I made jam this weekend. It’s not an unusual thing, my Facebook feed is filled with pictures of my preserving – jam, pickles, fruit in syrup. I love preserving, taking fresh, locally grown food at the height of it’s own season, peeling, mixing, bubbling, pickling, water-bathing it until it becomes rows of beautifully coloured glass jars on the shelf. There’s a rule that after the first taste of everything (because you have to taste it and make sure it’s as delicious as it looks and smells!), jars don’t get opened until January. Because in January, the height of harvest is a memory and the “fresh” fruit in the grocery store has travelled through many time zones since it was actually fresh.
This year was different. I don’t preserve as much these days because it’s time consuming and so are small children – of which I have two. And right now, we are in chaos. Crises. On two fronts.
It helps to remember that my girls are all happy, healthy, adjusted, well. ‘
But the crises is real. On two fronts – my parent are aging, both have been unwell, the future is uncertain. The woman who taught me the love of preserving, my mum, has a serious illness that isn’t getting better. My mum, who taught me the love of food, the value of local, the beauty of those coloured jars; who had all the neighbourhood kids sitting on our front porch pitting cherries with this odd but oddly fun contraption; whom we teased when she said to go get a jar of “stoned plums” for dessert – isn’t eating because that’s how sick she is.
They live far away- 2 planes and a car ride away. I don’t know if I should go and see them now, or wait – maybe things will get better, maybe they will get worse. Do they need me now, will they need me more, later? It’s been weeks of I’m flying out/I’m waiting and not knowing if either is the right choice.
And at the same time, we may be forced to move out of a house we love living in because of “circumstances beyond our control”. Our security is threatened- we don’t know where we could go on such short notice that keeps our eldest in the school she’s thriving in, with the friends she’s made and the families we really like. Not within our budgets, anyway. The thought of uprooting our little girls yet again is heartbreaking. But we don’t know yet, we live in the uncertainty, which is the worst place to live – you can’t make plans if you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
It’s the not knowing what to do next that is so damn hard.
I walked around Costco chanting “I am the eye of the hurricane” to myself, trying to channel some inner peace of the present moment, and it helped. At least in Costco (sorry to everyone whose toes may have inadvertently been run over).
So I made jam. Peaches enthusiastically picked by my happy, healthy girls – the littlest one mostly loved being able to climb the ladders. Blanch, peel, crush, simmer – the long boil, no added pectin. Mixed with maple syrup and rum. Becoming beautiful orange jars for the shelf – the only preserving I’ve done this year.
Like Jeremiah’s field. Symbols of trust in a future. Jeremiah is the gloomy prophet, the “Weeping Prophet”. Jerusalem is under siege from Babylon, and God tells Jeremiah to go and buy property there. Who in their right mind would buy property that is about to be conquered and taken by a powerful king? But God tells Jeremiah to do it, to trust that it will be there to live on that land.
Trust that no matter how chaotic and awful things feel now, there will be an ending that will be ok. “It will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end”. I’m making jam, preserving the harvest, trusting that there will be the time when we open those jars of August gold and everything will be ok then. Not now, things aren’t ok now, but it won’t be like this forever.
My heart is breaking into so many pieces and no, jam won’t fix it, but in those jars is all my hope, prayers, trust that there will be a light in the darkness, if not now then soon.
So much to put into 6 little jars. But it’s what I can do now.
***update, August 2018. I wrote this post almost a year ago. I don’t know why I didn’t publish it more widely- too close to the heart, I guess.
In the year, my mum did indeed die. February 23rd, after bravely fighting the battle with all her incredible strength. But cancer, well it’s a tough foe.
And we did lose the house we loved. People we thought were friends were fighting their own demons, I guess, and got ugly on us. We got almost 2 years in that home and made some great friends both on the block and in the school.
But doors open up. Pieces are falling into place. New opportunities and adventures showed up and we said “yes”. So off we go.
The jam – it’s on the truck. We’ll eat it on toast, as a toast to the next grand chapter. If you stop by our new home, I’ll break into a jar for you.