Cucumber Sandwiches

It’s a hot July afternoon, steamy with showers and intermittent sunshine. Each round of it builds heat and pressure. Tomorrow’s promise is for an even hotter day, when the temperature will cross the line and go into the nineties, something we find worthy of grocery  line chatter, along with the nor’easters that will barrel in from the Atlantic a mere six months from now.

It’s the perfect day for a cucumber sandwich.

TT got a call this morning from EB, his big-garden buddy, alerting him to the mass of green beans that are ready for picking. I can picture EB standing in the middle of their four acre vegetable patch, cell phone in hand, squash plants tickling his knees. It’s quite a place, the big garden. It’s more than a garden though. Over the years it’s become a little community, with shared spaces, exchanges of onions for corn or potatoes, or vegetables in exchange for planting and weeding help as the season progresses.

We didn’t plant green beans in our backyard garden this year, so this is a welcome call, and I add “green beans” to my errands list and make a point of taking a tote bag with me when I set out.

Well, you know I can’t stop at picking just green beans. I spotted a couple of small tomatoes that had ripened when no one was looking. Their red skins were blushing from underneath the protection of their leaves, so I picked those, which are enough for tonight’s salad. I heard a couple of bright yellow summer squash calling my name, and even though we have some in our own yard, I had to oblige.

Then I meandered over to the cucumber patch, and glory! What a year it has been for cucumbers! Before you could say Israeli salad, I had ten of them in my tote bag, picked from just three plants. I’ll be making an Israeli salad for twenty next Saturday. I guess having enough cukes for that won’t be a problem.

This is the long way around to tell you this:

I got home, mixed up a batch of double chocolate zucchini bread and had that in the oven in less than half-an-hour. My stomach rumbled its discontent at being empty as I then eyed the cucumbers, which were still warm from the field.

It was meant to be, so I went for it and slathered my multi-grain bread with more mayonnaise than would be considered respectable in polite company, doused that with salt and pepper, then peeled the best looking cuke of the bunch and trimmed it so its length matched the size of my bread. Then I sliced it into thin lengthwise slices, and stacked the slices on the bread.

Such luxury the bounty of summer brings to the gardener. An entire cucumber on a sandwich. This was no fussy tea sandwich. This was a two-fisted, open your mouth wide to take a bite, feast.

As I was constructing my lunch, a mantra waltzed through my mind.

“Thank you, dear mother earth, thank you, dear mother, thank you.”

And before I knew it, I was sobbing in grief for my mother, who I miss every day, as I have for more than twenty-nine years.

And I was sobbing in gratitude for her, and for the times the two of us would sit at the table on a hot summer’s afternoon enjoying a cucumber sandwich together.

Sometimes it’s the littlest thing that will trigger a flood.

 

 

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Affirmation

Affirmation:  All my needs are met on time and in abundance.

So one morning last week, Wednesday, maybe Thursday, I walked into the bagel shop where I buy my jalapeno bagel and a cup of coffee fairly regularly, alright, regularly, and as I walked in the door I spotted a man at a table. His coffee was steaming, and there was a mostly-eaten muffin on the table. It looked like blueberry. Between his foot and the wall was a bag, and his foot was resting against the bag as if to protect it.

His clothes were not clean, but he was neatly dressed and his shirt was tucked in.

The man had a kind looking face. Perhaps it is because he was asleep. Perhaps he is simply a kind man. A kind-faced man, fast asleep in a bagel shop. And then I saw it.

As I was placing my order, another man, a decade or so older than me, came into the shop. He stopped and looked at the sleeping gentleman with a “get a job you lazy bum” sort of snarl on his face. He then looked at me for assent and confirmation that the sleeping man was a no-good bum. I ignored the surly man and continued with my order.

“…and would you do me a favor?” I asked.

“Sure, what’s that?”

“Would you please make sure that the man who is asleep at that table gets a plain bagel and peanut butter on the side before he leaves?” I spoke quietly so as not to let the stranger know what I was doing.

The clerk knew what I meant and went about getting the order together. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the surly man realize my plan, and honest to God, I felt his energy shift from contempt to understanding. Long story short, the clerk gave me my order, put the second order aside for later and gave me my total. I paid him with a ten dollar bill and dropped a dollar in the tip jar and then dropped in the eighty-six cents change as a thank you. It was my last ten dollar bill for a few days, but that didn’t matter. I can make my own breakfast in a pinch. Because I have a kitchen and a refrigerator, a toaster oven, and everything I need to feed myself on a regular basis. And then some.

I think you know where I’m headed here, but I’ll finish the story anyway. Before I could pack up my wallet and take out my keys, the older man, who had once worn contempt on his face, was putting a dollar in the tip jar. I don’t think he realized that he hadn’t placed his order yet.

I left the place in tears. I don’t tell you this story to brag about what a generous or kind person I am. In fact, I am a far distance from standard with a lot of catching up to do. I’m telling you this because of what happened to me.

In those few moments in the bagel shop, what was once my affirmation that I declare with a confident voice and quaking heart, became a humble prayer of gratitude. All my needs are met, on time, and in abundance. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Haven’t seen either of the two men again. May they both go in peace.