We are blessed to live so close to the beach. From a narrow strip of soft white sand we can look to the Southwest at an impossibly far horizon on a bed of blue that stretches over 7,500 miles before splashing up as gentle waves on the East coast of Mindanao in the Philippines. The beach is a good place to remember that humans are land creatures on a watery planet.
This Sunday my wife, Toddler Harbat, and I went to the beach for a picnic and to get sand between our toes, feel salt spray on our faces, and hear the shushing of surf. Toddler Harbat fell asleep on the way and awoke in my arms as we walked out onto the sand.
“Look! There’s boys and girls swimmin’ in the water!”
Indeed, the waves were packed with body surfers, boogie boarders, and a few risk-taking surfers. The beach I picked is a small hidden crescent of sand in La Jolla. With turquoise waves curling into sheets of foamy white and boogie boarders in black wetsuits you could mistake the scene for penguins frolicking on an ice floe. TH was wary of the waves, preferring to run toward the rocks, sculptural shelves and water-cut swirls at the base of the sea walls. After a PB&J sandwich that was dropped in the sand and washed down with a swig from her water bottle that fell nozzle-down in the sand, TH raced over the rocks like a mountain goat kid. Sure-footed and fearless she grabbed our hands and guided my wife and I into two-footed dismounts from the rocks with a theatrical “One…two…THREE!”
With each jump, I felt myself falling in love even more with my two girls. Sometimes to grow as a family you need to jump together, six sandy feet in defiance of gravity.
The other half of my weekend was more terrestrial, truly. My wife has been setting down roots, planting the garden she always knew she could create but never had the land or time. Now in the long sun of summer the garden is paying us back. Japanese eggplants are curving like oriental sabers.
Green beans are just about ready.
We’re going to have squash to last until the next millennium.
Peppers are making an appearance.
And then there’s the zucchini. See that small grey car behind the monster zucchini plant?
Unless we’re careful it’ll be eaten up, Little Shop of Horrors style, along with our house and part of the neighborhood. When you see a normal zucchini on Monday and think, “We’ve got to harvest that,” by Tuesday it’ll have turned into something like this, a four-pound 11-ounce behemoth.
We’re awash in zucchini now, but in the dead of winter when we defrost sliced zucchini, shredded zucchini, diced zucchini, umm…chunky zucchini, and taste the green…nope, I think I’ll still be tired of zucchini by then. Here’s the thing: it’s one plant! For next year’s garden, we can’t plant less, we just have to figure out what to do with all the zucchini. And zucchini won’t go away. The scraps we chucked into the compost pile have sprouted another plant in there. We’re giving it away and yet still our kitchen table groans under the weight of all this zucchini.
But I can’t complain. Each night I go out in the fading light to water the plants and see food there, nestled in full leaves in our planter beds. We’re slowly cutting the cord to the grocery store, and now even to the farmer’s market, as we harvest our own vegetables. Corn is growing, a pumpkin and a cantaloupe are in a race like inflating balloons, and soon we’ll have peppers and chard. The grapefruit, lemon, and orange trees are full of blossoms and infant fruit and it’s almost time to make pesto from all the basil. Growing this garden is a joy and something we’ve done as a family from the beginning. Toddler Harbat knows that we pick things from the garden to put on our pizza, and that zucchini comes from a plant with leaves the size of umbrellas and not from a plastic grocery bag. This gives me hope.