Friday, December 16, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I spent the morning in my mother’s kitchen with canning gear, a large bag full of Bosc pears, fresh ginger, lemon, and Liana Krissoff’s book Canning for a New Generation. NPR was on (as it always is in that house), the wood cook stove was blazing, a tea-kettle simmered, and my parents’ dog Sadie lay sprawled on the floor. Outside it rained (the rain I predicted yesterday, yes, melting the thin membrane of white snow) and the last leaves fluttered off the trees. Chickadees scurried to and from the feeders.
I filled my mother’s large hot-water-bath pan, peeled pears, and grated ginger. I zested lemons and listened to the talk radio shows and sterilized my Ball canning jars and put the brew on the stove to simmer.
Before I continue, I need to say this: I love my house. I have the most beautiful kitchen that I could possibly imagine, salvaged and/or built by my husband’s hands from wood cut off this land.
But I loved, this morning, cooking in my mother’s kitchen. I loved the smell of the wood counters, seasoned with years of onion and garlic and lemon and spice. I loved its cluttered disarray, its dusty houseplants that always look on the verge of dying but somehow never do (is it because each time I go there I sneak them cups of water?). I loved the wooden crates of ripening tomatoes stored near the door and the ticking of the old-fashioned clock and the radiant heat from the antique, Stanley wood stove and the permeated smell of wood-smoke.
It is the first house I knew, the house where I was born (in the Southeast corner of the living room), the house where I first learned to cook, the house where I began to write, and the first house that I ever considered, very much, my own. I haven’t ever grieved the loss of that house, but I felt that grief this morning, and the gift of returning--to its old shapes and smells and sounds, to being alone there in my labor, to slipping, for a few hours, into the shell of the girl and young woman who once lived and grew and came to know herself there within those walls.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
5:30 AM and I rise, unable to sleep. What a lovely watch to keep. I’m thinking about the story I read last night: Paul Yoon’s “The Woodcutter’s Daughter,” about his glimmering fictional island off the southern coast of South Korea, and about how tender both good love and good fiction are. I’m thinking about my daughter, asleep in the room adjacent to mine, and with what passion she lives and breathes, and how helpless I am in the face of that passion—how it is hers alone to own. I’m thinking of T, asleep for a few moments longer, and the arcs of melody that must weave their way through his dreams. I’m thinking of this small one inside me, size, I am told, of a turnip, and how I cannot wait to know its name, its shape, the color of its eyes, its yearnings. Thinking, also, how I cannot imagine being mother to anything more than I am already, for having the capacity to give, or love, more. And so I think about how it will rain tomorrow, or the next day, melting the thin membrane of white snow that covers the earth and grass and trees and gardens outside our door. I think about the things I will make today: bread, preserves, soup. The thing I wish I could make today: a new story. I think about how the light settles so beautifully on these hills in December, how the sky weaves itself between leafless trees, how our bodies settle willingly into winter. I think about gratitude, which is everything and of which there is never enough. And then I hear a rustling, and footsteps. Terry Tempest Williams’ mother told her, before she died, that she had never had enough solitude in her life. It’s a line and a sentiment I’ll never forget. Gratitude and solitude and love—the great weaving. The footsteps approach. A sliver of light rises from between the pines in the east. Hello you. Hello light. Hello world. And me? Until tomorrow’s restless morning.
Making: Pear and Ginger Preserves/Pear, Clementine and Pecan Conserve/& Honeyed Fig Jam with Sesame Seeds
Thinking: This is the last thing I purchased before our "buy no new" year began on July 1st. It is a rockin' collection of delicious, eclectic recipes for year-round preserving that manages to both honor the tradition of canning and upend my notions of what it means to stand over that steaming hot water bath with thick rubber gloves on. Yes, industrious. Also: artful and fun.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Drinking: Ginger tea (and wanting a strong cup of joe)
Thinking: In the last few months I'd almost become disillusioned by fiction. It had been so long since I'd read something I found astoundingly beautiful. Which is what I want when I read: to be astounded. And then I read the first page of the first story in this book (which I had picked up, second hand, on a whim in order to fulfill a free shipping quota), and felt my world expand in the way I am always, when reading, looking for it to expand. The sentences blew wind through my mind with their beauty. Like this one, from page 1:
At this, she laughed quietly and almost at once grew silent and looked out toward the distant hills and the coast where, long after sunset, the East China Sea lay undulant, its surface of silver reflections folding over one another like the linking of fingers.
I heard Hemingway in that sentence, but also Alistair MacLeod, whose book Island remains one of my all-time favorites. I felt myself fully immersed in a vividly rendered landscape which I have never known (nor imagined). I found its layers of history rendered three-dimensional through voice and flesh and imagery and emotion. And isn't this what I'm after? What I'm always after? Beauty linked with history linked with place linked with heart and emotion? Yes!
Before I go, one more sentence to offer you in the hopes that you will someday read this book, too:
And Bev bathed in the luminous dark of the coast, scrubbing his back and soaking his hair and beard. He stood upright to clean his chest. In his sadness he opened his mouth up toward the metallic stars and waited for one to fall.