Big Juicy

Tomatoes on the vine. Damn, they look good.

I had my eye on that tomato. I wanted it, but I wanted both of us to be ready.

I don’t know that I saw its flower. There were a bunch of flowers that late spring. They were little yellow stars against the deep green of the vines. I didn’t hone in on one or the other as they twinkled in the morning sun. I was just happy to see them get off to a great start.

The flowers soon disappeared and were replaced by little grape sized globs (or maybe globes?). Tomatoes-in-waiting. Where I am doing the waiting. Waiting for tomatoes. I’m encouraging them, too.

It’s funny how the flowers all appear at, or at least near, the same time, but the indivitual spheres take off on their own pace. Like a race.

So from the undifferentiated yellow flowers springs a free-for-all of vegetables. Some grow fast, some grow in clumps and some hang out by themselves. Sunning themselves, supping on the morning dew, and growing.

The tomato I am watching is not only the biggest, but it’s the one that starts blushing. As it changes from the waxy green, it first looks like a bruised face. Like it was in a fight and the fleshy part of it’s chin took a punch. The discoloration evens out, and it is orange. There is a ring of yellow at the top, near the vine, but the rest of the tomato is more carrot than zucchini.

This is NOT the time to disturb it. The contrast, especially next to its still-green sibings, makes it look red. But it’s not. It’s orange. A rainstorm moves the progress along. Now, when you cup it in your hand, the tomato starts to feel less hollow and more heavy. It passes from orange-red to red-orange. But it’s not done yet.

I very gently and very slowly wiggle the tomato against the vine. It’s umbilical cord is holding fast. Not yet.

The next day was brilliantly sunny. The tomato is definitely red. Any hint of orange is gone as is the yellow-orange ring at the top. I brush away the nub left from the dried up flower at the bottom of the orb. The green vine looks even darker and lusher next to the deep pomodoro red. I test the vine. The vine releases the fruit into my hand.

I draw the tomato to my face and breathe in the core side. It smells a little pine-y with a hint of what might be a whiff of hops, like cascades hops. The top definitely smells green, grassy green. It’s warm from the sun.

The tomato is much heavier than it looks. As I compress my fingers around it, it gives in. You can feel the moisture just inside its waterballoon self. The red walls, though, breathe back. There are no indentations left from fingers.

I bring it into the house and give it a perfunctory run under the water from the faucet. I put two pieces of bread in the toaster. I take the serrated knife and cut off a thin bottom and then gently saw back and forth to make a bunch of slices that I place on the mayonnaised bread. A twist of the pepper mill, a sprinkle of coarse salt and the frills of the outside green flounce of romaine finish it.

I bite in and the wet of the tomato spills down from the corner of my mouth and soaks my chin and my hand.

Did I tell you it was still warm? From the sun?

Seeing The Light

The sun is casting long shadows on the deck.

It’s close to the longest day of the year. It is taking the maximum time for the sun to set. The day–or maybe the night–teases us with long shadows in the late daylight. You really don’t know who’s in charge.

Even if there wasn’t so much rain in May, this is the most green and most lush time of year. The greens are a selection from a big box of Crayola crayons. Green. Pine green. Yellow green and green yellow. Olive green. Spring green. Asparagus. Fern. Jungle green. Forest green.

Or the greens are mixed from a palette–there’s a squeeze of yellow, blue, red, black and white in tiny cups. Adding the yellow slowly to the blue and stirring, the swirls of bright disappear into a new color. Adding a little black makes a color that is the deepest green grass and vines. A tiny more black, and it’s the green at the base of those long shadows.

Just on the other side of the borderline of sunshine is the yellower green. Because of the contrast, the normally grass green glows more gold. From there the path to dark is not an evened ombré. There are freckles of sun that break through some of the boughs. There are stripes of yellow laid down by posts that make up a fence. There are flickers of light when the wind pushes the sunbrella to the left. And then to the right.

It’s not yet dusk, but it’s working on it.

At first it’s not clear that it’s there. Your head turns, but it might have been just an eye blinking. It seems like it happened again. Eyes are squeezed shut and reopened to clear your vision.

Then, you know. You begin to scour the patchwork of light and dark. You spy the passing gleam of a yellow dot. Gone. You brain foolishly trains your eyes on that spot. And then you see a glow a few feet away. It’s truly summer. The lightening bugs have arrived.

It’s silly that you didn’t see them since now you see three, wait, four, no that’s more like eight, turning their lights on and off as they pass along the hedges just above the ground. The appearance and disappearance of the light swells and ebbs like shallow breathing. It’s a slow build and drop that happens very quickly. How can it be both?

Fireflies are sweet and clumsy as they approach. Simply put your hand in their path and they will alight on fingers. They show no stress as they crawl across your palm, maybe even lighting up. You almost expect to be able to feel heat, but if there is any reaction, it’s imperceptible. Then the bug reaches the end of your hand and takes off, providing a wink from it’s abdomen.

You follow the path you think it’s on and see one more wink. You lose it as it flies on it’s unknowable path, and joins the dozens of other bulbs randomly blinking on and off as the sun finally sets and it’s now, really dusk and then night.

They have phosphorescence. They create their light from within. Be a firefly.