Thursday, February 25, 2010

Perchance to dream of green

If you ever wondered what kind of dreams might be summoned after a multi-course meal with half of a chocolate cream pie, hot green chile sauce with pork and flour tortillas drenched in melted butter (and washed down by copious amounts of coffee, beer and, as a delayed aperitif, white wine), I have an answer for you: bad.

And, possibly, illuminating.

In my defense, let me first state that my meals are normally spicy; adding a chocolate cream pie was—as a first course, no less—an anomaly brought about by the absence of my wife’s guiding hand. I was alone, I was stressed, it seemed a good idea at the time.

By midnight it seemed less a good idea. And shortly thereafter the Dark Man came.

He, or something like him, has haunted my nightmares for decades. Though the settings change, alternating from the dark streets of lower downtown Denver to deserted mine compounds in central New Mexico, the core has always been a mysterious figure lurking beyond the boundaries of sight. Or light, as is the case. The figure brings a crippling sense of dread and fear, almost supernatural in its malevolence. He has stalked me across three states and countless nights, and after my late-night three-course dinner he finally revealed himself.

It wasn’t a pleasant encounter. Though the location was sketchy, I remember being struck with a paralyzing coldness spreading through my body as I turned to see a figure standing in the middle of the street, a shape wreathed in a nimbus of black smoke that emphasized more than concealed his presence. Terror overwhelmed me. As my knees buckled, a winged creature swooped down and snatched me to safety.

Next time I skip the coffee, definitely.

As unsettling as the dream was, another has surfaced as a counterbalance. The latest is more of a waking dream, almost wishful thinking though with substance, and it was triggered not by an overabundance of mismatched foods but a visit to Miller’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Washington. Ostensibly I was there to write an article for the local newspaper. Freud, were he around, would undoubtedly discern underlying psychoanalytic causes, all of which hinged on the long cold winter of 2009-2010.

A raw wind sharp as razors flayed exposed skin on the afternoon I dropped by. Trees were barren, their limbs reaching in supplication toward the relentlessly gray sky. The land had gone gray and featureless, and an early dusk was clamping down, but once inside the door a scent of blossoms hung heavy in the air, almost cloying in its potency. And beneath it something else, something familiar if not elusive.

Gene Miller, who with his wife, Midge, owns the business, gave me the grand tour. I was expecting an interview and not what came next: the haunting smell of fresh dirt, potting soil, humid air and a chlorophyllous freshness wafting off rows of green shoots, some of which sported gaudy red and pink blooms.

If the hues and textures were shocking to a color-deprived winter captive, they were nothing compared to the memories they invoked, of gardening under a warm golden sun, emerald lawns sprinkled with dandelions and spreading carpets of delicate purple mustards, the smell of rich raw earth seething with nightcrawlers, even the crisp paper sleeves of seed packets and the dry rustling of multitudes of embryonic promises. And then I saw the tomato plants.

There were only a dozen or so, each about five inches tall, of a variety new to the store. As Gene described it, the plant grows up and out before spilling into long entwined vines studded with grape tomatoes. His imagery was more vivid than he could know, for in the space of a heartbeat my salivary glands exploded with the tart acidic flavor of tomatoes I have known, from tiny cherry varieties to romas, Brandywines, Early Boys and exotics, each with its own unique shape, color and taste. His words fell away and I stood in my garden with a trowel in hand. It was spring and birds were singing and the south breeze redolent of Gulf moisture and the coming summer, and winter was banished to a place beyond our interior world where the imagined is more real than reality, where woods are shaded and gardens heavy with fruit and the Dark Man has no place.


Deb Southerland said...

So, number one, you really need to write the Dark Man Stories, and if you have to eat chocolate pie on top of habanero, then do it. It would help you work through it and you would become rich, as well. I can already see the movie version.

Number two, do you remember the name of the new grape trailing tomato because my mouth is watering right now? You would definitely have to have food scenes in your Dark Man Stories, too.

Tom Parker said...

Deb -- It's called a Tumbling Tom Tomato. And I can't wait! Unless, of course, the Dark Man gets me first...

shoreacres said...

I think it was your Dark Man who hacked my Twitter account tonight and sent out interesting tweets to my whole danged list. Luckily it's a small list - but there went the evening, trying to sort that one out.

So, I will only say: chocolate pie is good. Good-hearted winged creatures are good. Green is good, especially when it's alive and growing. And tomatoes are the best.

As for the Dark Man... maybe we should busy him with going after cyber-jerks ;-)

Wes said...

Sheesh, you need to buy better beer!!

Tom Parker said...

When he's not lurking in my nightmares, the Dark Man probably spends his time hacking Internet accounts. Sorry to hear about your Twitter problem. It's true that some people have too much time on their hands.

Tom Parker said...

Wes -- If memory serves me, I quaffed the last of my Sierra Nevada Christmas Pale Ale. That's about as good as it gets.

Deb said...

Thanks, Tom. Glad to see you're up and at 'em this morning.

Tom Parker said...

Deb -- Yup, up since 2:30 a.m. I'm cautiously optimistic about my cold and back. Gee, I might live through this yet.