of tomatoes, memory, and broken computers (not in that order)

Well. I’ve been having an interesting summer. I sometimes catch myself in the middle of a moment — I’m outside at night, say, and the sky, not yet quite black, perhaps instead a dark velvety blue, is awash with stars, and there are fireflies twinkling in the grass, in the trees, and I look around and try to memorize each little thing I see — and I wonder how I will feel, years from now, when I remember the summer of 2010. Time periods stick in the memory as impressions. I can always zoom in on my own eras in the past and remember fragments, things about which I told myself Remember this forever, but overall, when I flip through the years of my life, there’s always a general feeling that accompanies them, . Spring 2002: afraid and sad. Winter 2006: disappointed. Summer 2007: hanging onto a cliff by my fingernails. Et cetera. So I think about this summer that has been so interesting, and I wonder what impression I will come away with when I come away from it. Winter was awful and dark, spring felt like standing in the middle of a promise as it was being fulfilled and I felt strong and beautiful and alive every day, and summer… well. I’m still in summer so I don’t know yet. So far it’s been great and also difficult. Emotionally overwhelming, mentally exhausting. Work has been hard and stressful, but I’m not going to complain about it, because overall, I have to remember that it’s the first time in my life when I’ve had a job that actually challenged me every day. Creatively, it’s been a dry spell. I’m still doing the photo-a-day thing, but I can’t say I’ve really put a whole lot of thought or effort into the photos for quite some time. Despite myself, some of the photos have turned out well anyway. And as for writing, well, ha. Someday, I tell myself, you will figure out how to have time to do everything you want to do on top of everything you have to do. But that day hasn’t come yet.


Anyway, I’ve been drifting away from the internet for most of the year, and I’m not really sure why — it’s nothing personal, Internet, I still love you and all — and then a couple of weeks ago my computer crashed and I haven’t had time to figure out if it’s fixable or if I have to buy a new one, and the truth is, I mostly don’t miss it. Except for iTunes. I miss that. (Fortunately it’s backed up.) I miss people and I wonder how they’re doing, what’s going on, etc., but while I can read my email on my iPod (which I do once a day), I don’t really like browsing the internet on such a tiny device and so I’m even more woefully out of touch with what’s going on with the people I used to keep up with. Flickr streams go unvisited, blogs go unread, and I’m totally afraid of what it’s going to be like when I finally decide it’s time to take a look at what’s piled up in Google Reader. Eventually I’ll get the computer issue sorted out (I’m borrowing one right now, and I decided I’d finally update my blog), and maybe in the fall, when the weather is cooler and I won’t feel like spending every single one of my free minutes outside in the sun with a book I’ll return to this side of life again. I think I kind of miss it after all. Except for Facebook. I can’t say I really miss Facebook.

At first, when the computer crashed, I realized that I was a tool because I hadn’t saved another copy of my book anywhere. What kind of idiot doesn’t back up a novel? REALLY, JAMELAH? WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? I admit that I cried. And I spent a day feeling that feeling, you know, when it’s like some strong invisible hand reaches inside and eviscerates you? Like when you get dumped by someone you really love or someone dies or something. That’s how I felt. But I managed to get back into the computer and I think perhaps I have my drafts saved now. I could plug the external drive I was using into another computer and check but I haven’t. If it isn’t saved, I don’t know if I want to know. And for now I’d rather just float along with a maybe being good enough. I’ve had terrible losses of stuff before, and I’ve always recovered: there’s something to be said for detachment after all, but still. It’s my book. Even if I have neglected it over the past few months, it’s mine. My thing. The thing that reminds me that there is more than getting up every morning and driving to an office. There is wordplay and creativity and that is really what I’m after.

I don’t know. I guess the fact that I know that there’s something else keeps me going when I feel like there really isn’t anything else.

