Of Moons and Cucumbers


I have always had a soft spot for Pluto. Not the tail-wagging pooch in  the Disney cartoons but the small and far away celestial mass circling our sun. Saddened when Pluto was demoted from planet status, I cheered when it popped back into the news as the proud owner of a new, hitherto undiscovered moon.

No wonder then that today in the vegetable garden Pluto’s newfound satellite came to mind. Lest you think that the heat has finally melted my brains, let me explain that our vegetable garden is as impenetrable as outer space. Fenced in against ever hopeful rabbits, this small patch is home to tomato plants that have gone on a rampage. Staked, double staked and still climbing, these monsters have invaded almost every inch of garden space. Sometimes we swear that they came from the same packet as Jack’s beanstalk.

Amongst the tomatoes lies a small and humble mound which, in early summer, I planted with cucumber seeds. Out of many, three sprouted and grew. But any hope I had for cucumber salad or cucumber soup was soon dashed as the overbearing tomatoes muscled in, overpowering and overshadowing everything within reach, Alas, poor cukes. Even the few flowers they sent out looked discouraged.

Shadowed cucumbers

With little chance for sunlight

Choked in inner space.

Muttering curses against all pushy vegetables, I gave up. But of course this is not the end of the story. This morning I saw something long and green dangling from the tallest tomato plants. Could it be? Unbelievable— but yes! Not only one but six unblemished cucumbers had managed to find the sun after all!

And more were coming. Flushed with discovery, I took inventory and thought that I tend to give up too soon. Many of us do. We lose heart and put away a project, a dream, a dear hope.  The story comes back with a form letter. The art quilt that had so much promise doesn’t make it into a juried show. The project, worked on for so long, is not accepted. So back go these efforts to sulk in closet or file cabinet, and we try to forget and move on.

Far easier to do this than to rewrite or find another exhibition— but the easy path seldom goes very far. Novels beloved and hailed around the world have been rejected over and over—as witness Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, which had twenty three rejections! Van Gogh’s paintings were ridiculed during his lifetime. And, looking back several decades, I wince as I remember how my own first novel, My Brother Is Special, was sent back eleven times and that I rewrote the beastly thing each time—on my manual typewriter.

Picking the cucumbers, I resolved to remember: not the giddy moment of success but those teeth-gritting times when failure snarls. Writer, artist, engineer, carpenter, teacher—we all have these moments, and it then comes to choice. We can turn away in defeat or we can push forward and, like Pluto, gift the world with an undiscovered moon.

Against space’s darkness

Undiscovered light so faint…

But light, nonetheless.



About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

5 responses »

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you Maureen. Just the words I needed to hear. I’m rewriting a picture book, I’m looking for a job, and we’re having a major home remodel done. I needed the story of cucumbers that climbed and reached for the sun until they produced an unexpected crop. I needed to know that Pluto regained face. I, too, feel encouraged!

    Linda A.

  2. Beautiful blog entry, Maureen. Full of color and hope. And just when I was needing words of inspiration. But your tale does remind me of our daughter Susanne who loved to cook. When she was 14 she took 7 of my cookbooks to make Dale and me and company a gourmet meal. Before she presented a course, she would sample it in the kitchen and come out proudly displaying the dish. Except when it came to her cucumbers in orange sauce. There was no bounce to her step, nor a smile on her face. The sauce was outstanding, but cooked cucmbers are not a thing of beauty. Happy cucumber salad to you. Sarah

  3. Maureen, Today, more than ever, discouraged individuals, both young and old, the unnoticed people of the world and the powerful, need to learn the lesson that we must strive to achieve that which may seem impossible but might conceivably still be within reach. Just learn the lessons of nature as you so beautifully describe. Keep writing, quilting, painting, planting, etc., etc., etc.

    Most appreciatively, Fran

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