O Happy Fault

O Happy Fault July 24, 2022

I went out to the secret garden, to check on my tomatoes.

The tomatoes badly needed pruning, which I’d never done before, so I’d tried. I was afraid I’d kill them by mistake. This is my first year growing tomatoes. Michael is allergic to the vines, so I can’t have them in my own yard. Now that I’ve got a Secret Garden, I can grow whatever I like. It turns out that you are supposed to cut off the “suckers,” the superfluous shoots that don’t have flowers on them, so that the tomato vine dedicates all of its nutrients to growing fruit. So I have been trying to prune the suckers.

You understand that tomatoes are fruit if you grow them yourself. A fresh, vine-ripened heirloom tomato doesn’t have that grocery store twang. It’s fruit. It’s fruit that’s only lightly sweet, but it’s not a vegetable. It’s not the medicine you have to clear off your plate so a grown-up will give you your dessert. A tomato is, itself, something worth eating.

After I pruned, I picked two tomatoes off an heirloom vine which is called a “hillbilly.” Hillbilly tomatoes are golden with red streaks. They look like the opals the Blue Baba of the Marsh offered the miner in my book of fairy stories I had growing up, the jewels that would’ve enticed the miner to drown in the well if he hadn’t been clever. And the flesh is sweet, almost like pineapple. I picked four black zucchini, a bell pepper and two yellow squash. And then I just sat there for awhile, breathing in life.

The Mammoth Gray Stripe was beginning to open.

I had never grown a Mammoth Gray Stripe before.

Mammoth Gray Stripes are an indigenous variety of sunflower, the great big giant kind that tower like trees. I got six seeds in a packet from the free seed catalog, and I planted them at the corners of my Three Sisters patch with heirloom popcorn, rattlesnake pole beans and acorn squash. You’re supposed to plant sunflowers in your Three Sisters patch because the seeds from the flowers attract the birds, keeping them off the corn. So I planted three to a corner on two corners of the patch, and planted my squash in the other two corners. Corn in a mound in the middle. Beans in a magic circle around the circle of corn. One of the Mammoth Gray Stripes disappeared when she was a seedling, prey to a hungry blackbird who also ruined my first batch of corn seedlings. Four of the Mammoth Gray Stripes are only shoulder-high and I don’t know if they will ever bloom. But this one Mammoth Gray Stripe is perfect. This Mammoth Gray Stripe is tall as the neighbor’s gutters. Her stalk is as thick as a sapling tree, and her leaves are like elephant ears. Way, way up at the top of the stalk she grew a bud that looked like an artichoke, and it stayed an artichoke for an agonizingly long time. But now the artichoke was opening, showing yellow petals.

I’d done it.

I’d grown a sunflower.

If I hadn’t tried to grow a sunflower in 2020 when the whole world was at a standstill, my stalker would never have vandalized my yard and decapitated it before it bloomed. If she hadn’t done everything she could to intimidate me into not gardening anymore until I was shuddering with PTSD afraid to go in my yard,  I might not have gotten so obsessed with defying her and growing a sunflower. And so I found the secret garden. And so I started filling the beds. And so I planted the seed and watered it, dragging bottles of water from the house to the community garden around the back way where she wouldn’t follow me. And now I had grown a Mammoth Gray Stripe, a creature much bigger than I am, a tree that is also a flower. And there’s nothing she can do. She lost. I grew a sunflower.

O happy fault.

I packed two bags of produce and hung one on the chain link garden fence, for a neighbor to take home and eat. The other went home with me, and I had homemade tomato sauce for dinner.

The next day I came out again to pull weeds, and the Mammoth Gray Stripe was in full bloom.

Sort of a Resurrection.

If I never get out of here, I’ll at least have this victory.

For a moment, everything felt all right.


Image via pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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