It’s really quite amazing what a living thing can accomplish when no one tells it that it can’t. It’s January here in California and while it is normally one of our most pleasant months with temperatures averaging in the seventies and rain light, if at all, this January has been most unlike herself. Last night was among many that have brought wind, rain, ice and temperatures below 30 with a hail storm thrown in for good measure. Exhibit A: The ice-covered ground in front of my porch this morning.
While nothing to you hardier folks in the north and east, we here in the golden state normally travel elsewhere and pay big bucks to freeze our trim, fit, tiny asses off. Even more unusual at this time of year and under these conditions however is this:
It’s a tomato plant and it lives on my deck where, as you can see, no one has told it that every other tomato plant in its right mind stopped producing back in September. I have no idea what to make of it except that it saw its dead brethren torn out by their roots and tossed away and made some decision deep in its DNA that it would be the decider of its own fate. It was planted in April so, like me, it is a Taurus and perhaps just as stubborn. Regardless, there it is with its promise of, if not life everlasting, at least good things to come.
All summer long, it provided my salads with color and sweetness. In November, with plump green tomatoes still on its vine, on the advice of some Internet authority that said they would never ripen, I stripped the plant and made fried green tomatoes – a first for me and quite tasty. Then in early December, I found one lone ripe red tomato hidden deep in the plant and realized that they all would have ripened if just left alone. So much for the opinions of others, however authoritative they may sound.
The frost of just a couple of hours ago has melted away and my little tomato plant is now basking in the rays of the sun. No doubt the temperatures will drop again and ice will come to challenge its resolve, but I’m sure as hell not going to be the one to tell it what it can and can’t do.
"In Praise of What Persists" is the title of a collection of short fiction by the late writer, Joyce Renwick.