What are the things money can't buy?




Guy Clark, iconic singer-songwriter, has already answered that question for us. He wrote a whole song about it. According to Guy there are only two things money can’t buy: true love and home-grown tomatoes.

Maybe that’s hyperbole, but it captures a lot of life, especially when we consider the power of the symbols.

True love. The love of a parent for a child, the love spouses share, puppy love that is real to the puppy, the love of a child for a parent or grandparent, the love siblings endure and perfect, the love of country, of freedom, of art, of music, the love of nature, of a late summer sunset on the Gulf of Mexico, or snow on January cedars, the love of soldiers who have faced life and death together, of cancer survivors for each other, of a teacher for a student who has succeeded beyond his capabilities are all things money can’t buy.  Each of us could name many other examples.

And those home-grown tomatoes.  I suppose Guy’s song popped in my head this afternoon because it is tomato season in East Texas.    A couple of days ago, one of our neighbors called to say she had some and would like for us to come get a few. Wow.  Now that’s life in the country.

But the reason you can’t buy  home-grown tomatoes is because if you buy them, they aren’t home-grown to you. What makes them precious is not their sweet taste, their juiciness, their red coat that glistens in the sun.  The precious thing is that the person who grew them invested herself in them.  To be sure, those tomatoes aren’t self-made.  Other factors come into play, the unpredictable weather, bugs, temperature, weeds.  There is also the big question of whether the grower encounters other life issues along the way that force him to neglect his crop.  Nothing is worse for that person than to look out his window at the end of growing season and see nothing but waist-high weeds in his vegetable garden.

Jack Durish, the author of the fine historical novel REBELS ON THE MOUNTAIN, left a comment on a blog the other day that I happened to see.  It wasn’t my blog, just someone’s that both he and I happened to visit separately. Jack’s comment was that for writers everything becomes a writing metaphor.

Jack’s right about that. Home-grown tomatoes for me are a perfect metaphor for authors. Can an author expect a good harvest if he doesn’t labor in the garden?  I think not.  Can he control for all the things that may derail his projects? No way.  But if he gets derailed, he should realize that he needs to plant again and put last year’s tribulations behind him.

Guy Clark said the only two things money can’t buy are true love and home-grown tomatoes.

What can you add to that list?


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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Guy Clark remains as one of America’s best poets and philosophers. But he will never receive the recognition he’s due because he writes his poetry and philosophy in song. I once interviewed Guy, and he said his personal inspiration is Dylan Thomas. You can see it in the way he writes. This is an absolutely wonderful post. It has deep meanings far beneath the surface. Writers should take heed.

    • I have been a Guy Clark fan since he released his first album in the mid-70s. “Let Him Roll” and “The Randall Knife” stand heads and shoulders above any other songs I can name. Guy says in concert that “Let Him Roll” was the only song about which Townes Van Zandt said, “I wish I had written that song.” “It was white port put that look in his eye that grown men get when they need to cry..” Clark is the master, but it is because, as you say, his songs burrow deep into the soul. There is never a word out of place. How about, “I’d play the Red River Valley, and he’d sit in the kitchen and cry. Run his fingers through seventy years of living, and wonder Lawd has ever well I drilled run dry”? World class, that’s all you can say.

  • Ah, home grown tomatoes… yum. The only problem is that they all ripen about the same time (or in a relatively short period of time) and then they’re gone. Thank God, love lasts. Well, “true” love lasts. Sure, you can can tomatoes, but it’s difficult. Probably one of the most difficult things there is to can. I know. I’ve tried. I was very successful making my own pickles and canning them. Peaches, too. But, tomatoes? Not so much.

    • Jack, and the short-livedness of that growing season is another one of the things that makes home-grown tomatoes so precious. They are here for a little while, then gone for another year.

  • ConfabulateSkepsis

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