9.14.23 New Moon
I like to measure my days in delight. The delight of roosters crowing in the morning twilight, as I lie cozy in my bed. The delight of dancing by myself in the kitchen at lunchtime. The delight of gathering clean, sun-warmed clothes from the line into my arms. The delight of that first star sparkling before moonrise. The delight of rain.
My vegetable garden -- a cluster of ceramic pots on my roof -- is a trusted source of delight for me. Except when it's not.
Last week I buried a sickly cucumber plant in a nearby park, and cut back the scraggly verdologa, hoping it might start anew. Relentless extreme heat advisories and scalding sun, the inherent challenges of growing plants in containers, and my inexperience in the tropics meant that the garden that had filled my heart with joy for months now felt sad and sickly.
Among the tired beings there, my tomato plant was still green, but with an odd stillness and thin stiff flowers bearing no signs of the tomatoes I'd dreamed of.
My garden sadness struck a nerve. I sat on my couch as perennial questions dug in: Has my life mattered? Am I living my values? Will I survive?
My heart filled with despair.
But I'm an Aries, born for action. I'm not giving up on that tomato plant I announced to myself. Picking up my garden shears I headed to the roof.
Standing before my tomato plant I whispered to her, "I'm going to trim some of your arms now, so you can be strong and grow."
Gently, my eyes blurred with tears, I snipped off a few branches. Stepping back, I gathered the cut branches, ready to lay them to rest in the park.
Then I looked at the cut branches I held in my arms. And there they were.
Very baby tomatoes. But tomatoes.
The branches I cut in despair had grown tomatoes.
I checked the branches I hadn't cut, but, of course, they had none. The only tomatoes growing in my garden were on the branches I just cut.
I began to laugh (see cellphone video below), as I usually do when the universe's messages get so obvious.
In my despair I lost my faith in abundance. A painful, comical, and invaluable lesson.
I know that heartache and doubt are portals to wisdom. That sickness and dying are part of life.
And, when despair begins to cloud my vision and the craving for certainty warps my heart, I will remember: always, always, look for the tomatoes.
Gratitude to Ross Gay whose Book of Delights reminded us all to remember delight, and whose aptly-themed chapter,"Tomato On Board," may be my favorite story ever.