Thursday, August 14, 2008

Life Imitating Art. And not. Pumpkin Patch vs. Cabbage Patch

My play Pumpkin Patch is now available from Playscripts, which is very exciting. (Everyone should immediately go buy a copy. It's in a collection of plays, so you'd actually get all kinds of good plays, even though you're really just after this one really good Gabridge play.)

The play is about two people in a community garden--one of whom is the coordinator and catches a woman stealing pumpkins. There's a big dust up, drama all around. No one comes out looking particularly good. I like it because it's a play where people get to smash things on stage, which is fun for everyone.

So today, my son and I rode our bikes to our community garden. It was the first time we'd had two days of sunshine in a row in almost forever. We had a great ride (in our family, we tried to determine everyone's superpowers. Noah's is riding his bike. Mine is that I'm very good at falling asleep--watching TV, reading books, typing on the computer, watching plays). Sun shining overhead. Not too hot. Birds singing. Flowers blooming.

I took my little preliminary tour of our 12' x 27' plot, just to admire it and check for problems, before starting to harvest cucumbers and tomatoes. And I stopped right at the path's edge. There was a hole in the ground where there used to be two very pretty heads of cabbage growing. There was one left of the three that we'd grown, but two had been stolen.

I ranted and railed. What kind of person steals from a garden? Why did they have to take two? I mean, if they were really, really hungry, I could have spared one. But they took a long time to grow. Two? There was a twisted off tap root from one of the cabbages, still fresh. The thief had been there this morning.

"Call 9-1-1," my son advised. He's eight. I had to explain the police might be busy solving other crimes with higher priorities than my missing cabbages. He was a little put off by this, but then gave a big pirate roar and said that if he was a policeman he'd catch the thief and put him in a jail with bees. So the thief would get stung. This sort of punishment can come to mind, I suppose, when there are bees buzzing about, busy pollinating squash.

In Pumpkin Patch, the garden coordinator's mantra is "Don't Plant Pumpkins!" That's what she tell her gardeners, because she knows they'll have their hearts broken. "Plant zucchinis, plant green beans, but don't plant melons, don't plant pumpkins." She's both right and wrong, of course. The gardeners will get their hearts broken, but if they don't plant pumpkins, then nobody gets any pumpkins, and everybody loses. (Confession: when I was coordinator of this garden, I used to issue the same warning, but slightly more gently.)

I never thought to have her say, "Don't plant cabbages." Who steals cabbages?

Unlike in my play, there was no scoundrel at the garden with a bag full of two perfectly round heads of cabbage. Just me, shaking my head and muttering.

The nice thing was that for once, I'd already written and thought about all this. A lot. At least enough to write about it and to be involved with two productions of the play. So I had plenty of practice making up scenarios for why someone would do this and how they should act. Who knew being a writer might actually pay off someday.

I picked the remaining cabbage. (At least they left me this, right?) It could have grown bigger, but it's beautiful and big enough for a meal for our family. (Watch out, kids.) I picked a few tomatoes showing pink, too, because I find tomatoes more tempting than cabbages, myself, and my faith in humanity was just a little tarnished.

But I'll plant more cabbages next year. And today, once I was done harvesting and then planting new seeds of chard, spinach, lettuce, and beets for my fall crop, I weeded the garden of some friends. They're busy and have two small kids and the plot was desperately overgrown with grass and bindweed and other good sized chokers. So I filled up bucket after bucket of weeds until you could see the eggplants again and smell the dill and thyme.

There wasn't anything I could do to get my cabbages back, or keep them from vanishing next time, but I could at least make sure that somebody will have a pleasant surprise the next time they visit the garden. That helped a lot.

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