Sunday, February 9, 2014

A taste of last summer

Sometimes I just write to remind myself of things I should not forget, but sometimes I do anyway.
This is one of those posts.

Tomatoes and quahogs harvested with our hands
Josephine lives across the street from us. She is a generation ahead of me, her bones that much older than mine, yet she was out shoveling. She comes from the old country, and her garden here in Bloomfield knows this. Tomatoes and eggplants and grapes erupt from her tiny patch of earth every summer.

I do not envy many gardens, but I envy hers.

This last snow was heavy, heavy enough to draw a "Mama mia!" from her. But she kept at it.

I joined her, and between shovels we talked, as neighbors will. The young man paid to do her driveway had not gotten to hers yet. She offered me a drink, she offered me money, but all I asked for was one July tomato from her magnificent garden. She promised many, but I refused.

Just one tomato, Josephine, just  one. I stopped a moment to imagine what it would look like, to feel its heft in my hand. I knew better than to imagine its taste--some things require more faith than I know.

She recognized the look, and smiled.

A few hours after I'd finished, there was a soft knock on our door. Josephine stood there with a brown bag, and inside it, a jar of last summer's tomatoes, as startlingly red as fresh blood on snow.

We ate it last night, and it was good. Very good. Indescribably good.

And now I must wait until July to taste it again.

Tomorrow we reach October light, again. The sun will creep just over 35 degrees from the horizon, the first time since Halloween, before sliding back to the horizon.

The sun not so long ago, sliding to the south.

October light is strong enough to ripen tomatoes, and strong enough to melt February's ice. The gray grip of winter will give way. I do not (yet) believe this, so I hang on to the shifting shadows of the sun, to the tables in my almanac, to moments with neighbors I do not see enough.

Every day in class I write down the sunset time--it creeps forward a over minute each day now. Tomorrow it sets at 5:24 PM--just a few weeks ago, we lost it almost an hour earlier.

A few students notice, just a few, and maybe they're the ones who would have noticed anyway. So we notice together, me so ancient to them, as Josephine feels old to me.

February is rough. The returning sunlight makes it bearable

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