lenten journal: yes, you can


    For most of the Marches we have lived here Ginger and I have spent a day together at the New England Flower Show. For the first few years, we would forget it was going on until we saw an advertisement and then we’d scramble to get to the Bayside Expo Center before it closed. Six or seven years ago, we discovered we could join the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and get free tickets with our membership that were mailed to us in February and gave us time to plan when we wanted to go.

    Our day at the show has a very particular arc. We enter the main exhibit hall, drop off our coats at the coat check (since Spring doesn’t follow the calendar in these parts), and then walk through the exhibits in the main hall. This year, my favorite was a series of dining tables set in garden settings, each one done by a different group or company. The place settings, centerpieces, and decorations gave a hint of what kind of meal might be served at each table. Some of them gave me the sense that whoever decorated them never thought about sitting down to eat, only having people stand around and talk about how pretty the table looked.

    The theme for this year’s show is “Yes, you can!” which I think has more to do with encouragement than with granting permission. I suppose they wanted us to look at the tables and the arrangements and the landscaping exhibits and think, “We could do that in our back yard.” I like the idea – though, for some of the things, a better theme would be “Yes, you can — if you have a bunch of money,” in the same way Steve Martin used to joke, “OK, I’m going to tell you how to be a millionaire. First, get a million dollars.” One of the reasons I go to the show is to be inspired to think about getting our garden ready for Spring and about what I vegetables I want to plant, even though we are weeks away from any serious planting. From our visits to the Flower Show over the years we have gotten some great ideas and learned we can do a lot of things, even without a huge bankroll.

    Once we circle through the main hall, we move to the exhibit hall in the back of the building. Our most important stop is the first: the Iguana Cantina, a Mexican food booth done by the Cactus Club restaurant in Boston. They have a small counter that seats four where we have margaritas and quesadillas and have a conversation with the guy running things who is one of the managers from the restaurant in town. Every year we have a different conversation with him. This year’s focused on two things: his almost one-year old daughter and his love of winemaking.

    I loved how animated he became as he talked about making wine in his basement. He has barrels from both France and America. He buys the grapes from the Napa Valley. As he talked, his story meandered from remembering his father and grandfather making what amounted to spiked grape juice when he was a kid to his dream of creating a business where he could help people make their own really good wine. While he talked, the people working with him were handing out beers and burritos as fast as they could and he never lost track of his task at hand. I suppose it could also be said the other way around: as he dished out the food like a short order cook he never lost sight of his dream.

    Across from his booth was one of the event banners: “Yes, you can!” I hope he saw it.

    We’ve talked to this guy for at least the last three years, which means his dream is aging right along side of the wine he’s making. If his dream is to come true, it will be because he was willing to carry it to term, to live through the discomfort and hope of the gestation period, however long it may be. (That’s probably about as far as a male writer can carry a pregnancy metaphor without losing credibility.)

    Dreams don’t come true overnight, anymore than gardens grow quickly. I planted Brussels sprouts last June and ate them in October. The trees we planted six summers ago only now are beginning to shade our front porch from the afternoon sun. All we could do was plant the trees, tend to them, and wait for them to grow. Some dreams take money, but all of them take time.

    After lunch, we walk up and down the aisles of the exhibit hall, looking at the various gardening tool demonstrations, fence and stone displays, statuary stores, artists’ booths, and, of course, the fudge vendor. We rarely buy anything other than food and drink, except the occasional Christmas or Mother’s Day present. (We found one of each.) Then we go back to coat check and leave the flowers for the cold wind of the parking lot and the drive back home.

    Though the wind did blow today, the cloudless sky meant there was not as much snow in the yard when we got home tonight as there was when we left. Spring officially snuck in tonight, but will also have to wait awhile to come true in these parts. By Easter, perhaps, the daffodils along our front fence line will begin to poke their heads up, followed by the tulips. When the hostas begin to come up, I’m going to have to split them this year because, five years on, they are huge and need to be thinned out. I’ve also got to move several things around one of the hydrangeas because I was shortsighted in my planting a couple of years back and didn’t leave enough room for it to grow. I planted it as it was, not as it could become. Though our garden is mostly perennials, there is much to do to keep it growing and healthy. Though I think I know what’s there, I’m always surprised.

    Tomorrow I will head back to the Inn to cook and dream about where my cooking will lead me someday. I have a brochure from the Flower Show. Maybe I’ll put it up on the bulletin board under my to do list.

    “Yes, you can!”



    1. In my small burg we have only 2 banks. One’s motto is, “Yes you Can!” Which makes me think that whatever it is “we can” requires some form of indebtedness. The truth is, our goals, dreams, and aspirations do require indebtedness. They require that we stick other things aside, and that we focus on what inspires us the most, which requires that other things will be unattained, left undone, or just simply forgotten about. All those “yes you can” things require focus, and sometimes we just have to make a big decision…how bad do we want it?

    2. Hi Milton,

      I found your blog via Christine at Abbey of the Arts and have been reading your posts for a while now. I guess it was about time I ‘delurked’!
      You have a real gift for expressive writing, you have a passion for food ( a man after my own heart) and for faith. This post really spoke to me at a time when my husband and I are facing the future with our dreams in our hands – the reassurance that dreams like flowers need to be planted, nurtured and grown. “Yes, you can!”. Thank you.


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