just ponderin'

… on looking, and seeing

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The Gift

Every Thursday, beginning at 8:00 a.m., Boothbay hosts a farmers’ market.

It’s hard to miss because someone, and I don’t know who because I have never gotten there early enough, puts out a big, giant sign that says “Farmers Market Today” and then it all begins.

Cars pull into and onto grass all willy-nilly, but respectfully enough that everyone can get out (well, usually).  People emerge from their cars with all manner of bags and sacks and totes, each intended to lug the day’s booty back to a place where it can be displayed or prepared or consumed.

There are people everywhere.  Meetings and greetings of the human and canine variety, and I went this past week with the intent of photographing some of those people and their dogs.

But then…

I was standing in line at my favorite farm vendor, the one with the best flowers and basil, tomatoes and corn and radishes (as judged, by me), and I was not in a hurry.

I was waiting in line, looking here and there and snapping a pic every once in a while, and I became aware that the woman behind me was getting a bit antsy.

It started with one of those niggly feelings, a sense that the energy around me was not as content as I was on the inside. Then that inkling was joined by a few audible sighs.

Then I definitely heard a whispered, “Jesus!”

I glanced behind me, and a very frustrated pair of eyes, and matching pissed off and pursed mouth greeted me.  The woman’s chin, acting like an index finger, jutted out and pointed at something going on ahead of me, so I turned back around to check it out.

In front of me was a very large man.  Brawny, big.  Rugged.

He had the tanned, sort of sunburnt skin of someone who worked outside, maybe even on a boat. His hands were all calloused, his face deeply lined.

A fisherman, I thought. Maybe a lobsterman.

And then he spoke.

He had a great Maine accent, and a super deep and gravelly voice that matched his massive frame.

He was pointing at a bin full of bright red tomatoes, so shiny in the morning sun that they looked polished.

“This ‘un?” he asked.  And then his hand would move over just a bit, and he would point again. His eyes were pale green.

“This ‘un?”

Beside him stood a wonderfully weathered woman.  She was smiling, and she had a pretty awesome smile. She saw me look at her, and she looked at me, and kept the smile on her face.  At that point I thought we’d get along just fine.

He said again, ‘This ‘un?”

And she said, in a voice much softer than I would have guessed, “Yep. That’s the one.”

And he reached into the bin, with his whole big hand, and scooped up the one, single tomato that made the cut.

He turned to her and kissed her on the forehead and said, “A gift for you ma de-ah.”

And she – I think literally but I can’t be sure – beamed at him.

And the whole time he was choosing, and even through his magnanimous gesture of officially presenting the tomato to his beloved, the woman behind me was making it very clear – very clear – that he was taking way too much time, that she needed to get to the head of the line.  And also? That she thought she had a one way communication channel to the son of God, because she said his name so often under her breath.

The recipient of the tomato laughed, and she and her man went forward and paid a small fortune for a single tomato, perfect for whatever it was that she was planning.

And when they walked away, hand in hand, him leaning way over to give her another kiss on the top of her head, I moved up to the front of the line and presented my basil and tomatoes and flowers and corn and radishes to one of the farmers who grew them.

I was all smiles.

What a scene.

A love story, at the farmers’ market, and I had a front row seat (or front of the line view, but same difference).

The woman behind me was called up by another farmer, and was soon beside me, thwumping her produce on the table and saying, “It’s about time. Jesus, that guy took forever.”  

She said it as if they didn’t belong there, but she did.

The farmer helping her looked at her, and then caught my eye as I looked over.

I’d paid by this point, and was stashing my take in my big canvas tote bag, the one used only for the farmers’ market.

I smiled at the farmer – I see him each and every week during the summer – and then scooted behind the woman, past some rather excellent looking yellow beans.

She was still going on, explaining how the man took, like, five minutes to choose a damned tomato.

And I realized that I wasn’t irritated by her silly ranting.  I was kind of gobsmacked, in a way I didn’t expect.

I felt the way you feel when you’ve seen something so great and you can’t believe the people around you didn’t see it…. like an a flying saucer landing (friendly aliens of course) or a bald eagle or Marshal Dillon Dingle coming on the first call.

She missed the whole thing.

That woman would be pissed off for days, because she’d bothered to look…

but she hadn’t bothered to see.

Me?

I watched a man who, by all appearances, would have had The Rock, Chuck Norris, and Darth Vadar peeing themselves if they met him in a dark alley…

I watched this man buy a single tomato for the woman he loves.

And I watched her receive it as if it was a crowned jewel.

A present for her, a gift to me.

And it’ll make me smile the next time I cut up a tomato.

And, you know, maybe the tomato after that.

And then the one after that too.

Thanks for readin’.

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