dailybell: Dreaming of Plants and Poison

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dreaming of Plants and Poison

8/23 AM
Ringing out back by the Williamsburg Bridge. Those are Penelope’s tomato plants in the foreground. I always said that I would never eat anything that grew in such proximity to those fumes and exhaust. I had a dream many years ago after riding on a bus through Newark, NJ. When I was a child as we approached North Jersey in a car, the air would become brown and opaque. We couldn’t roll the windows up fast enough. The sun vanished; the air was so thick you could taste it, and so caustic that it burned your eyes. I would bury my nose in whatever clothing was thickest and nearest to my face and try to filter out the particulate matter as well as the smell. It was a living nightmare.

Years later, as I was riding the bus on the New Jersey Turnpike and we approached Newark, everything had been cleaned up. It was remarkable. The air was clear and didn’t smell bad. The marshlands had come back to replace some of the industrial wasted landscape. It seemed to good to be true. In my dream I was riding in an elevator and when the doors opened I was standing before a lush green rural scene. It was sunny and felt festive. People were walking around enjoying the weather and the greenness. Apparently, this was a newly opened area that had recently been determined to be safe after some kind of apocalypse. The elevator was the conveyance to this world and until that point, we had all been living inside. Long tables were set up and people were serving and eating all kinds of food. At one table someone was preparing a salad and was chopping and slicing a scallion. As the white part of the scallion was sliced into thin, round slivers, the pieces fell over onto their sides. When I looked closely at the sliced rings, I noticed that each ring was like a band, and the band was rotating. Each band was slowly turning in the opposite direction from the one next to it. The head of the scallion was alive in a way that no vegetable should be alive. I decided to pass on the salad, but there was a Chinese man in the line in front of me and he ate the salad. After the picnic was over, I returned to the elevator to go home and prepared to get off at the 4th floor. When the door opened, there was the Chinese man, lying dead on the ground.

When I woke from the dream, it was clear to me for the first time that toxicity in the environment could mutate plants so they could and probably did contain poison and contaminants long after they looked “normal” and restored to health. That it was no longer possible to trust our eyes when it came to the food we grow. That the air and soil could poison our food in ways that was invisible to us. This was an old dream and it seems to be even more prophetic now in regards to genetic engineering. Pollution seems almost benign by comparison.

However, I couldn’t refuse when Penelope offered some of her homemade pesto and fresh tomatoes from those vines. And it was delicious. Maybe if I ate them everyday, I would develop an extra appendage, but once in a while, it’s really amazing to eat something growing within ten feet of that massive air putrifier.

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