I averted a crisis yesterday. Little did I know, but the world was about to come to an end. I’ve been canning. Tomatoes have all but taken over my life. That’s what’s in season. Last week it was beets and cucumbers I turned into pickles and peaches I turned into jam— plain, habanero, ginger, and cardamon. Ryan of Ryan’s Orchard taunted me with a 10 gallon bucket of seconds for $10. My eyes glazed over. At that price in a year when a cold snap damaged most of the peach crop, I couldn’t believe my luck. I said yes even though my writing calendar said, “No!”
As is the case when a good deal conflicts with good sense, I went all Scarlett and told myself I would worry about what to make out of it tomorrow. Fortunately, I had some habaneros because the peach-habanero jam has become an all-time favorite. Of course, the ginger is a comfort food fit for overworked writers and the cardamon is nothing less than inspirational. In fact, I was so taken with the whole peach thing, I put some of the peels, added a smidgen of sugar, and filled a jar with water to see if this concoction would become peach vinegar the way my fermentation cook book promises me it will. If so, we’ll have another vinegar to match the blueberry-basil I started in June that just finished. This surprise is amazing on a gentle salad of arugula with chopped apple, a few raisins and walnuts. Last month the blueberries started coming in so we have our stockpile ready when we want pie, scones, muffins, or pancakes throughout the year. We’re now at the end of blueberry season, but I still had to try the basil-blueberry combination as a jam and since there was a bunch of cinnamon basil calling to me at the farmers’ market last Saturday, I finished up this year’s blueberry crop with jars of plain old jam and almost 10 jars of cinnamon basil blueberry.
Needless to say, my artist has been standing squarely in the kitchen for the last three weeks trying to figure out how to create in that environment instead of with her feet under the desk, butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard writing. I remind myself daily that this is summer. This is what I do when the crops come in. This is not news to me or anyone who knows me. I see produce and it becomes a jar of something. At least, I’m not gardening this year. I’m fortunate to be in an area with a great community of no-spray, low-spray and even organic farmers who sell their vegetables, fruits, and goods not more than 1 mile from my house. This means I can keep canning my own food without also growing it. It also means the rest of my week will be balancing my time between writing and making zucchini relish, zucchini cookies, and zucchini bread (guess who got a good deal on zucchini) plus a few ordinary and exotic filled jars of peppers. In between, there’s writing fiction, updating the business plan and the websites and keeping up with my family and friends. Did I mention walking the dogs? Summers can be pretty intense.
Although canning takes most of my attention in July, I double up by listening to videos, podcasts, and anything that won’t distract me from watching pot after pot come to a boil, which is where I was yesterday when I realized “we” as in me and my family and oh yeah the rest of the world were in a major crises of historic proportions. It wasn’t the heat or fatigue talking either. One of my videos started telling me that “we” as in me and my family and oh yeah all living things in the entire world were about to be annihilated by radiation. Now this little scenario was drilled into me as a child and as an adult I came to the firm and unequivocal conclusion that there’s not really much you can do about it after the fact. As a kid once told me when I asked him what he was going to do if he fell off that 6 foot high wall he was balancing on, I decided long ago that “deal with it” seemed like the most logical response.
Still, it set me to thinking. Actually, my husband started that runaway train by asking me the question, but the point is the same. “Is there anything you would change in how you’re living your life if you found out you only had a few more years to live?” Well, we all know that if we had 30 days, we’d hurry out and start on our bucket list. I’m either totally unimaginative or as I like to believe, have a really great life, because I don’t have a bucket list. So after directing my husband to find out if we needed to start digging a bomb shelter, I went to bed and slept on it. Decisions like this require a good night’s sleep. I had just spent most of the last three weeks in the kitchen canning various foods for the future. What if there was no future? Yesterday alone, I stood from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. My feet were swollen, my knees were complaining, and my back was telling me I was a bad person. Was this how I wanted to spend the last few years of my life? I wouldn’t know unless I could get all the parts of my body to stop talking so loudly. And what about writing? Who would care? Who would read it? Would it make any difference in the grand scheme of things like radioactive fallout?
When I got up this morning, I had my answer. The angels always whisper in your ears while you sleep if you ask them nicely. Well, not always, but enough times that it’s worth asking just in case. The truth is there really isn’t much I would change. I would keep canning my food. The difference would be that I would have my own garden next year so I could preserve even more of my food than this year. We need to eat regardless of what catastrophe befalls us so we might as well eat good food. Homemade jam on fresh-baked bread can make a lot of problems seem okey-dokey. I would continue to write and to search for an audience. If I make one person smile, put one person’s mind at ease, provide one person with information in a way she can use and doesn’t make her fearful, but creates in her the belief she can handle whatever it is, allows her to feel hopeful in the face of insurmountable odds, then I will feel like my life has been okey-dokey.
There was, however, one thing I would change. I would try always with everyone to come from a place of love. When thinking about fracking, climate change, pollution, the daily struggle of dealing with multiple chemical sensitivity, trying to talk with friends and family about GMO’s and organic food choices and their health, the banks, credit and the economy, and wars sprouting up in every region of the world, it is easy to become cynical, sad, desperate, defeated, and loud, angry, caustic, and critical. Been there and I have the t-shirt, ball cap, and upset stomach to show for it. I watch the Walking Dead because it makes the zombies I encounter so much easier to handle in comparison. If I had 30 more years, then it might be helpful to feel that anger, hatred, anxiety, and even despair. If I had 1 more year or five more years, then I’m wasting what precious days I have left in a bad emotional place. Well, thirty years are just one year done thirty times. Even I can do that math. If I wouldn’t choose that for one year, why would I choose it for 30?
I recognize that coming from love is a skill I’m going to have to learn, but I learned how to can and I learned how to write. Both require getting in there and making mistakes, getting my hands dirty, taking on more than I have time to do and practice, practice practice. I guess I can learn how to come from love. I’m going to make mistakes. Some people just are not ready for this. I’m going to get dirty. Some people will push me away. It’s going to take some time and I’m sure I”ll end up taking on more people than I think I have time for, but with practice, practice, practice I believe I can do it. And fortunately for me, I’m around a lot of people and I mean a lot of people on whom I can practice. So…crises averted. Carry on.
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