Where did summer go? Wasn’t it just yesterday, in the exuberance of spring’s balmy breezes, daffodils, and birdsong, that I was putting into the ground the young plants that now, bedraggled and ratty, I’m pulling up?
I bid sad farewell to the tomato plants that, despite their head-high reach, produced few tomatoes. Too hot to set fruit, the experts said. For a two-week period in July, though, there was a glorious abundance, enough even to share with neighbors. But, as hundred-degree day followed hundred-degree day, they just sulked.
Usually, with summer’s wane, there would be a goodly number of green tomatoes to be picked for ripening inside the house over coming weeks. This year, zilch, nada — just barren head-high plants.
Somewhere toward the end of August, one plant that I’d grown from seed — an heirloom variety, the name of which I now haven’t a clue — produced a lone tomato that, by the time it was ripe, was almost as big as my cupped hands and weighed almost a pound.
In all my years on this planet, I’ve never grown such a tomato. If it had been county fair time, it certainly would’ve won a prize ribbon. When I sliced it to eat, it was like red, juicy butter, its taste sublime — every supermarket excuse-for-a-tomato would cringe in shame at its deliciousness.
I wish I could remember the variety, or even where I got the seed, so next year I could plant more. It will be the tomato against which all future tomatoes are judged.
Although days can still be hot through October, with lingering sweaty humidity, sunrise is later, dark comes earlier, nights and early mornings are colder. Shadows lengthen, sunlight is more golden, diffuse; yellow fall butterflies flit through the air, seeking nectar in the remaining blossoms; woolly worms are crossing the roads, going who-knows-where, and soon 10 million dead leaves will need to be raked.
In early September, even before the nights began cooling and the pollen from giant ragweed began blowing about, my sinuses knew the season was changing. From now until next March I’ll gobble antihistamines to try and suppress sneezes and sniffles.
I am not a fan of winter — don’t like the cold, rainy, dreary, too-short days, the dull, gray, featureless landscape, the too much forced confinement to indoors.
If the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol came knocking at my door with their $10 million check, I’d (after the obligatory whooping and hollering for the cameras) be ordering plane tickets so I could spend my winter where there is no winter. Perhaps follow Mr. Sun on his southward trek to Argentina. November through February in Buenos Aires, the Paris of the southern hemisphere, would be nice.
Dream on. Instead, I’ll shiver and sniffle through another winter as best I can, a passel of good books at the ready, dreaming of next summer’s tomatoes…