Returning to the garden after a long holiday weekend I find half of my little lettuce row cut off at the ground. Someone enjoyed a huge salad. Huge.
Curiously, this does not bother me. I’ve been eating lettuce for weeks now, and planted too much for two to eat anyway, and am ready to move on to my beautiful new green beans. I’ll plant lettuce again in the fall. Also, we’re eating the first tomatoes, an indescribable thrill. Not enough to taint with a recipe, the Early Girls are eaten sliced, with salt, and the Sun Golds are popped into the mouth right off of the vine.
With a bag full of zucchini, beans, basil, and tomatoes I turn the corner of my tiny garden to pull a few beets and notice…something is missing. Strange to detect an absence in such a crowd, but, there is the disturbed earth, and my tomatillo plant that was tall and happy and healthy and blooming last week…is gone. Not cut, or bent or crumpled. Not holey or yellow, or curled from insects. Gone.
It makes my heart hurt…not really because someone pulled it, more that a new experience is taken from me; this was my first tomatillo plant, and I was excited to see the bloom curl into a papery lantern and the green fruit fill the inside. I was excited for salsa verde for two (or one—who knows how much one plant produces).
But I realize that this year I’ll be buying my tomatillos from market, and I start to feel quite despondent about myself and the sorry-ass human who felt a need to destroy.
I am not relying on this garden for food. But I depend on it, desperately, for my sanity. Working all day at a computer in a tiny apartment, it is my chance to be outside, to relax into a rhythm of weed pulling and watering, to get my jeans dirty. I feel welcome in this bouquet of gardeners, bound together from the possibilities of space and time, seed and water and sun. I know their names, and they know mine, and in a new city there is nothing more wonderful than that. I give my time to the garden, weeding once a month and lending a hand with the youth garden…but often what we need to give is not what we offer. I know that being apart of a community (the garden, this city, the world) involves exchange. Some of the give and take is tangible, and some, not.
I’ll offer this tomatillo plant up as a part of this exchange. It wasn’t really mine to begin with, the genetic makeup developed before me and will long outlive me. So, I’ll relish the bounty from the variety I’ve planted, appreciate what I’ve learned from this one lost plant…and plan to put in five extra next year.