Saturday, April 17, 2010

Seasons, Turnips, the Zen of Picking Peas, and Love

    The season is changing rather suddenly from spring to what in most places would be thought of as summer – but here in the Sonoran desert we know better. Summer will come in like a dragon soon enough, breathing fire and making the air shimmer with the heat. We’re still enjoying relatively mild weather in the high 80s, and the garden’s been telling us it’s time to shift gears.  The Swiss chard will last through summer, as long as we keep it picked and watered, but most of the greens are finished and gone, as are the turnips that furnished us with delicious greens as well as lovely purple-topped white globes.  These are the last of them.  Next year I may plant twice as many.

    The snow peas are still going strong.  I froze a large batch last weekend and will do so again in a few days.  They have to be picked daily—it’s best to do it in the morning (it’s best to pick everything in the morning), and it’s not necessarily easy.  The pea pods are pretty much the same color as the vines and leaves, so they’re hard to see, and it seems like the harder you look, the more difficult it is to find them.  You have to look from different angles; when you think you’ve got everything in a certain section, take a few steps to one side, look again, and you’ll probably find more.  You need to get up close, but you also need to stand back and relax  your eyes.  Then you’re more likely to spot them—when you’re not really looking, when you go into a meditative state that lets you slow down and appreciate the plant as a whole, but without sharp, acquisitive staring. Then they become visible, light shining through them as through stained glass, and you wonder why you didn’t see them before.

    Growing and picking any kind of peas is not for the greedy or impatient; it is an exercise in sublimating greed and impatience for something quieter, softer, more beautiful.  It’s a little bit like looking for love, which is a lot more likely to show up when you stop pursuing it and focus on appreciating what you already have—like gardens and sunsets and mystery novels and zydeco music, or whatever it is you already love—and it often shows up in the form of someone who’s likely to appreciate those same things with you.

    So here we are, enjoying what’s left of spring and anticipating summer.  Joe needs to get the cooler going, but not today. We have fans that will meet our needs for a little while longer.  I’ve planted the squash and pumpkins—it’s hard to imagine those little seedlings will soon turn into ill-mannered vegetable hooligans who'll muscle their way past the pathetic boundaries we try to impose on them.  They take up far too much room, but we forgive them because we love the gifts they bear. For now, I get up a little earlier to make sure I can pick the day’s crop of snow peas before I go to work, and I try to slow down and breathe softly as I do so. And with every pale emerald pod that I drop into the basket, every green half-moon with its tiny row of jewels running down the inside, I feel profoundly grateful.

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