answering the call
When Rose was a toddler, one of her very first joys was wobble-legging around the house gathering up flotsam and bits, purposefully stuffing them in purses. It was endearing and amusing and a little confusing. Is she shopping?
And at the risk of sounding all Anthropology 101, one day I realized that Rose’s propensity to gather sundry items and jam them in purses was likely vestigial. Somewhere in her modern brain was this very old storyline about weaving willow baskets and roaming around the forest, filling them with berries, seeds, leaves and roots.
So yesterday, when six-year-old Rose was perched on our garbage can, slinging chokecherries into a bag, and then later in the day stripping the lower branches of a neighbor’s plum tree (in typical Rose fashion: 5 in the box, 1 in the mouth), it felt like she was answering a very old, deep and primal call.
Which is to say, the harvest is on! And of all the work I do, all of which I love, it is this harvesting, this preserving, this gazing into tree of ripe peaches and seeing those peaches canned frozen pickled fermented dehydrated cellared jammed that touches a core human part of me usually buried under childraising-angst income deadlines nostalgia am I doing it right what am I doing blitz-implode.
And so, I too, answer the call.
And as usual, I’m working by feel, rather than some organized system of prior documentation whereby I’m standing under the chokecherry trees on the precise ripening date of August 20th with my collecting bags. Seems just last week the chokecherries were pebbles of immaturity and now are voluptuous orbs singing their siren song. Or, there I am, going about my August business, thinking about nothing more consequential than some day back in 1995, when I notice the acorns on the oak slope are a rich chocolately brown, or the apricots are swollen with their own orangeness. And you can almost see the lightbulb go on over my head, except it’s actually the image of a sharp knife, or long arm extending up into the fruity canopy.
And at times it seems sort of ridiculous – steaming up the house on an already hot late-summer day, getting carpel tunnel from sliding acres of skins off roasted green chiles, wringing the last clingy ounces of juice from chokecherries. I mean you can get canned green chile at the supermarket in January, right? The thing is I can’t not do this work of stuffing apples and tomatoes in jars, or picking the fruit that hangs beckoningly above me. And though I can wave the banners of frugality, sustainability and local foods, my whole food preservation obsession springs less from any philosophy than from the irrepressible fingers of my very DNA reaching for a knife when presented with a basket of plums.
And all this food preservation isn’t exactly money in the bank, but more likely to appreciate by January than any other investment I know of.
Blessings on your harvest season,