witnessed the tears of a Major League Umpire shedding tears publicly over the erroneous call he made in that day’s game. And then, there are the quotes and interviews of the many people who are witnessing the devastation of the oil spilling into the ocean and onto our shores. Pelicans and fish drowning in oil and muck. It’s been a tough week. I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry…

The soil beneath the tomatoes is saturated and as I look up I see two butterflies chasing each other in flight. Lizards scurry through the gardens, squirrels chatter in the trees and there’s an adult hawk flying above, teaching her youngster to fly. For a moment, I am transported back to my sanctuary. How lucky to have such a spot, even if it’s only for a moment.