Friday, August 27, 2010

Judging from the pictures and testimonies in NOLAFemmes excellent Katrina Photo Project, recovery from a trauma such as the destruction of the levees is slow in coming and still hard to bear, the scars on our homes hinting at the ones we carry with us every second. The big gestures, such as Brad Pitt's investment in rebuilding part of the Lower Ninth, are inspiring, but the smaller ones have to get us through each day.

Earlier this year, my son came home with a tomato plant. "I bought this at the farmer's market, Mom!" he happily exclaimed, presenting it to me with a flourish.

"But you don't even like tomatoes," I told him, wondering where in the world I could put such a gift, and how long it would last. Probably not long, I thought.

"I know. I got it for you," he said with a smile.

It sat and wilted outside for a day, unplanted in firm ground, until I thought of the hope in my goofy kid's smile, the pureness of his gesture, the good faith inherent in his small pact with me over a plant: I gave you this, but you have to give back to it in return. Forget the fact that I had a thumb that was anything but green in the matters of flora...I couldn't let this kid's face fall on seeing this plant wither. I had to at least try.

I got potting soil. I got some planters, some tools, a watering can, the sunniest spot around our homestead - our second-floor balcony - was prepped and readied, and the tomato was placed sideways in the fresh dirt, its roots buried with the hopes that they'd find the spot a pleasing one. And, surprisingly enough, it liked the spot and decided to grow.

More plants from school joined that tomato plant - strawberry, a sunflower, some radishes at the end of the school year. They went into soil as well. Some of them didn't make it, but the little guy and I talked these things over among ourselves and with others as to why they didn't one point, my son said, "We'll need to put the sign on it, Mom."

"What sign?" I asked. And then I remembered. It was on a poor, crusty carcass of an amaryllis plant a relative sent me that was in a glass cabinet in one of our front rooms; she'd also thought to enclose a nice sign that said I TRIED, BUT IT DIED.

The heart of what everyone here says about what happened five years ago, is still, at long last, that we want everyone all over this country in their deepest heart of hearts to awaken compassion within and to try to understand. Once you get it, try to act on it for the benefit of not just New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but for yourselves. Try to be better people.

Sure, not everything's going to work out perfectly - our strawberry was toast, the tomato plant never gave us tomatoes, the radishes did their thing and then we never harvested them, and the sunflower - that glorious, glorious sunflower - bloomed when we were traveling, so we never even got to see pictures of it, but it is that promise, that potential that has us trying to sprout some more sunflower seeds even as we speak...because whatever seems lost can, once again, be found. And we are still here to keep on trying.


Final $5 question, y'all. Sorry it's up so late, but I had to help pack a bunch of emergency food boxes over at Second Harvest with the Rising Tide get yourself apprised of the rules and register/donate to Rising Tide. Your final question:

What kind of tomato plant did the little guy bring home?
  1. Creole
  2. Cherry
  3. Cherokee
  4. Plum

You have 'til 9AM tomorrow, and I hope to see y'all tonight at the Howlin' Wolf or tomorrow over there. Act right and bring some nonperishable food items with you for Second Harvest.

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