Monday, July 27, 2020

The lesson of the green tomato

Green tomato. Credit: Jeff Kubina/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Jeff Kubina/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Six weeks ago, we received a green tomato in our produce box from the farmers' market. For four weeks, that tomato, pale as new growth in spring, sat on the kitchen counter awaiting my action. I looked up recipes ("Google, can you bake fried green tomatoes?") but kept abandoning them: we didn't have buttermilk, I ran out of time, one tomato does not a meal make. So the tomato moved around the counter instead, a rock-hard reminder of everything that I was failing to accomplish during the pandemic.

Then, two weeks ago, I noticed the green tomato was no longer green. Now it had a slight pinkish hue and was deepening its red color by the day. I had waited so long to do anything that my early-season produce had managed to ripen. And as soon as it was ready, I cut it up and made a salad and gobbled it for lunch.

I hated waiting for that tomato, though.

Not because I wanted it to ripen; that was wholly an accident. Rather, I hated how the tomato came to symbolize my uncharacteristic inaction. That single piece of fruit renewed in me a pure fury about how nothing right now is easy, everything is backwards, and somehow it's all on me to excel in bizarre circumstances.

Ah. So I didn't hate my inaction. I hated that I didn't feel permitted to be inactive.

With the example of the green tomato before me, I stopped formulating answers and instead formulated questions:

What if I waited?

What if I did nothing?

What if I read a book?

What if I took a nap?

What if I gave it a day?

What if I gave it a month?

What if I didn't follow up right away?

What if I left it on my to-do list?

What if I did not force a decision?

What if I let someone else handle the situation?

What if I let time unravel a solution?

What if I accepted the presence of unknowns?

What if I released the desire to know at all?

Not forever, mind you. Just for the moment. Because let me tell you, that tomato salad was delicious -- fresh, seasonal, just in time -- and it made me crave more.


Prayer #358: Fate Not Accompli

My fate is untwisted, rewritten in the stars, and certainly not worse than death. Why predetermine my predestination, why lick the unsealed envelope of life, when fortune can sidestep the bold to favor the meek?

God who is just within time, teach me that life is less about my lot in it and more that less can be a lot all on its own.

Amen.