The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron, helping readers learn how to become a better writer. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. An Artist Date can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else, even if you travel no farther than the garden and back to the kitchen.
I hold the tomato in the palm of my hand. Red and round and perfect, it whispers to me in the early morning sun, I am more than what you see. I press its coolness to my nose, feel the damp that beads on its smooth surface, and I see the possibilities.
The mid-August air has lost some of its heaviness already, the coolness of morning lingering longer each day. Most of the local schools are in session, my house is empty, and I am alone with the garden. The tomato vines bend low with plump fruit. I move between their leafy fullness, plucking as I go. My apron makes a handy basket—I gather up its skirt-like corners and soon it dips low in the center, filled with all these ruby-skinned gems.
Inside, I spread the bounty out on newspaper-covered counters. I cut a little X on the bottom of each round with a serrated knife. The pot of water sits on the stove to boil for dipping batches of plump fruit into roiling waves. They bump each other around for 15 seconds in the hot bath and then it’s time to blanch them in the waiting ice water. The skins slip off easily after their spa and I chop them into a thick puree with my food processor.
While the olive oil is heating in the Dutch oven, I chop onions. As I slit through the papery skins with my knife, I remember Fr. Robert Farrar Capon’s essay, The Heavenly Onion from his book The Supper of the Lamb.
Onions are excellent company, he says.
I smile at the thought, but know I will be crying soon. Capon tells us to spend at least an hour with our onion—greeting it, observing it, dissecting and entering it.
I address the onion.
If I spend more than five minutes with you I’ll be bawling, I say. My nose starts to run.
But I do like the feel of it in my hand and soon it is crackling with the oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven. I dice some peppers, mince garlic and pick some basil from my herb garden. When the flavors marry and everything simmers in the pot, I wipe my hands on my apron and put on a pot of tea.
The house fills with that heady aroma of garlic and sweet marinara and all there is to do now is wait. And stir.
Julia Cameron tells me, “As a writer, I eat with my eyes.”
I pull the wooden spoon through the thickening sauce and it simmers red into orange around the bubbling edges. I study these flecks of green basil melting into rich red tomatoes and I am fed.
Read a poem a day, become a better poet.
In September we’re exploring the theme Tattoos.