We live in El Paso, the Desert of Chihuahua, so all winter long we eat fresh lettuce from Lee's lettuce garden. It's not a big space--maybe 4'x12'--half of which Lee uses for her lettuce. I double-dig beforehand. A manly chore. Then Lee plants seeds. A mixture of seeds from Cook's Gardens and Seed Savers heirloom seeds. The ritual begins sometimes late September. Maybe October. The seeds sprout. "My little babies," she calls them. Grandkids gather around to watch and help. She waters the garden, she tends the tiny plants, and in three or four weeks she's thinning and pulling leaves from the larger plants. She's putting little plants in our store-bought lettuce salads. The plants thrive in the cool desert air. If the weather promises a freeze, she's out there laying sheets over the bed. Soon we're eating salads with lettuce totally from the garden. Fresh lettuce during the Christmas holidays is exotic and delicious. Lee makes a wonderful salad--feta cheese, red onion, red bell peppers, salt and pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar. We feast on salads. November. December. January. This last January we went off to Boston for a conference. We figured the garden would be gone when we got back and Lee was already planning what seeds she would be planting to get us to April. But January was peculiar. A very wet month. We came home to a flourishing garden. Now the heat is coming, the hot winds of spring, and Lee has an abundance of lettuce. The lettuce won't last much longer. We've not bought lettuce from the store in months. She making gifts of lettuce to neighbors and friends. Our evening salads get larger and larger. Tonight again we feasted on a wonderful salad. Such a pleasure. Below is a poem I wrote several years ago about Lee's garden.
This morning I made love with the lettuce picker
Every year the lettuce picker plants her lettuce in October.
Lettuce loves October in the Chihuahua Desert.
October passes and November comes.
The lettuce grows leafy and happy.
The lettuce picker slips out to the garden in the morning.
I will not tell you how old I am.
I will not tell you how old she is.
But her legs are white, her rear end
is clad in purple pajamas
and is raised like a flag planted
in the dirt
for the preservation of love.
Today is Sunday, the day of Sabbath.
A day to remember ourselves.
A day to worship all that is holy.
This is what we do when we make love.
Reading this poem after all of this time I think of Judson Crews. Just yesterday I saw a picture of him on Larry Goodell's Facebook page. Good old Judson. He's alive and still doing a little bit of kicking. Living up in Taos. Women around him, of course. An ancient man now. He certainly understands what wild and beautiful stuff can happen between a man and a woman when they are together harvesting lettuce from the garden.