Under Pressure

      A single Mason jar filled with green, undeveloped cherry tomatoes I picked before the first frost and pickled with dill sprigs steals my imagination as I look up at the kitchen soffit where it sits.  For days, I have been caught in emergent expectations for what might be contained there—a storehouse of stories or a cluster of poems—sealed by atmospheric pressure.  Yes, it is true: the writer’s life exists in the indeterminate and vacillating boundaries shared by observation and expression, suspended between what is tactile and what is written, pressured somehow to desire release.

For me, it is gravitas that pushes me to associate observation with expression, to realize analogies and believe they engender communicable truths.  What is that element of grave solemnity that fuels expression, though?  Why can’t I separate gravitas from very real gravity?

The tomatoes float against each other like planets compressed in a closed galaxy, and because they are green and semi-translucent, they glow like so many moons and planets, a universe contained by gravity.  There they are, still and somehow somnolent, until a little shake sends them bumping and bobbing, jockeying to resettle in a pattern of least resistance.

Since I am not a physicist, I know the spheres in the universe are no accident, for they are remnants of something molten having been shaped and cooled by an invisible gravitational force.  I accept this and so many more invisible laws of nature, and I know they have made a difference in life—without us knowing or particularly caring—and we are likely to take them for granted, until somebody begins to think about laws acting in a universe of home canned green tomatoes, until something about their translucent nature spells want, even the gravitas of isolation engendering desire.

The tiny tomatoes have a dense, solemn quietude to them, or is it my own quietude I experience as I reach for them?  It took me hours to process them and to put them there, sitting on the soffit’s ledge, sealed under atmospheric pressure.

 I will likely get that affirmative pop—release—when I undo the seal and serve them to someone for supper.

 In the end, I can barely span the surface of what I want to say about canning these undeveloped tomatoes, even less about the unwinding universe that surrounds me, and yet there is contentment in the apprehension of the laws and the certainty that beneath them all, I have an expression to discover and a message to share.


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