The trails of lettuce grew longer and, as they did, they also grew greener, the once empty furrows cradling them snugly in place. In the vastness of the field, the plants looked vulnerable. Small. Alone. Separated from siblings.
Surely, it’s much too soon.
And, yet . . .
Breathing the fresh, breezy, brisk air and soaking up the afternoon sunshine, Jose Flores and his team insist that lettuce is the first crop of the season because it is so hardy. “They love this weather,” Jose says. “People think they’re weak, but they’re really strong.” He then let a lettuce plant drop from his hand, so it lay flat on its side, roots on top of the ground.
“See that?” he asks. “That lettuce plant? It will still grow.”
To further prove his point, he grins before crushing the fallen plant beneath a work boot. “See that? This plant will grow, too.”
There is a playfulness among the planting team. They laugh and joke and elbow one another like rowdy school boys. Yet, watching the deft and efficient work of their quick, practiced hands is as fascinating as watching a concert pianist.
All joking aside, Jose says it simply feels good to finally be working outdoors again. “I need sun,” he shares, stretching his arms out wide. “Winter gets depressing.” He then smears the rich soil on his gloved hands across the front of his shirt, almost giddy to be back in communion with the earth.
And, as he returns to his place among his teammates, Jose holds a fledgling lettuce plant high above his head, the leaves turning toward the sun, as he shouts the Spanish word for lettuce.
“La lechuga!” he joyfully calls out, unable to resist repeating this marvelous word. “La lechuga.”