On a fog-shrouded morning, when a cold gray blanket locks the world in misery and throws away the key, the cheerful voice of my granddaughter reaches out from the middle of last week: "Grampa, can you read to me more about bell peppers?"
She has a room full of charming children's books but he'd been reading to her out of a seed catalog--descriptions of carrots and kale, seedless watermelons, tomatoes glowing with summer sunshine--and she'd been eating it up. The pictures alone could sustain large family through a Siberian winter, but Grampa's warm voice reading about bell peppers adds a nourishing broth, seasoned with our granddaughter's questions.
This is why seed companies send out catalogs in the bleak midwinter, just at the moment when we've forgotten that the sun ever shone on us, that the warm earth ever sent forth hopeful green sprouts or garish purple eggplants or carrots that can only be described as carrot-colored. All the rich colors that fled our environs with the arrival of winter have taken refuge in the seed catalog, where they tantalize us with the promise of spring's return.
Those bell peppers! Green ones and yellow and orange and red--who wouldn't want to feast her little eyes on such bounty? Look at this bunch of hybrid purple carrots and you can smell warm earth, feel its grit on your hands. Parsnips! Rhubarb! Kohlrabi! Sugar snap peas! They make me want to go out and start digging right now, even though we've had little success growing peas here.
Seed catalogs make us believe: that winter won't last, that color will come back, that someday we will once again hold a red ripe tomato in our hands and bite down and taste every ounce of sunshine that made it grow. So read to us more about bell peppers, Grampa. Feed us from the seed catalog--all of us--until we can eat no more.