Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Spring and the Writer Mind
The forsythia hedge is blooming -- a welcome portent in my part of the world. It's also sporting a cardinal -- that's the tiny red blob in among the bare branches -- also a welcome sight to the winter-weary. I shouldn't be all that weary, of course -- we haven't had any significant snow or ice storms. Yet. March sometimes presents us with both, but I'm choosing to think spring is almost here and behaving accordingly. I've started some tomato seedlings -- rescued Brandywine seeds from a previous crop. I'm a little late planting them -- I should have done it on Valentine's Day. For those of you not familiar with tomato plants, Brandywines are an "old" variety, which means they are generally neither uniform in size nor pretty to look at. They're also not hardy. So why bother? The taste -- which is wonderful and firmly established in my childhood memory data bank. I had many a quick summer lunch of a freshly baked buttermilk biscuit and a still-hot-from-the-sun Brandywine. Make that "a carefully selected Brandywine." Sometimes you might get extra protein in the tomato if you didn't check for worm holes first -- just one of the joys of organic gardening.
I have my own method of saving tomato seeds: I spread overripe tomato pulp onto a newspaper as thinly as I can, then let it dry. Then I cut small snippets of the newspaper with two or three seeds on each snippet. The pieces of paper get tossed into an envelope and placed in a drawer until planting time. These snippets are very easy to handle and plant. You can scrape the seeds off or you can plant snippet and all. I usually scrape because they come up faster.
But why am I boring you senseless with garden-talk? Because I'm a writer and have what I believe to be "the writer mind." Writers' minds are generally considered to be unlike those of the more practical and grounded among us. And mine leads me to note that it isn't just the act of growing something good to eat that appeals to me. It's the connection I feel to my farmer forebears on both sides of my family. When I plant -- and use the knowledge my green thumb father and my grandfather taught me, things their fathers and grandfathers taught them -- I'm still able to touch them even if they are all long gone. It isn't just the growing; it's the family. My family. I once said of one of my characters who appreciated old ruins that it wasn't the stones she saw, it was the hands that had carried them. It's something like that...