I stop at the farm stand just up the road, lured by the sign advertising fresh strawberries. It's still early in the season but I'm hoping for a quart or two to cut up and serve with angel-food cake with a dollop of whipped cream on top. I walk into the greenhouse and find just four quarts of strawberries sitting on the counter next to the cash register. The berries are small but very red and they smell like spring and rain and sweet sweet earth. My lucky day! I choose two quarts, set them beside the cash register, and get out my cash.
But where is the cashier? Out in the parking lot chatting with a middle-aged farmer-looking dude with a beard, a baseball cap, and a pickup truck. Fine--let her have her fun. I'm not in a hurry--much. When I left the house, I told the old folks I'd be zipping up the road to fetch us some strawberries for our supper, so they're not likely to start panicking for another 10 or 12 minutes.
Besides, it's peaceful inside the greenhouse, a gentle breeze rolling through the open windows and rustling the greenery. Here are some petunias in a shade I've never seen before, a sort of soft, buttery yellow, and here's a stunning display of flowering plants marked down after Mother's Day to a mere $110. I've done my flower planting for the year but it can't hurt to look.
I glance out the door. There's the cashier, still chatting with Mr. Farmer. The strawberries are $4.75 a quart and if I had a ten-spot I'd leave it there and let them keep the change, but all I have is a twenty-dollar bill, so I guess I'll wait.
Kind of a zen moment, really. How often do I get a chance to stand around a greenhouse breathing deeply of all that great oxygen and earthy odors? Here's a table of herbs--thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, two kinds of chives. I've already planted my herbs this year but it doesn't hurt to sniff. Half the joy of growing herbs is inhaling their aroma. I don't see any fennel plants in the greenhouse, but every time I walk past my herb garden, I stuff some fennel into my mouth and savor the fresh burst of licorice. That's not the best way to assure a bountiful harvest of fennel seeds, but with herbs, flavor and aroma are part of the harvest.
I glance out the door. There's that cashier, still chatting with the farmer. I'm not in a hurry, I tell myself. If I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I could be in Xanadu, except the muddy Muskingum looks nothing like a sacred river. A bird flies into the greenhouse and flits around. Is that a nest up in the corner? It flies out. I close my eyes and try to cherish the moment.
The moment is getting a little long. Where is that cashier? The old folks will be calling me any minute, wondering why I've been gone so long. If this is what they call customer service, it's a wonder they have any customers at all!
I walk outside, look meaningfully at the cashier, clear my throat. "Oh," she says, "I didn't know anyone was in there." She walks inside and bustles about the cash register.
"I hate to interrupt your conversation," I tell her, "but my parents are waiting for me to bring strawberries home."
"How nice that you still have your parents!" she said, smiling brightly. "That'll be $9.50."
I leave the lovely greenhouse with two quarts of strawberries served with a heaping dollop of fresh guilt.