I eat tons of salad, year-round, so I was happy to support my housemate’s enthusiasm for putting together a small garden in the backyard. I imagined the money I’d save growing my own organic cucumber. I thought about the varieties of lettuce I’d experiment with. And I counted the days until we’d have our own homegrown tomatoes.
(Brilliant American songwriter Guy Clark said/sang it best with a tune called “Homegrown Tomatoes” on his 1983 album, Better Days: “There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”)
She mixed up earthy magic using a recipe developed by Mel Bartholomew (founder of Square Foot Gardening) to get us going and pretty soon, our little patch of heaven boasted seedlings galore.
The sugar snap pea scampered up its trailing string in a mad rush to bloom and fruit. The mint, basil, sage and dill made themselves at home. When we added mums and petunias for natural insect control, our fledgling garden literally blossomed.
Thanks to the magic of Mel’s Mix (and careful watering), I even coaxed lettuce and strawberries to grow in a notoriously inauspicious strawberry pot.
Cucumber and tomatoes were slower to establish themselves. The tomato plants mostly kept getting taller and needing more support. The cuke spent its days climbing and dividing into more vines. And we had a squash plant that made showy blossoms but was stingy with the actual fruit.
The solo gardener
For all my housemate enjoyed planning and setting up the garden, and as much as she and I both loved the hide-and-seek game of looking for fledgling cucumbers, the everyday routine of gardening couldn’t hold her interest.
I might have given up, too, as the Texas spring got hot and we spent more time in the air-conditioned house, but dang it, I wanted my salad goodies.
So I remembered to water every day. I tapped the blooming tomato plants to help ensure pollination. I guided the greedy cucumber vine to things it could hold onto besides the tomato plants. I dead-headed the ‘mums and petunias to keep them blossoming.
The harvest of our first cucumbers and plum tomatoes began a riotous abundance of delicious summer eating. Soon, we were refreshing ourselves with cucumber-mint water from a never-empty pitcher. Snacking on plum- and cherry-tomatoes. And when at last we began getting full-sized tomatoes, we celebrated our homegrown bounty with BLT sandwiches and tomato cucumber salad.
It’s mid-August now. Temperatures here have been in the triple digits for weeks. The vine of plum tomatoes is still producing fruit, though at a sluggish pace appropriate to these dog days of summer. Much of the garden has withered in spite of my ongoing efforts.
Knowing what I know now, will I get caught up in another gardening frenzy around here next spring? Ask me again when temperatures drop back into the 80s. Whisper words to me of love. Like bell pepper and sweet potato and other yumminess we haven’t yet tried to grow. Remind me how drinking cucumber water made me feel wealthy beyond measure.
And promise me homegrown tomatoes.
Photos: Sally Felt
When I say I’m not the woman I was at 25, usually it’s because today’s 50-year old version of me feels freer, more confident and happier than I could imagine in my twenties. But recently, I freaked out in a spa’s floatation tank. It’s made me think about what personal growth really means.
Unsinkable in a mere foot of water
The spa promised an hour free of gravity’s shackles. I’d float like a cork in womb-like darkness in 300 gallons of water, saturated with more than a thousand pounds of Epsom salts, in a human-sized tank. The tank was soundproof and utterly dark. No distractions. Thanks to the body-temperature water, I’d soon lose track of where my skin ended and the water began.
Some might quail at the prospect, but I couldn’t wait. Back in the 80s, float tanks provided me a rare escape from my busy, busy brain.
When history fails to repeat
I had anticipated a spiritual experience, appropriate of the many ways I’ve evolved in the decades since my last float. Instead, I panicked before I’d even turned out the light.
Lying in the dark tank was out of the question, but I decided I’d use my hour in this warm, quiet place to enjoy some private meditation. Upright, I gained sufficient density to touch my bottom to the tank’s floor. I switched off the light, listened to my breath and released the need to wonder why 50-year-old me rejected something my nervous 25-year-old self had embraced so easily.
Sometimes it’s okay to be left in the dark
Why is a question I still haven’t answered. Perhaps it happened that way because I’m currently learning to recognize energetic boundaries, and so losing sense of my body would confuse me. Perhaps I was simply having a touchy day.
Perhaps why it happened that way matters less than that it did.
Turns out, growth isn’t linear
Fifty-year-old me went into the tank expecting to pick up where 25-year-old me left off. But if 25-year-old me had freaked in the tank, harsh self-criticism would have followed. Only with the perspective of age was I able to adapt to what was happening with presence and a new set of responses, rather than cling to my expectations and judge myself accordingly.
When I look at it that way, I reckon I had my spiritual experience after all.
Photo credit: From the official i-sopod website
My new living situation finds me in a house with two dogs. Because I’ve had almost no history with dogs, I’m learning new things all the time. (How lucky that I made a vow on my birthday to try 50 new things this year!)
Going to the groomer makes Winifred anxious nearly to the point of seizures. So when her dirty-dog smell got distracting, my housemate proposed the do-it-yourself dog wash. Always up for a new experience, I offered to help. We gathered our quarters, grabbed a towel and put ‘Fred in her car.
Off to the Wag and Wash
This ingenious facility included a raised platform with a drain and a place to secure the dog on a short lead. Three hoses hung from the ceiling. One featured a spray nozzle that delivered shampoo, conditioner and rinse water. Another had a vacuum attachment for sucking excess water from a wet pooch. The final hose ended in a salon-like blow dryer.
‘Fred trembled and leaned against whichever of us was closer, but otherwise took it quite well. By time we had her toweled off and back in the car, she was feeling her oats. After all, she’d had an outing with her favorite person (my housemate), and didn’t have to share her with the other dog. Boosted her mood for days!
Me, I can now say I’ve vacuumed a dog and lived to tell the
Photo credit: dno1967b
When the warning sirens went off, I was in the grocery store. Well-trained employees herded me and the other customers into a storage room between the produce and the seafood departments.
Taking time to chill
We stood on the concrete floor amidst towering industrial shelves, loaded with boxes of celery, mangoes and other lovely edibles from all over the planet, shivering in the refrigerated air. (40°F. Brr!)
Right away, folks pulled out their cell phones, checking in with loved ones. But once immediate personal concerns had been handled, we started noticing one another. Conversations sprang up, sharing of what little we knew of the storms. Someone had a sophisticated weather app on his device and he provided periodic updates as he tracked what was happening in real time. We were in this together.
Still, it didn’t take long before we were all wanting to sit down. Or better yet, get on about our day. More tornadoes had been sighted, though, and we weren’t going anywhere.
Well-timed caffeine boosts our morale
Store employees rounded up bottles of water for us. They organized a cart loaded with hot coffee and cookies from the bakery department. A steaming cup of joe went a long way to taking off the chill of that refrigerated room. We went back to swapping stories until it was safe for us to leave.
In my time, tornadoes have caught me in office buildings and private homes. I’ve hunkered in stairwells, closets, bathrooms and basements. But until today, I’ve never spent an hour literally rubbing elbows with grocery-seeking strangers in a room stacked with exotic produce. Truly a fresh experience.
[I'm celebrating my 50th birthday year by trying 50 new things. This post contributes to my chronicle of some of those new things. Why not subscribe to my feed and follow the entire adventure?]
Photo credit: supa_pedro