State of Mind

For a brief while this morning, the outdoor temperature will be tolerable. At the moment, according to my computer and according to my thermometer, the air temperature is 72F. I can vouch for that; I went outside earlier, where I found the air moderately cool but quite humid and deathly still.

While I watered my grown-from-seed tomato plants, I heard something shuffling through the leaves below the deck, so I stopped my chore to take a look. I expected to see a deer but, instead, saw a very large armadillo scurrying along. It disappeared from view for a moment, under a thick clump of weedy shrubs, but it reappeared in an instant, traveling at the same pace in the same direction. The creature looked like it was in a hurry, but its speed was quite slow, as if its short legs could muster only enough energy to propel it forward only so fast and no faster. Despite its slow-motion scramble, it disappeared from view into the forest in a matter of thirty seconds or so. I wander where it was going in such a leisurely rush?

I mentioned the grown-from-seed tomatoes. I doubt I’ll get many tomatoes, perhaps none will endure to maturity. I have not taken the trouble to stake the plants, nor to tie them to cages that would keep them upright, so several of the plants look drunk, leaning toward the deck with their stems akimbo. Despite that, though, several of the plants have very small tomatoes attempting to survive. I mentioned yesterday to my wife that all of the little tomatoes are shaped liked little thumbs. That’s odd, inasmuch as the tomatoes from which I collected the seeds were, to the best of my recollection, “normal” in shape; that is, they were little globes.

I believe the tomatoes from which the seeds came were imported from Canada. I tend to look at the little stickers attached to vegetables I buy from the grocery store; I’m curious as to their lineage. My memory tells me I gathered seeds from Canadian tomatoes. That makes sense, in that I am a serious Canadaphile. I would have worshiped seeds from Canadian tomatoes, hoping I could create a tiny piece of the nation right here on my back deck. The thumb-shape, though, cannot be explained by the origin of the seeds. I have no way of knowing the explanation; it will remain a mystery.

Canada’s tomato crop yields significant rewards for Canadian farmers, thanks to their southern neighbors’ insatiable appetite for tomatoes. Canadian tomato exports, almost all grown in huge greenhouses, are world-famous, at least to me. And now I have my own miniature tomato forest growing on my back deck, twenty feet above the mixed pine and hardwood forest floor. If I were to name my tomato farm, I think I’d call it Hudson. Hudson just sounds Canadian, doesn’t it? Well of course it does! I hope Hudson survives and delivers to me a crop of succulent Canadian-bred tomatoes. But I wonder whether the beastly heat of Arkansas is just too much for Hudson tomatoes? Perhaps I should have moved to Wisconsin, instead? Yes, I think so. I should have moved to that state, so I could be closer to Canada. Maybe even Canada itself? Swoon! Oh,  yes, I could have actually become Canadian. Life would have been so much sweeter as a proud Canadian. A maple leaf tattoo would have looked better on me in Canada, too. I can’t have a maple leaf tattoo in Arkansas; Republican nationalists would have me skewered with spears for such a transgression.

Even the English language is more mellifluous in Canada. The Oxford English Dictionary, which calls itself the definitive record of the English language, would agree, I think. Just ask; it will tell you.

Back to the tomatoes. I am anxious for the little thumb-shaped tomatoes to ripen so I can evaluate their flavor. Will they taste like Canadian tomatoes? Will they make Canadian noises when I bite into them? Will my disposition improve when I eat them? So many questions, but very few answers.

If I were Canadian, my indiscretions would be forgiven. Arkansans tend not to forgive indiscretions. Torrid love affairs are punished by hanging in Arkansas. In Canada, it’s just a slap on the wrist and a sharp word or two. Not that I’ve had torrid love affairs in Arkansas. Yet. But if I lived in Canada, oh the excitement I might have experienced! I would be younger, were I to live in Canada. People just tend toward youth there, even in old age. I think it’s the tomatoes. Canadian tomatoes add years to one’s life and they subtract years already lived. Canadian tomatoes improve one’s vocabulary, too.

There should be a word in the English language that means “a yearning for a gentler nationality that yields a more fulfilling life experience.” If there were such a word, the Thesaurus would suggest synonyms like Strathcona, maple, and neighbourhood.

My mind takes me such strange places. From armadillos to tomatoes to the prairies of Alberta. I am ready for a road trip to Canada. I think I’ll have to make it alone, though. I am crazy enough to do it, but not persuasive enough to lure anyone to come along for the ride.

Time to return to the harsh reality that is Arkansas in July. And to think, I could have been in Canada all this time.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to State of Mind

  1. Pat, I wish we could figure out how to embed that gentler view of the world in our culture.

  2. Pat Newcomb says:

    I do rather like your characterization of Canada. One gets that same spirit in England and Scotland and N. Ireland – folks just have a gentler view of the world.

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