Theme (in the literary sense of the word) was the subject of it's cereus!, a post from August 2012 where I not only defined a theme for this blog but also illustrated the point by describing my astonishment at learning that a large cactus in our front garden was not a euphorbia but a cereus. (BTW, to understand the sheer gravitas of the piece, it helps to know that cereus is a homonym of serious.)
When I wrote it's cereus! I was reading The War of Art, a book about writing by the prolific novelist Steven Pressfield. Pressfield convinced me that I needed a theme for this blog. Not a subject, a theme.** After discussing the issue in detail, I made a sort of announcement: "At last I think my major theme is 'getting things right.' Often this means simply learning something new, but it is the kind of learning that frequently requires discarding a preconception."
Last fall, when I started on a quest to grow chayote squash, I began to question whether "getting things right" is even possible. I had heard that chayotes were easy to grow in our climate, and I'd seen them sprout spontaneously from their blossom ends if they were not cooked in a timely enough manner. Little did I know that I was on the brink of vegetable chaos.
I had first eaten chayotes during the late 1950s, when my mother discovered them and quickly made them a family favorite: lightly steamed and served with butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Steve likes to grill chayotes after lightly brushing them with olive oil. Today I think this is the best way to prepare them, as it brings out their natural sweetness while cutting our intake of saturated fats.
In recent years I had seen chayotes growing locally on people's fences, and so I thought it would be fun to steal some, let them sprout, and plant them in our garden. Unfortunately I made this decision in the fall, and the fruit was substantially shriveled. The stems were tougher than I thought they'd be, and they exuded a sticky white goo that I'd never seen come out of a chayote. I furtively picked three and brought them home. Setting them under a skylight on our back porch, I waited for nature to take its course. It took a long time, but rather than producing a green stem, each one of them exploded into a mound of fluff. It was like dandelion fluff but the seeds and their silken parachutes were much larger.
At this point, I might have simply concluded that crime does not pay, but I chose to wade even deeper into chayote chaos.
to be continued . . .- - - - -
* I urge you to visit WordSense.eu if you have any questions about how the word chayote should be pronounced. The plant, a native of Central America, was called chayohtli by the ancient Aztecs, upon whom the conquistadores imposed latinate orthography as well as so many other arbitrary standards. I must confess that the title of this posting is a silly attempt to imply an alliteration that is purely visual unless we want to think about how chaos should be pronounced in ancient Greek. Maybe some other time?
** The difference between subject and theme is dear to the heart of every serious student of literature, and is well defined in a brief document created by the National Park Service, of all people. Oh, that all government agencies would be so diligent in training their employees to understand language and culture!