“When I am dead
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read.'”
Hilaire Belloc

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

For the Sake of Six Seeds
Sun 2011-09-25 22:10:36 (in context)
  • 2,615 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today, John and I cut open and ate half the seeds of a pomegranate that grew on the tree I planted from a seed when I was in high school, and that Mom took over caring for when I left for college. It spent most of the intervening years in a big red pot either inside the pool enclosure or just outside it in the back, where you can look out over the grass of the levee to the big concrete hulk of the Bonnabel Pumping Station. (See also: Bonnabel Boat Launch, whose nifty new website mispells levee as though it were a tax.) Mom would move it between the two locations whenever the little tree, root-bound at about three feet high and half that diameter, lost its leaves and looked dead. Soon after being moved in from out, or out from in, it would re-leaf itself. It did this with no particular regard for weather or season. Mom took to calling it "The Resurrection Plant." At one point it began flowering, but the flowers would fall again without issue. And then so would the leaves. And Mom would move the pot, and it would stage another dramatic renewal.

Pomegranate bushes have narrow oval leaves veined with the red that the fruit bleeds when you cut it, and irregular spines an inch long that take you by surprise, since it's easy to forget they're there. This particular bush had a habit of subletting its pot to local ant colonies, which occasionally Mom or Dad would poison with a scattering of teeny golden grains that come in a green and white box whose labeling implies it means business. At some point someone looked up pomegranates on the internet and determined that they don't actually like humidity much, which might explain some things.

A year or two ago, I forget precisely, Mom and Dad brought home some satsuma trees to plant out back, and while they were at it, they transplanted the pomegranate too. It promptly grew to a height at least three times my own and filled out until it could have easily hidden five of me up against its trunk (if there were in fact five of me, all with thorn-proof skin). And when it next blossomed, it blossomed all over. Hummingbirds visited it, and I'd never seen a hummingbird in that neighborhood before.

And finally the darn thing bore fruit.

I was just there -- I now have two conventions, not one, which I'd like to blog about and haven't yet -- and on my last morning in town Mom and I went out back and tried to decide which of the five or six fruit hanging from its boughs was ripest. September's awfully early for pomegranates, I'd have thought; I never see them in the stores much before Halloween. Three were medium big, and two were half-sized and paired like cherries. None had that wine-red pebbly skin I remembered from the grocery. I chose the one that was the reddest, which is to say, it had the least flushes of yellow and the most overall salmon coloring. Its hide was stiff like cracked old leather.

I brought it back to Boulder with me and showed it to John. I brought it to Sunday brunch and showed our friends. (Sunday brunch was temporarily moved, at my request, to a venue showing the Sunday NFL line-up, so I could watch the Saints win their hard-fought, mathematically calculated, teeter-totter Week 3 victory over the Texans.)

Then John and I got home, and, half-fearing what we'd find -- was it ripe? was it rotten? -- sliced the pomegranate in half. Juice flowed from the cut. The seeds were oblong rubies pressed into facets by their close-packed quarters, the perfect little Lite Brite pegs we hadn't quite dared hoped for. There were less of them than in a store-bought pomegranate, and there was more pith between them and the skin, but they were beautiful. And delicious.

The big question now is, am I now obliged to spend half of every year in the greater New Orleans area?

That... wouldn't be so bad, actually. Bilocating between Boulder and New Orleans is pretty much my best-case eventual scenario, seeing as how it's unlikely we're going to just move outright. So, yeah, let's call this piece of fruit my happy infinite homecoming spell, a piece of sympathetic magic to keep me coming back.

Oddly, this whole experiment in home-grown fruit culminates at a time when I'm working on a story that draws heavily on the Demeter/Persephone myth. Also oddly, there is no pomegranate in that story. (There is, however, a crocus. Also several hundred bottles of mead, and elk backstrap medallions smothered in bearnaise sauce. Between that and Janice Claire's potato salad, I may wind up writing foodie horror/fantasy.) I suppose the story takes place millennia after the fruit was eaten and the compromise drawn up. It's about fulfilling the bargain, not about the striking of it in the first place.