Thursday, October 29, 2009

Buried in a Cosmic Joke

Buried in a Cosmic Joke. It's white, cold and 20 inches deep and it hasn't stopped since Tuesday night here in Colorado. Note the date. It's October 29th not December 29th. In a year where winter hung around until the end of May and we barely had a summer, we seemed to have skipped all but a few weeks of fall and circled back to winter. I was already more than irritated at having to shovel snow in October. Having to shovel four times in ONE day was just too much.

Strange how light it was last night on our normally dark cul-du-sac, as the deep, drifting snow and falling flakes illuminated the night sky. And the peace and stillness was – and is – profound. All we have is the wind and the falling snow and the weight of the accumulating drifts. Amazing how much time and energy it can take to stay ahead of the accommodate the make a path for the milk try to clear the mail box for the postman. To try – and fail-- to keep the driveway open. To futilely search for the morning paper (which I haven't yet found!)

This morning I moved another ten inches that fell over night, carefully uncovering some of the Halloween d├ęcor around the front door. While I labored, Tycho, the Golden Retriever, who believes that all of this wonderment has happened expressly for his enjoyment, galloped about the cul-du-sac and down the walking trails next to our yard, gathering great clumps of ice on his belly and snorting delightedly into the drifts.

If much of the quality that is ours in life is because we choose what to do with our time, part of my brain wants to say “I've been robbed!” I calculate that since yesterday morning I have spent nearly six hours shoveling snow and we haven't begun to uncover the Jeep, which must become seaworthy for me to begin another drive to Wisconsin tomorrow. I am not looking forward to sledding across Nebraska.

On the other hand, sometimes it takes being buried not to take yourself so seriously. It has been said that a genuine sense of humor, combined with an active imagination are two of the most valuable qualities you can possess as a human being. While wringing out the bottom half of my pant legs where snow had gleefully lodged itself in my boots and contemplating this blog, I went looking for cosmic inspiration. I found a most delightful site that offers a wonderful explanation of The Great Cosmic Joke by Doc Barnham at

To quote the source, it goes something like this. “The Creator says, “Billions of years ago, I created an infinite universe out of nothing, and somewhere along the way there formed billions of galaxies. There was one galaxy that formed called the Milky Way, and way out on the edge of one of the spiral arms of this galaxy there is a little solar system with a medium-sized star called the Sun and a tiny little blue planet rotating around it called Earth. Now somewhere on this Earth is a soul that I created and filled with the Divine spark who chose to incarnate and wear a bodysuit for a lifetime. Now he’s in the middle of one of those lifetimes - along with seven billion other souls, all coming and going - and he’s rushing around and fretting and thinking he’s very unhappy because he isn’t getting his way right now. Actually, though, he isn’t so unhappy as he is forgetful, because I have surrounded him everywhere and every moment with constant reminders that he is safe, he is not alone, and that the universe is a very funny place if only he will look.”
And then I look. I look down and see my body. I look at my hands and realize, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I chose this.” I remember I am a soul having a human experience, an infinite being that chose this again, a lifetime in the material world; to be shoehorned into another bodysuit that is always trying to keep itself together for a brief period of some eight to ten decades, if I’m lucky. I’m a soul in a special sort of shaved monkey suit that is filled with holes and always huffing and puffing and sweating and farting and pissing and pooping and drinking and eating and fighting gravity just to maintain itself and stand upright, all so I can run around and play and learn the lessons to be able to understand more deeply, love more fully, accept Truth more completely, and share my gifts more freely with others without forgetting where we all really came from, the Creator.
And I laugh.”

Down here, it's still coming down like the gods are having a great cosmic pillow fight up there. I wonder if there's snow in their boots?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Does A Tomato Know About Life?

Pondering my next blog a few days ago, I got to thinking about the balcony gardeners in Paris. To understand why I noticed them, you have to know that long-ago, they passed a law in the inner arrondissements of Paris that no building can be more than four or so stories high, thus preserving the authentic character of the city. Every single flat in Paris seems to have a balcony. So, flying by on the elevated portions of the metro, even in April, you see the pots sitting in the sun on the balconies of the flats -- the herbs, a few vines, the tomatoes -- straining toward the feeble spring sunshine.

Which brought me to yesterday's question. Tomatoes know quite a lot, as it turns out. At least the particular tomato plant that inspired that question does. I found myself diligently covering that intelligent tomato plant as our first heavy frost approached.

It had a less than illustrious start.

Last spring I bought exactly two tomato plants; a regular America hybrid, and a second, decidedly sentimental choice. It was called a Black from Tula and the label said it was a Russian heirloom. I had no idea what that was, but I'm a sucker for things Russian because my daughter was born there and I seem to have given my grown son back to Russia. So I planted them side by side in my herb garden.

The hybrid went right to work, growing straight up to a 20 inch by 20 inch dimension, blossoming out in June and producing about ten bright red, standard-looking, not necessarily stellar tomatoes. That was it and it was done.

The Russian heirloom, on the other hand acted like no tomato plant I have ever seen. It began to grow. And grow. And grow! June came and while not a single blossom had appeared, it went on growing, it's branches sprawled across the entire four by eight foot herb garden. It overran the oregano, buried the basil and lavished love on the lavender. The spreading greenery arched against the house, climbed the six-foot cedar fence and leaned over the support structure around the puny hybrid. “Look at this!” I announced one evening, Hands on my hips in disgust, as my son walked in the garden gate. “It's sprawling all over the place and not giving me anything – enough of this Russian stuff!”

“Give it time,”
he laughed. “Russians know their will come through!”

I shook my head. Then in July, blossoms appeared. Hundreds of them. By August tomatoes were taking shape, everywhere, on every sprawling branch. I got a little busy with wedding preparations and travel and forgot to look in on it. September arrived, and when I checked, was amazed to see the first few dark brownish tomatoes, I thought “Darn! I waited too long and let them spoil!” So I ignored them.

The next week I spotted a few more, equally dark, and reached to pull them off to give them to the birds. They weren't mushy, they were firm! I plucked one and smelled it. The most heavenly scent wafted up my nose. I searched beneath the tomato forest and found the plant tag. “Black from Tula. Russian Heirloom. Dark reddish-brown. Sweet rich fruit, prodigious producer ideal for short growing seasons.”

That night I tasted probably the best tomato I've ever had. And there were at least 150 more like it burying the herb plot!

Back to what a tomato knows. First, an heirloom tomato is closer to its past and hasn't had the life bred out of it. It hasn't forgotten that tomatoes are really a fruit, not a vegetable, so it stayed sweet. This particular species put down deep roots, while spreading those enormous branches. How else could it hold up those branches and get ready to provide the nutrients for its bumper crop?

Even better, it didn't let itself be rushed or pushed into becoming something it is not. It kept its identity and its promise, producing a dark tomato whose color is so much better suited to absorb what light comes its way and to hold on to the warmth of the day to meet night's cool darkness. Reaching for that light, this Russian heirloom produced so much more than I expected; firm, sweet life in abundance.

Whether you're a fan of salt or sugar on your tomatoes, this tomato's job is to give flavor to the world and it does it in spades! I underestimated this plant. I got angry when it just seemed to be using and not giving back anything. But it was just preparing to produce an astounding bounty of goodness. Are you like this tomato? I hope I am.

Salt. Light. Life. Amen!

©2009 Jan Johnson Wondra