This week I’m visiting my brother and his girlfriend in North Carolina, and one of our first stops is the Raleigh Farmers Market – two long buildings full of peaches, blueberries, melons, corn, collards, a cornucopia of peppers, hoop cheese, homemade vinegars and barbecue sauces, bacon, sausages, grass fed beef … enough food to feed a city.
We end up with a watermelon, corn, peaches. Some cookies for my two kids, and cheesy bread from a German bakery.

Most of the food doesn’t last the day, but the next morning we slice open the watermelon. Gorgeous high pink flesh – a Saturday morning gift. Then we bite into it.

Ugh. Mealy, soft, and decidedly not sweet: it’s the antithesis of a good watermelon. My daughters valiantly eat two pieces but don’t reach for more. I choke down a few bites.

I feel bad. There’s a lot of watermelon. Sure, it cost only $2, but there’s so much of it, and it’s so pretty sitting there in the sun, on the blond wood table with a pale pink rose in a vase. Plus I can tell that my brother is disappointed. There has to be a way to save it.

My first thought is to make sangria, but that would leave out the kids – and they adore watermelon. Then it hits me. Honey. Honey fixes everything.

I drizzle some over the watermelon and take a bite. Maybe not divine, but it’s definitely pleasant. I eat several more slices and look forward to the half melon still sitting in the fridge.

So what does an underwhelming watermelon and a little golden nectar have to do with anything?

I have to remind myself daily to pick up that honey; it’s not in my nature. Between my eyes, above the bridge of my nose, I’m developing a pair of vertical lines from scrunching my eyes together in disapproval and disappointment – not at other people, but at myself.

The internal dialogue goes something like this: why aren’t you more disciplined? What’s wrong with you that you don’t write more often? Why don’t you finish the long essays sitting in your computer files? Why don’t you run more often, run farther, push through the pain and make your body as fit as you want it to be? And you want to save money, but those new jeans you bought were a complete exercise in vanity and excess. Good grief, child, at this rate, you’re never going to get where you want to be.

In other words, I want to achieve big things, but I’m far from them because, as with mealy watermelons, it’s easier to rot in a compost pile than to move from mediocre to amazing.

And frankly, even if I discipline myself and follow through with the plans to reach my goals, there’s no guarantee that I’ll reach amazing. Maybe I’ll just reach ‘bordering on delicious.’ And that’s scary. Who wants to work long and hard, only to realize that you won’t attain the level of fitness, literary skill, or financial security you dreamed of?

But then there’s the watermelon. It was surely better with honey, and that small victory made my morning (as well as inspired this post). Somehow, I have to keep finding little solutions, just a little sweetness, a little success. And I have to be happy with that. With today. With managing to stay out of the dirt, worms, and decomposition.

Now, if only finishing this post were as simple as dragging a few streaks of honey across the keyboard …

Cate Hennessey writes, gardens, and raises chickens in a small backyard in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Her blog, One Hundred a Week: Adventures in Restraint chronicles the (mis)adventures of her family as they try to eat locally and sustainably – on a reduced grocery budget.