By Blake Blackmon
Images by Carrie Beth Wallace
What was nothing, then green, now sits red in my palm. The months blurred to one, and somehow, still, March turned to July and the tomatoes we planted now run juice down our mouths and palms as we bite. Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Subconsciously, is that what we were doing all those months ago? Were we planting belief that despite all the unknown, despite the fear, we can still believe in a tomorrow where tomatoes turn red and peppers dangle like ornaments on a Christmas tree?
With so little change in months, it stirred something in me, this reddening. It hung like a visible marker that not only time has passed, but that growth has occurred. Diana Vreeland said, “Red is the great clarifier; bright and revealing.” There was an urgency to this red now that pulled me from my fog, not only in the tomatoes’ timeline; their fullness and readiness to be picked, but in the way they called me to once again pay attention.
Nature likes to jolt us awake like this. Our eyes constantly miss the subtle; we are awakened by a sky on fire, crepe myrtles pinked to fullness, or a bright red tomato where a simple, plain green stalk used to be.
A garden makes you see what otherwise would slip by unnoticed until something shakes you into attentiveness. At first it’s all dirt. Dirt that you water day by day. You search for what is unseen; what you trust to be happening beneath the surface until finally that first sprout, in a great act of hope, breaks through. The growth is subtle at first, until one day the shock of red sets you ablaze.
In a way, I feel myself waiting for that feeling in the world. Waiting for the shock, for the ability to once again gather, to embrace, and sit in a room full of friends and strangers appreciating a song, dance or performance. I know I am not alone with this anticipation and the wavering between hope and dismay. I know I am not the first to plant a garden and hold each fruitful item in my palm, and in that instant believe in miracles.
This time is the time for us to be planting. So many organizations are already doing this; setting themselves up for a future where the show will go on and we can all be together again safely. Glimpses of hope are all around us, and found readily in nature.
Notice how the tree you pass in your neighborhood bends and straightens in the wind. Notice how the green bush you pass in the park now blooms pink. Notice now the green that in months will brown and yellow into Fall. Change and growth are all around us, and sometimes we need to be reminded, I know I did.
We will not come out of this time unchanged. We have been growing and evolving in ways that may be imperceptible at the moment and yet, even when all seems slow and repetitive, it occurs. Whatever we used to consider “normal” has been flipped and shaken and will be constructed into something new and different. We will settle once again, like trees shifting back into place after a thunderstorm. Until then we will enjoy the season, red tomato juice dripping off our chins and all.
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