Our garden consists of 82 tomato plants, 6 green pepper plants, a few hot peppers and just a couple vines of cucumbes. However, those cukes are hearty. My most recent plucking yielded 15 new ones, and I had just checked about 2 days ago.
Picking cucumbers is tricky business. First, the dang things are prickly. DO NOT RUB YOUR HANDS TOGETHER. Ouch. Also, the part that connects them to the vine: strong stuff. (I’m contemplating how to use cucumber stem as sticky tack so that Miss M’s foam letter O will stay on her wall, because the 3m squares clearly are not working.)
(If there is a secret to cucumber harvesting I’m clearly not aware of, I beg of you to share your secrets. I will pay you One Million
Not only do cucumbers have the evolutionary survival tactic of remaining green while ripe and thus blending in with surroundings, but their choice of placement is spot on. I have discovered it’s nearly impossible to see a cucumber by looking at the plant head-on. Instead, you have to rummage around, pretending to look for tomatoes and steal a glance over and notice that a nearby vine has 14 green prolate spheroids dangling alongside you. You have to get on the ground and look up. I suppose one could even begin digging up the garlic heads and see a cucumber sprouting out easier than if you went up to the vine and looked straight at it.
Just when you think you’re done – the heavy bucket protruding and you’re wondering if the neighbors locked their car doors, because if not, you’re dropping in a minimum of 5 cucumbers and a quart of tomatoes – you see 4 more. Just hanging out, in what would appear to be clear view. Except, it’s not, if you’re looking directly at the plant.
Not long ago I took a yoga class with a special guest teacher who had us trying a variety of standing balance poses. Note: balance poses are Yoga’s gift to us so we can practice not being competitive. If you think you’re a bad ass yogi, start standing on one leg and swinging the other one around.
As an exercise, she had us in Tree pose and asked us to set our gaze across the room on a specific focal point. By narrowing our eyes, it becomes easier to root into the ground and maintain balance. Then she asked us to look at a spot on the floor right in front of us. I was not the only one to topple over.
It turns out we tend to loose our sense of balance when we keep a shortsighted focus.
The rhythms of summer have nearly evaporated. JJ returned to setting an alarm and prepping the coffee the night before, as if the coffeepot would ever wake up before me. Though my own 2 school kids have another week at home, we’ve thrust ourselves into school-year pace. And I’m exhausted.
Historically, I’ve kept a sacred 1.5-2 hour afternoon window of stillness, that precious time in which work is produced and sanity recovers itself. However, this autumn I have 2 older children who outgrew naps. They still head upstairs to “rest” but at most I can get an hour of tranquility before they just start finding new ways to annoy from across the house.
It is so easy to look at life right now and wonder how in the world it’s all going to happen this year. The school stuff. The church stuff. The work stuff. The spending quality time and soaking in precious young days with my children stuff. Trips to the museum, trips to the zoo, trips to friends houses and trips to grandparents’ homes. And then there’s the eating. All of the food that I seem to be cooking all of the time. This morning I made pot full of oatmeal, a dozen muffins and one kid drank half my smoothie while another also devoured the last bowl of Rice Krispies. By the time we finally finished breakfast, someone asked if it was time for lunch.
If I zoom in and only look at life right in front of me, chances are, I will fall over. Balance is laughable. Looking at our state of life right now, head-on, I will see no fruit – only a mess of vines and leaves growing in 15 directions, threatening to suffocate my tomatoes.
A step back and slightly to the side and I see the bigger picture. I see children enjoying days together. I see play. I see a family enjoying healthy dinners, sitting around the table together and talking about the day. When you turn off the zoom, you don’t see splashes of pizza sauce on the counter top or the toy dishes spilled out of the basket for the 19th time.
The Motherhood Balancing Act requires us to firmly plant one foot, strengthening muscles you didn’t know existed (which will be sore after the first few uses) while you stretch and move the other leg. It’s a tug and pull while remaining rooted. We’re forced to be in the moment, dealing with each day as it comes but we often forget another gift: the view from the big picture.
From time to time, pulling back and remembering how we’re not just filling days but building a life, gives us the strength we need to stay firm. We take a deep breath, we look at another spot across the room and enjoy the surprise of finding yet another treat ripening right in front of us.