The other week I walked outside the front door and sat on the stoop. Was on the phone, talking with my dad, back home on the farm, and figured I might as well try weeding, mainly since I was offended at the beds and heck, I was the man living here.
So I start pulling out all those annoyances that have names and real taxonomy, but I call based on temperament or a rough sizing up of looks: alien trees, wheat, blueberry grass. As Pops was talking about pouring himself another nip, I about dropped my phone. Cause there, amongst all the other vines vying for sunlight, was a big old tomato plant.
Though this wasn’t a virgin birth.
If we can save our judgment for a minute, and not huff when thinking about the state of neglect our beds, but realize that I’ve never planted a tomato anything here, and learn that that plant not only was growing out of the soil but out of a crack in the wood that separated mulch from yard. And there, clinging to hope, she is. A simple plant. growing like plants are wont to, without a proper planting, without any tending, no metal cage to hold her up, fighting.
Now, we rent (Google house prices in Arlington, MA if you will). Our place is great for what it is, but it is without a backyard and the corner lot with full street exposure doesn’t give us an optimal location for a garden. And knowing that at any point we could pack up and head elsewhere, we’ve been weary of trying to build any raised beds.
And we also compost. In a black tub in the yard, we’ve got soil that can rival anything in Alabama’s black belt. But aimless soil. Dirt without a predestined future. I’d put some in a couple of hanging flower baskets back in May. Poured some years old herb seeds on top, worked it into the soil, and promptly forgot about it (I get distracted). Three weeks later, green shoots. A few sporadic waterings, some weeks of sun, and there in my hanging baskets are hardly any herbs, but several tomato stalks, what appeared to be a corn startup, and a fine head of bibb lettuce. All of which were just waiting for a chance to prove themselves.
We’d left on vacation mid August, and once we got home, I had to call it on the baskets. Scorched earth and nothing if not crisp, brown, dead plants. I dumped out the soil, casually, and completely forgot about it. Until that phone call.
Dad and I get to talking about the Crimson Tide and my Rebels.
Saturday those boys from Oxford came into Bryant-Denny Stadium. A thirty three point underdog. Playing the number one team in the land, on foreign soil, in front of over a hundred thousand rapid, fourteen national championship yelling, fans. We all knew the odds, the task we were up against. NFL caliber players. A team that plays without mistakes, without turnovers. And I can say that, despite the writing on the wall, we witnessed a great fight. The stat column attest to how this game differed from all the others in recent memory and for 15 seconds, we accomplished what no one in ten games could’ve: we led.
On paper, this wouldn’t have happened. The tomato would’ve been too stressed to come to life again. And Ole Miss would’ve been embarrassed. But here we find ourselves, with a unmanned vine and sixty minutes of scrappy defense that Saban hadn’t planned on.
The outcome of our plant and largely our team, though, is written in the season. If this year is like the last, we’ll have snow in less than a month. My discovery will be hidden under frost, breaking back down into the story of the soil. My team will continue to rebuild, hopefully around a turning point during that football game.
Hindsight reminds us: we don’t always account for fight.