now – adverb | \ˈnau̇\

: at the present time
: in the next moment : very soon
: in the present situation

Sunday evening we arrived home late in the day to begin preparing for a new week. The weekend had offered some time for rest but plenty of activity, too. The boys came back to our house for a few days just as we got home, at least one of them strung out on Halloween sugar from Saturday night’s trick-or-treating. Even though I cut him off an hour earlier than I meant to (bless that one clock we forgot to reset), he randomly cried out, “I love candy!” throughout the evening while we were watching Netflix. He’s detoxing this morning at school. I should probably send an apology note to his teachers.

While we carried in stuff from the car and began reviewing plans for a busy week of work, school, sports, concerts, fundraisers, meetings, and birthday activities for our oldest, I ducked outside for a few minutes as the darkness of dusk filled in all the cracks of the day. On one trip from the garage to the house, I had noticed a bit of red over near the tomato vines cascading up and down our shadow-box fence. It could have been a fallen leaf trapped in the convergence of Sweet 100, Better Boy, and Sweet Autumn Clematis vines. At some point during the rainy days of early summer, the vegetation of these three plants overtook the corner of our small garden area and intertwined themselves so thoroughly that I’ve hesitated to do anything with any of them until we get our first hard frost.

As I looked over the vine, I plucked a few cherry tomatoes that were mostly red. The more I looked the more I saw, so I kept picking, some of them just barely starting to turn orange. In the middle of summer, I would never have picked the tomatoes so far from ripeness. When each day promises warm breezes and radiant sunbeams and 12 or more hours of daylight, I like to leave the tomatoes on the vine until they are so red and juicy they practically burst in fingers when you pull them off.

But autumn tomatoes are different. In fact, these plants shouldn’t even be here this late. We’ve already had one hard frost, and we very nearbly pulled the tomato and clematis vines up all at once had we not decided to try covering them with up with a flannel sheet for a couple of nights to nurse them through the worst of it. There were still so many green tomatoes. Maybe we’ll get a few more ripe ones, we thought. And we did. We’ve had handfuls of tomatoes since then.

Last night as I was grabbing at the fruit, I thought about this week’s forecast, which looks unseasonably warm, and considered leaving a few of the less orange ones there. But you never know when the cold night air might snuff out these last little fruits. In Autumn, you leave nothing on the vine.


It’s like my seasonal cookbook that includes a recipe for fried green tomatoes in the fall. I always thought that was weird since there are so many more green tomatoes in the early summer. Just this year I realized the strategy: When the sun is still high in the sky, you have time to wait for them to get ripe. When the days shorten and the suns sets low and the night air grows colder and colder, there’s no more waiting. You have to pick them all now.

At some point, we’ll stop. Either will decide to: pick anything with color, pull the vines, sacrifice the green ones (because I don’t actually like fried green tomatoes). Or, if we don’t watch the forecast, we’ll stop because we have to: the hard frost leaving us with blackened vines and wilted fruit.

For now, we just keep watching and picking.

What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.

Photo by Manjith Kainickara, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.