Monday, February 25, 2013

In Praise of a Path and Two Pineapples

I have something to confess. In the last few years, I've been a little off-course. At least, I've felt off-course, and I suspect that many who know me have thought the same. It's hard to explain how one goes from being an English professor to a proofreader in the span of a few years, but I've made personal choices (decidedly right ones) that forced me out of my career. Since then, I've spent a lot of time trying to build something else for myself and wondering if my efforts would yield results. I still don't have a definitive answer, but sometimes I must be reminded that the best things in life often take longer than we have planned.

The long-awaited path through the vegetable garden is complete. Honestly, I frequently doubted we could actually get it done. It was difficult to stay on task each week and make a set of pavers. When we would finish a set and place them, I felt no sense of accomplishment. I just looked at the sandy, weedy space ahead that required more pavers, more time. I could have bought some and saved myself aggravation, but I'm cheap. I also wanted something unique and interesting. Those two words always translate into "more expensive" if you're buying. And I wanted to go a little crazy and stamp lines from a Vita Sackville-West poem into the path. That translates into "impossible to find." So I made them, and they took forever, but now they're done. 

The finished path

Here's an accounting of the path, inspired by Henry David Thoreau:
  • Concrete Frames   Free        (Scrap wood)
  • 30 bags concrete   $75.00    (50 lb. bag = 1 set)
  • Chicken wire           $30.00    (Internal strength)
  • Can of stain            $24.00      
  • Concrete Stamps    $5.00         
                              In all . . . . . . $134.00

That total cost, dear readers, is why I made each one. And once these are fully dry, I'm going to skip up and down that path in celebration. I may even sing "The Wizard of Oz" or something while passing each raised planter bed, especially singing louder by the one dedicated to pineapples.

Pineapples have always felt like a celebration to me. On one of our first days in the new house, I purchased a pineapple from the grocery to mark our new, tropical life. After I cut it, I held the crown in my hand, pondering it. A quick search on the internet confirmed that I could, indeed, grow pineapples in Florida. I just needed to peel off some of the lower leaves and jam the crown into the sand. Then I needed to wait for 2 years. 

For those of you who have read my earlier posts, you are probably groaning, thinking about my great difficulty with patience. "Two years? How could she survive?" you wonder. Well, I was busy, so they weren’t a problem at first. I would occasionally check on them, just to confirm that they were still alive. But when the interior of the house was finished and I could devote more time to the garden, they were a persistent source of concern. Did they have roots? Why were they the same size 6 months on? I relocated them to a raised planter and worried that I was sacrificing too much of my limited space to them. At the one year mark, they were much larger, but I had no real idea how they were doing.

The pineapples at the 1 1/2 year mark

In all honesty, my lack of patience had caused me to doubt those pineapple plants and myself. They were taking up usable space. I should pull them out. The only thing that saved them was my utter lack of time.

At the two year mark, though, I had determined their fate. They were not much longer for this earth. They were doing nothing but getting massive. I doubted my abilities as a gardener. I read failure in those plants. In short, I was Charlie Brown. Impatience had turned to despondency.

Then, one day in August, I was showing some family guests around the garden. I looked at the pineapple plants, pointed, and asked, "What is that?" Of course, they expected me to know.

A ray of hope?

I had absolutely no idea what was happening, but the spiky thing in the middle began to grow rapidly. We all speculated as to what it was. For me, though, it was a beacon of hope. It was a glorious, miraculous unfurling of a flower. It was a daily affirmation as each spike became a beautiful purple bud. I was not the goat.

The flower spike

And 6 months later, those flower spikes had turned into these.

The long-awaited fruit

I am a big fan of ceremony, so once the first one turned golden, I came home from work, lit two candles (having no torches on hand) and handed them to my husband and my mom, queued up Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's music, grabbed a massive knife (reminiscent of a machete), and we marched out in a parade line (down the almost-finished path) to harvest.
Pineapple cutting by candlelight

Those pineapples were worth every bit of effort and wait. They were easily the best fruits I have ever eaten. We should have worn bibs to catch the juice dripping down our chins. And the celebration was pretty fun, too, even if we did feel a little silly.

So sometimes we wonder if we'll ever get on track, if things will turn out okay. Sometimes we fear we're not doing the right thing, that we're headed in the wrong direction. We doubt ourselves. But I like to think that my cheap and wonderful path and those deliciously sweet, shockingly juicy pineapples offer me an important lesson. Life requires work and dedication and perseverance, and though we fear all of our efforts are for nothing, there's always some sweet victory, some cause for celebration. The path will be complete, and we'll find our way.


  1. I love reading these installments each week, and this one is particularly poignant. Your stories of your gardening work make me a little less intimidated by my own garden, the one in my backyard, or in a few months, hopefully, the one on a patio of my apartment in California. Fingers crossed!

    1. Thanks, Dana. That means a lot, especially coming from a gifted writer. If you want recommendations for books about small space gardening, I can supply titles!

  2. Thanks, Becky! That would be helpful! I saw a blog somewhere that talked a bit about gardening "up" instead of "out" (going vertical on patio spaces) which seems cool. This will, of course, all depend on sun exposure on the patio. Here's hoping!

  3. Woohooo!!! Our pineapple tops have only been in the ground 3 months. I guess I'm going to have to wait a little longer but when they are ready, I'm celebrating like you did! THAT'S how to celebrate good food!

    1. They are so worth the wait! The Pineapple Parade plan was met with much rolling of eyes from Turfman (the husband), but I think it's important to re-educate ourselves on how to celebrate the simple things in life. Can't wait to hear about your celebration when the fruits arrive!