Thursday, October 18, 2007


It is raining. I go grudgingly, but with the slight hope that something inspiring might come out of my encounter with a man so attached to the earth. A friend of mine has urged us to meet. I have agreed because it will help with my research. According to my friend, this man grows his own food and is "spiritual". He is alot older than I. The rest I do not remember. His countenance is a faded memory (well it was never a memory) and I do not care to fabricate it.

I meet him on the edge of the university campus and we walk rather hurriedly to his garden nearby. When we arrive I am disappointed by the wasteland I see: rocks everywhere, junk littering the ground, no verdant oasis, no profusion of the earth's bounty....

The only awe-inspiring plant life I see is a mammoth accumulation of long, pointed leaves with jagged edges. Somehow it reminds me of the spikes of a dinosaur. It could easily have existed in the jurassic age. He says that one day it just appeared, and within days, had grown to a stupendous height and girth, and at its very top, it had sprouted a large, red flower. Too bad the flower is gone now. I would have loved to see it. He points out a patch of squash plants upon which, grow wilting, trumpet shaped flowers of a faded yellow. I spy a little squash which appears as if by some freak accident out of the rock covered soil. Then he shows me the tomato plant which seems to droop a little beneath the rain. The tomatoes are either a pale yellow or a muted red. We walk two paces and he shows me a little rosemary plant with stunted, needle-like leaves, then we move onto a patch of arugula, potatoes, basil, onions...

I feel nothing. I want to get out of the rain. He assumes I am ignorant and keeps asking if I know what a potato is, if I am familiar with arugula, and so on...I find it hard to believe he thinks I am that stupid. For a moment I think perhaps his conception of a potato is different from mine, and that he means to imply that he has some kind of esoteric knowledge of what a potato really is. Naturally, this strikes me as equally absurd. I am irritated, but it bothers me more that I am left wanting. I wanted to devour something with my eyes, to smell something in the air, but if there is abundance, it is only beneath the soil. All I perceive is the paucity of plant life, and the mumbling determination of an old man consumed by his lonely vision of a lost Eden. But I wish I can see what he sees. My cynicism has a habit of blinding me. Delusion or not, I admire someone able to contrive for himself a paradisical niche in a world corroded by the destructive forces of today.

After he has picked a handful of arugula and tomatoes, we venture into an empty classroom to talk and have lunch. He casually places the unwashed vegetables on the table, and we proceed to eat them as they are. My palate must be absolutely destroyed by inorganic, chemically altered supermarket fare, because try as I might, I cannot tell the difference. "What do you think?" he says, as I place an arugula leaf in my mouth. It is arugula as I have always known it. "It's stronger at the finish", I say, partly hoping to induce by words, the novelty of experience I certainly did not feel or taste, and partly to appease what he was expecting of me. Next he urges me to try the tomatoes. "Here, you will notice how many more seeds they have, unlike the supermarket variety". I pop one in my mouth. It yields too easily, and without the pleasant burst I was anticipating. The seeds are sparse. I concentrate harder. Where are the seeds? I notice that he is looking at me with a slight smile. I cannot bring myself to say anything because of my disappointment. I nod my head enthusiastically and assuming that I am silenced by amazement, he breaks into a grin. Then he takes half a loaf of bread out of his sack and cuts a sliver off with his knife. He tells me that he made the bread with rye and wheat grown on his family's farm. It is stale, with the slightly sourish odor of yeast. It tastes natural, but by no means a gastronomic revelation.

He talks about the miracle of plant life. He repeats himself in many different ways - ingenuity is the garb of his mundanity, or perhaps I should say, his simplicity. It makes me wonder if we are all just repeating ourselves in creative ways. I say little as usual, but he asks about my literary studies. I tell him about the painful beauty of human perseverance, and the writer's endeavor to wrangle out of the inner chaos, one golden word, and then another, and another, until inner disorder transforms itself into outward expression. He likens it to the cycle of plant life - how the plant struggles continually at each season to emerge from beneath the darkness of the soil, and into the light.

At the end of our conversation he gives me a plastic bag. Inside, there are three fava beans. He tells me to put them in a shallow dish of damp tissue and to wait for it to sprout.

I have waited nearly a week The seeds have grown moldy and I don't really want to see him again and it's just awful that I am revolting against the presence of such a kind man.

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