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Sunday in the Park

I have lived long enough — and long enough in Park City — that I utter the next statement with careful reserve.

It looks like I’m going to have tomatoes this year.

Admittedly, they are still very green on the plants, and yes, that is plural, plants. But this morning they were perfectly round and blemish-free. The magpies could yet discover them. And all kinds of creepy, crawly things that eat little dark circles into their sides — I have been to this point before. But this year I have watered more faithfully. Miraclegro’ed. Sprayed soap on the plants to discourage invaders. And had meaningful conversations about what a thing of beauty they were becoming.

There have been many, many years most, in fact — when the tomatoes and I didn’t make it this far. Without a sprinkler system, I would forget to water or I would travel and whoever I had asked to water did the lawns but forgot the tiny garden. There have been years when the bugs ate the tomatoes first and I understand the law of the wild, eat or be et. There was one year, two full decades ago, when I carefully harvested the tomatoes only to come home from a trip and find my children had thrown them out in an effort make the kitchen look tidy when I returned.

One year, a neighbor asked for my green tomatoes to make salsa and I gladly obliged knowing they would at least live long enough to be of service. And I received a jar of fabulous salsa in return. In recent years, the entire harvest of edible fruit would be two or three, very green still, and I would fry them up with bacon and make a meal with one dear friend who shared my passion.

At the Farmer’s Market this week I bought someone else’s tomatoes. Large red spheres that cry out to be a meal on their own. And then the funny-shaped, variegated, red and green and yellow heirloom tomatoes, which make me laugh. I always wonder, say, 100 years ago, what were these fancy tomatoes called? Certainly not heirlooms. Perhaps, just, tomatoes.

I have no plans yet for this crop. And the grandchildren are due up this weekend and an unplanned harvest of sorts could take place. But I hope to steer the kids toward pulling up the radishes and beets that are ready. Maybe an onion or two. The last time they came up, they harvested with glee, the entire bumper crop of strawberries that, again, the magpies had left for us to enjoy this season. Just as they did last summer, the kids picked the berries and washed them off in the wading pool and then popped them in their mouths with giggles. I doubt a tomato harvest would garner the same juvenile attention. They are, after all, a much more adult kind of fruit.

Last evening, when I returned from dinner where sun dried tomatoes had been part of the entrée, I felt a need to wander out to the garden and commune. The moon was still full and it was playing hide and seek behind the wispy clouds, giving them a silver, moon glow lining. There were still birds at the feeders, tiny birds, babies I suspect from the nests in the pine trees. Earlier this summer I had walked along my rock path and found a bright blue object there. I assumed some child’s toy piece had made it outside and so I bent over to pick it up. But I found instead the fragment of a robin’s egg, in a blue so vibrant as to look manufactured. It is easy to forget the colors of nature inspired the colors we paint with. It is easy to forget nature has a built-in time cycle we can observe with certainty. I picked up that fragile shell and it rests right now on the mantel in my living room.

To everything there is a season. And though we have, by the calendar, nearly a month left before summer turns to fall, we already know, here in our little mountain town, the season is shifting. Way up in Deer Valley this week I saw an aspen branch that was golden not green. The bloom is off most of the gardens, though the show of hollyhocks this year is spectacular. The grouping next to Windy Ridge is especially lovely. And driving around Old Town, the colors and the height are as impressive as I’ve ever seen. Still, my seasonal summer neighbors head back to Los Angeles this weekend. One of the children of the cul de sac confided in me just yesterday afternoon that school starts in two weeks and he doesn’t know what to expect. "I’ve never been in first grade before," he told me in sober tones with serious eyes behind his thick glasses. I tried to assure him it was a place of wonder with clever teachers who would open his eyes to so many new adventures. He nodded silently.

At my office, my co-worker and friend is preparing to drive her daughter to Santa Monica next week to attend college. It is the first born of her two children and so she views this new relationship with the familiar parental mix of excitement, pride and sadness. Her talented, beautiful daughter will adapt well, I suspect, to life a block from the beach and with studies to lead her to a life of grand adventures. But I remember when each of my children left for college and the gaping hole that formed at first. And my confusion as to who was I, if I was not a mother full-time. And how would my still green children ever figure out how to make it in the world. And yet they did, quite well.

I’ve been trying to think of some wise words to impart to my friend and co-worker. I’m afraid it all sounds so clichéd and hackneyed. But last night when the moon was playing peek-a-boo and I stood outside, grateful for living where I live, in a community of caring folks who were always there to be the village that raised my children with me, I came upon an idea that I think this former-hippie mother will understand. I’ll pick just one perfect, still green tomato and I will forfeit my prized broken robin’s egg and I will wrap them in the giant leaves of one hollyhock plant that did not bloom this season, but did so gloriously last year. And I will take those wise words from Ecclesiastes and repeat them. To everything there is a season. And then when she returns, I will sit with her to share encouraging words, I remember others sharing with me. And not just on workdays but any day, even Sunday in the Park


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