Anyway, I’ve got some stuff to do this afternoon, and I should get to it, but I have one more thing to write about. It’s no secret that I do not love tomatoes. I have a list of foods I think are vile and tomatoes go on that list. Raw tomatoes are gross, though I have made exceptions for fresh salsa, if the tomatoes are cut up really small. I like roasted tomatoes, and so I am now capable of admitting that tomatoes are not vile in that form, but still, raw ones make me want to die. A little. But anyway, now I am growing tomatoes! I didn’t mean to grow tomatoes, though. Here’s what happened. Last summer, I decided to start composting. So hurrah for compost and all. And earlier this year, I was working in my flower gardens and I thought I would get some of my compost to mix into some of the potting soil I had in some flower pots, and I got a bucket of rich black dirt out of my compost bin. (Hurrah!) I set the bucket on the porch next to the flower pots and I fully intended to go buy some flowers to plant in said pots but for one reason or another, I kept not being able to do this. Then one day I was outside and I looked at the bucket of rich black compost dirt and I noticed a couple of plants growing in it. At first I thought they were weeds and I almost pulled them, but then when I looked closely, I noticed they were tomato vines. I roasted enough tomatoes last summer and threw enough kitchen scraps into the compost bin to have plenty of tomato seeds, and so basically, I ended up accidentally growing tomatoes.

They were like this:

my accidental tomatoes

And then they were like this:

accidental tomatoes: progress report

And now…? Oh hells to the yes, nephew, I got tomatoes:

the bit where there are actual tomatoes

Right on.

So there’s that.

Anyway, to bring it back to what I started with, my hope is that when I remember this summer, I will remember that I was peaceful. I’ve never been good at being content. I usually find some weak spot I can kick until it breaks, but this summer I’ve been pretty relaxed. There are all kinds of things up in the air, questions I have, decisions I need to make, stuff I want to change, and I know I’ll get to those things, because they’re too important to leave alone, but for now, I guess it’s good enough to have a beer and put my feet up and read for awhile. To drink iced tea in the summer sun and let my skin turn brown(er). And sit outside at night and watch the fireflies, oh the fireflies, how I love them. And have those long rambling conversations that meander along amiably like a summer afternoon. And listen to those violent midwestern thunderstorms and revel in the electricity buzzing in the air. And all these things. And in spite of the things that are difficult, the things that challenge and tire, this is the summer when I learned how to relax and be at peace with myself, to dismiss the thoughts of ways I need to improve, to put them away for another time, and for now just to breathe easy.


10 thoughts on “of tomatoes, memory, and broken computers (not in that order)

  1. hi jam, so good to read you’re okay and embarking on a career as tomato/compost consultant (good summer job – tomatoes are, after all, secret protector of skin from harmful rays)
    probably your book is safe and recoverable. (by the way)


  2. I was happy to find that you had updated your blog. If I had to guess, I’d say you’ll probably look back on Summer 2010 as a Summer of Growing. I do hope your book is electronically recoverable, but if it isn’t, your own memory can always recreate it and will. And when you do recreate it, it’ll be the re-write you would probably have done anyway. So, be of good cheer and keep Woot.com in mind when you shop for a new computer. I’ve found some great deals there.


  3. This is very nice. I’ve been thinking about it since I read it last night, and the last paragraph has been sitting with me since, as a sort of not-so-subtle reminder that I should probably get on board with that, too.


  4. Damn, nephew. You still got it. But I miss you, so don’t go all the way to the dark side of the tomato just yet.


  5. Learning to relax and be content with life’s interrogative pronouns (who, what, when, where, why) is something few people ever get the hang of, so it sounds like your summer has been a most important and beneficial flavor of productive. The accidental resurrection of vegetables is pretty impressive, too.


  6. Nice work–on the post, and the tomatoes, and the peacefulness. My peacefulness never gets remembered properly, but then again I think that’s part of what makes it rewarding when it comes around, because it always feels like a brand-new thing.

    That was weird, maybe.

    Anyway, good to be reading your work again!


  7. Hallo Jam

    I extend sympathy for your feeling of lost artwork. I lost a song I wrote that came out beautifully and I wrote it down so I didn’t even bother singing it to myself. After losing it I lost it. I made three or four whole house tears looking for it. I lost my faith to do songwriting. But three years later it appeared, as perfect as I remembered, in a notebook I was utterly unable to conceive of having written it in.

    I view this as some kind of minor miracle and remember that I am going to do songwriting. And I have made a dozen backups. But I should email my songs cos I don’t think I have “in the cloud” backups.

    You are a beyond good writer – you are a very special writer – you can do this no matter what. This I want to say. You have brought a summery feel to many cold days for me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s