Yesterday, my neighbor, Karen, who has a love of and talent for gardening, brought me a lettuce, straight from the field. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had salad fixings of any kind that fresh. I immediately pulled it apart to wash and inspect the leaves for any brown spots or hitchhikers. There were none; it was perfect! Everyone else here thought so too (see photos below).
I normally buy those bag salads, which are excellent, and can be bought organic, but there was something about seeing the whole head (I think it’s a variety of romaine, I’ll have to ask) with the entire root still attached, about washing the sand washing into the sink, and then feeling the tiny pieces of grit I missed between my teeth when I popped a few inner leaves in my mouth. It seemed somehow more real, more alive—like wild lettuce, as opposed to the tame, bagged, engineered lettuce in the stores. It connected me to something from my distant childhood, when my mother’s father came to live with us, and my dad helped him convert part of the backyard into a garden. It all came back to me: I have picked wax beans, pulled up onions and carrots, waited impatiently for tomatoes to turn red, and sifted the dirt my grandfather had just turned for tiny new potatoes.
A couple of times in my thirties I tried my hand at a salad garden, but each time the result was the same—total decimation by an army of ravenous slugs. I recall the frustration and disappointment when the hours of hard work preparing and planting came to nothing. Tufts of greens ended in a frail hollowed-out shells that had once been carrots, and I searched in vain through pea vines slippery with slug trails. Of course, it was probably my fault. Other than watering and a bit of thinning, I really did nothing to care for the garden, or to try to stave off these attacks. I simply left the garden to its fate while I wrote poetry and did artwork in my little studio. And I decided that, though the idea of gardening was appealing, I wasn’t willing to give it the proper time and attention it obviously required. Now, in retrospect, I’ve decided I just didn’t inherit the gardening gene. But tasting Karen’s delicious “wild” lettuce was a reminder of the childhood summers long past, when my time was infinite, and with my mother’s colander in hand, I followed grandpa’s hoe.
In the middle of washing the lettuce, I stopped to answer the phone, and both Pearl and Sweeney took the opportunity to jump up on the counter and make off with a leaf each. Very bad behavior, but of course instead of scolding, I grabbed the camera! I think they were more attracted to the wild smell of the earth than to the palate appeal of the lettuce, which, after a few tentative nibbles, they abandoned it. Fine, all the more for me.
The Cloud Messenger (Meghadūta) is a lyric poem by the respected Indian poet, Kālidāsa. The poem centers around a yaksa in exile. Longing for his beloved, waiting for him on a Himalayan mountain, he asks a cloud to take a message to her. The sights he tells the cloud it will see on its way make up most of the poem.
The idea of recording observations appeals to me. I thought The Cloud Messenger was the perfect title for a blog about the journey that we all make as we move through our days.
I'm a baby boomer who grew up dancing in the streets of Detroit during the classic Motown years, lived beside the Rocky Mountains for many years, now retired and living (and writing full time) in S. Ontario. I have one blog for rock 'n' roll oldies, and one for nature, poetry and life along the Lake.