By Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar
Photo Credit: Portrait by Sue Moran
My body woke with anticipation on harvest mornings. The moment of entrance into the greenhouse, each sense stimulated beyond words, was transition from the “real world” out there to my world in here: my values, my goals, my pleasures, my meaning.
My summer in a CSA farm greenhouse was a respite I took, checking out of my profession for a year to find myself and be there for my little girl as I navigated a significant transition in my life.
There is nothing else on this earth like growing food, except, perhaps, making love. Planting a seed smaller than the letters on this screen, and nurturing it into fruition is an act of truly outrageous hope. Transplanting it into the earth, in harmony with the moon and its pull on the waters of this globe, is sheer voodoo magic. Harvesting that eggplant, beet green or carrot, and preparing it for others is an act of love. Doing so on a small scale or for an entire family or a community is communion. And believe me, it can be a process so pleasurable, it will transform you.
Each morning, as I noted the temperatures, humidity and irrigation status in the greenhouse, I turned to music. It was usually jazz, the soft moody trumpet of Mathias Eick, sultry samba, or the velvety, throaty sounds of a Brazilian chanteuse. Keeping it slow, putting a small smile in my morning as I moved into an atmosphere of music and voluptuous fecundity.
Having produced fruit for three years already, their muscled limbs roped over string supports in a fragrant wall of green. Did you even know that tomatoes could grow continuously—year after year, getting longer and longer—15, 20, even 30 feet of vine? I would love to see them in their wild state, scrambling the Andes Mountains of South America.
Nothing else smells like a tomato plant, such an intimately familiar fragrance, deeply lodged in the soma. I feel the yumminess of summer salads, of wet slabs layered with lettuce and bacon. I can see my mom and dad in the garden, a quiet connection between them, like a secret. My mama loved growing tomatoes.
The greenhouse tomatoes grew in rows, in raised beds, two feet off the ground, with pathways in between. The raised aspect made harvesting like a ballet, always, to the music of the day—mood or weather-dependent: reggae, solo piano, Kirtan; sounds, rhythms, movements to get lost in, moving from plant to plant, bed to bed.
Each raised bed was a curtain from the sunlit ceiling to the shadowy soils below, with folds upon folds of jungly tomato. Stretching and reaching to the heavy-hanging fruit, I’d balance and lean, as though bouldering or breathing into yoga, to get to the next. Plump. Jewel.
My body warmed inside, with effort, over time, as the harvest took hours. My mind took flight, lost in music, fragrance, movement. Ultimately, my body found a bliss: luxuriating in the slow dance of harvest: searching, picking, pulling, perspiring. Off came the cotton button down. Up went the hair. Shoes, too, inevitably, my soles and toes flexing on the edge of the beds, brown arms diving between limbs, seeking, reaching.
Hot. Sweat would blossom across my forearms, my calves. Moisture dripped down the back of my calves, the small of my back, from under my breasts, my chin, across the back of my neck, running in rivulets; everything, slick.
Tomatoes have body hair, just like us. A fine, glistening fuzz lining the tendons and muscles of their boughs, on the surfaces of leaves, leaves that by nature, grab and touch and tease. As I slipped an arm here, moved a leg there, seeking, its downy limbs brushed back. The touch was so very sensual, just barely brushing the moisture of my own limbs, a stirring of coolness amid the humidity.
Heat thickened, vines caressed and fruits called. Jazz continued to penetrate and my body came alive, a hunger setting in.
Sun Gold, Black Pearl, Bloody Butcher — luminous colors filled with depth and sunlight, demure jewels hiding in foliage, or proud husky ones, vying to be pulled at first. On the more humid, hotter days, their outer skin was so taut flesh often split upon touch, the pulp within bursting forth. Different shapes and sizes in the hand, warm to the touch. Feathering fingers through cherry tomato clusters, pulling several at once—oft times, my fingers, coming out wet with their release. The tumescent flesh of pendulous heavy ones gave under pressure, pushing back; ripe, alive.
Temptation and indulgence; this beautiful flirtatious dance. At last, placing them in my mouth—full, warm, round. Squeezing with tongue and jaw, awaiting the pop, the first sun-hot squirt of tangy juice and flesh, its gelatinous seeded mess. It was exciting, knowing the deliciousness I was growing, gathering, for others to delight in.
Tomato harvests stoked a hard desire that left me out of my mind by the end of the afternoon. I’d often walk to the spring creek and dip my head in its currents to “shake out of it” before picking up my child from preschool. The parched ground, cracking in the July heat, and waves of pasture grass gone to tassel, were surreal after the intense verdancy in the greenhouse.
With the inconceivable array of emotions I’ve experienced in the realm of horticulture, tomato harvests are singularly the most erotic moments I’ve had in a garden. I’ve shared these moments with very few; it feels out of bounds; and private. I don’t want to degrade it with words often used in porn or romance novels. Those days were far more precious than that. I was connecting to my longing, to my desire—humankind’s primal, fundamental need for deep connections with Life—of which we are an intrinsic part.
Plants, the land, the web of life around us has always charged me so. The first states of bliss I recall have all been in nature, as a child of 4 meditating on the pink, red and gold blooming through sun-kissed eyelids; as a teen of 17, digging and planting my first garden; and apparently, as a single mom in my 40s, aroused in a greenhouse.
As a landscape designer driven by our stories and the human condition, I’ve always used plants and words to hopefully bring all of this alive for others. I could not possibly keep these pleasures, or the secrets of my own faith, all to myself. Nature heals. Nature infuses. Nature unites, nourishes, pleases. When I sense the effect that abundant, cultivated spaces have on the human spirit— flowers, leaves, flutterbyes, hummingbirds, sunlight, soft breezes, order, chaos, beauty, life— I see a role we can take on for each other, creating these spaces, these moments, for one another.
And that’s how we can transform not only ourselves, but also our world: through outrageous acts of love, hope and magic — physical, pleasurable, hedonic effort. So go for it. Connect with your inner tomato.
Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar is a solo-flyer mama content making a life and cultivating community in the Bonedale Bubble. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org