“An onion can make people cry but there's never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.” - Will Rogers
This morning, I harvested onions at the Veggie Garden where I volunteer. I brought home some juicy carrots and basil, a few fresh purple and green peas. I’d saved a soft juicy pear to add to the mix for lunch. Mom taught me how to core an apple or a pear, and how to mix it into a salad of yogurt and granola. She cultivated my taste for tangy, sharp, gingery things. As I pared the pear, I pictured me at 15, and Mom about my present age. Back then, I assumed life was a brief trip on a fast train: from Young to Old, or Fresh to Spoiled, or Sweet to Sour.
Strangely and magically, I now find myself standing on the quiet platform of a station between either end of that line. I’m perfectly balanced between beginning and ending. At the “ripe old age of 60” I’m at the stop for Middle Age, Ripe and Pungent. I will not stay much longer, and must be on my way.
‘I’m reminded of an observation by one of the character acts in Tom Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon Show: the Rowan and Martin of American History:
“What Machine is it…that bears us along so relentlessly? We go rattling thro’ another Day, - Another Year, - as thro’ an empty Town without a Name, in the Midnight…we have but Memories of some Pause at the Pleasure-Spas of our younger Day, the Maidens, the Cards, the Claret, - we seek to extend our stay, but now a silent Functionary in dark Livery indicates it is time to re-board the Coach, and resume the Journey. Long before the Destination, moreover, shall this Machine come abruptly to a Stop…gather’d dense with Fear, shall we open the Door to confer with the driver, to discover that there is no Driver,…no Horses,… only the Machine, fading as we stand, and Prairie of desperate Immensity….”
The young Reverend Cherrycoke captured the darkness of the journey, but missed the humor.
As I already know how to cry, I’ve been cultivating vegetables that might make me laugh. Nothing naughty, no smutty Nathan-Hawthhorney allegories that amount to vegetable adultry, as in in Rappacinni‘s Daughter. Something like a sweet tomato is more likely to make me laugh than something phallic and green. And now, I’ve slowed down some, and the rest of the trip looks to be more fun that I’d imagined when I was innocent.
In consideration for a price paid in innocence lost, I have cultivated a much better imagination. Hence the ambiguous allegory of Simone, the immortal plastic alligator, stalking the new black Buddha head at the base of this young pine. I prefer to think they’re laughing with me, not at me.
Furthermore, I submit that the spaghetti squash will make anyone laugh, if not when sown, or cultivated, or harvested, then when eaten. Even the grumpiest, most vegetable-hating child, must laugh – when it appears at the dinner table in the company of tomato sauce and meatballs.