Every week for the past month, as we take a certain back road into town, invariably the question has been asked Should we check the apple tree? Situated just outside a fenced orchard, conveniently close to a dirt pullout and a three way stop, sits The Tree. Or, as we now affectionately call it, Our Tree. Small and gnarled, with sour apples of varying size, it is just the type of forager’s friend that we like. We’ve been guessing and gauging the imminent ripening, and this past friday we knew it was time. I picked Fern up from Kindergarten with a bushel basket in the front seat, and by the time we got home, it took the two of us to carry our harvest inside. Thus began a weekend of canning, taking gatherings out of the freezer while Jeff and the kids went on expeditions and came home with coffee cans full of more blackberries.
We set up the peeler/corer/slicer on the table (what a fun and wonderful invention, thank you Jan!) and put the kids happily to work, while elderberries simmered down on the stove and frozen blackberries melted with a sigh wherever they were dropped. Sticky up to our elbows, with stained fingertips, our sound track was percussed with the satisfying pings of cooling jars, our tongues pleased with sugary taste tests. In between impersonating one of the Martians from Sesame Street, Fern made herself sick on apple peels. It all went on late into the night after the kids had gone to bed, and I even postponed the premier of Doctor Who in favor of pectin for elderberry jelly.
Returning home today from morning drop off, I walked in the door to the smell of cloves and sugar, the flies buzzing around to the tune of apple butter. It’s bittersweet to greet my empty kitchen each morning after dropping off my girl. My Time beckons and the quiet is startling. The first day of school last week, we awoke to a power outage. When I got home, it was still down, which meant no internet and no writing. I sat in our one comfy chair and wondered Now what do I do? I called my mom. I went for a walk. I cleaned the kitchen. And I missed my best little pal. I went to pick her up, expecting a glad reunion, but she was kinda meh. Turns out she was having so much fun, she didn’t really want to leave. And that’s good, it’s what I’ve been working towards all these years…a securely attached child who can carry me into her times without me. And even though I gave birth almost five years ago, I carry her still, like I have a ghost womb as an amputee has with a missing limb, still feeling her kick inside me even though she is now in the cradle of her teacher. She is going through her own labor of independent childhood and I am ready to give birth to myself once again.
I have lots on my agenda for Me. Studying for MFT exams. Figuring out how/when/why to move my private practice to Sonoma. Getting sharper with this whole writing thing. And it’s all gonna happen with three free* hours every morning. Right? Right.
Our garden has turned the corner and is on the downhill slope, life flowing out of the leaves and going into the fruits. Our sunflowers radiate and tower, heralding the glory of autumn. The pumpkins are turning golden, the leaves are already falling and the ground is hard, dry and thirsty. Worrying about the drought is useless, but the situation is undeniably troublesome. We plan rain catchment systems just in case the clouds ever come and turn to prayer, to enticing weather. As we near the equinox next month, I am thinking about balance, of how we are out of it and as always, the question of how to guide us back into right relationship. In the meantime, I am realizing that I have spent the last few months since we moved, on correcting my deficits. Like a starved child at a banquet, I have been unable to turn my attention away from the spread before me. The meta issues like climate change, race relations, Middle East sorrows, lack of rain, are ever present and part of my attention, but I have been primarily consumed with the milk and honey of finally living on land. I awoke last night because an owl was hoo hooing right outside our window, and I took out my earplugs and let the sound fill my ears, let the dna in my bones attune. Before going to sleep at night, I am often presented with unfinished gestalts, moments from childhood that froze in time, often in pain. My little self brings them to me and asks Can we hold this now? Because I’m tired of being alone. The memories swell, are released, and I snuggle us to sleep.
Fern has become quite the forager, whether it be stealing the first ripe tomatoes, or discovering her own plant allies (She loves Mares Tail, a tarragon-like weed). She takes her favorite basket outside, returning to knock at the front door pretending to be peddling wares…if anyone needs crow feathers, fennel or cat ear flowers, I’ve got a good source. All of our baskets are filling to the brim, our family the jam pot simmering on the stove. We are going deeper, getting stickier, letting the rawness bring out the sugars as we cook down in the cauldron of This Life, This Moment, This Now. Being out of the city is affording me the opportunity to become present to the vividness of Life…whether it be the glory of my daughter’s blackberry scented smooch or just that extra bit of patience to greet my own aches and pains. Our lives feel more Real, the hollowness from our city lives plumping out like berries at the peak of ripeness. (And I also mean literally, because we moved to the land of Good Beer and the tire around my waist has inflated.).
Healing. Harvesting. Preserving. We be jammin.
Notice how Fern becomes Animal from the Muppets.
Despite my new found wealth of three free hours, I still have not found the time to comment on your blogs or respond to comments, and I apologize…I know it makes feeling connected harder. Do know that I so appreciate hearing from you, and despite my silence am keeping up with your own blog worlds.
*Anne Lamott recently wrote about how cleaning the house is basically a waste of a good opportunity to write, and a good life as well. How do you do with balancing the needs of family and home vs. doing things just to appease the critical voices in your heads, the ones that say “should”? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t clean as much as I do if I didn’t feel stressed or attacked by my inner critic when the house is messy. I want to respond to the appropriate voices, the nurturing ones, and not squander my new found free time on laundry. Still…I do love me a clean kitchen…