Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Joy from Different Places

This summer has been an odd one. I started it out  by being confirmed into my church, going away for an incredibly intensive retreat, and then being ordained as an interfaith minister. Those three things left me feeling rather adrift, in a lot of ways, once I returned to home. Of course, I didn't return HOME because we don't have one right now; I came to stay at the parsonage of our church, a place that has given me time and quiet to figure out a few things about myself and the situation we're in. It's also given me pause, made me think about how I want to live my life, and "what I want to be when I grow up."

Every summer for as long as I can remember, I've had some sort of garden. Most of the time it wasn't much more than a tomato plant and some radishes, maybe a handful of sunflowers. The last several years, though, have been spent in more intensive gardening. I hadn't realized how spiritual that had become for me until this summer, when I was once again relegated to a handful of tomato plants in pots.

I've been out tending to my tomatoes every day since the heat wave started. I came up with a redneck drip irrigation system (empty plastic pop bottles with tiny holes in the bottom, filled with water and left to sit in the tomato pot). I've told them what good tomato plants they are. I've weeded, although really it was only a handful of tiny things that must have blown in from elsewhere. They got good soil to begin with and so haven't needed much amending or soil loosening. It just seems kind of anti-climactic I guess.

I had originally hoped to transplant the tomatoes to our new home, and let them spread out there. When that house fell through, my hopes dropped, too. Now we're looking at a new house, which I am hoping will very soon be our home, and I find myself picking up again, hoping and praying. If we can get in by August 5th, I will be able to plant a few tiny things to save for winter: lettuce, radishes, and spinach. I will probably try some short carrots and some beets as well, though a very small patch because I will need to be able to cover them with something to save them from the early frosts. Still, it would be something.

I am heading into the early autumn season with nothing canned or frozen for winter's consumption, and I admit it has me somewhat shaken. At the very least I've always had beans and tomatoes, but even those are not present this year. I'll have to buy tomato sauce all winter, and I won't be able to do my birthday special and open up a "jar of summer" to eat. It makes me very sad, and also brings home the knowledge that when I preserve food, I'm also preserving prayers.

When I open a home-canned tomato sauce jar, full of my own tomatoes, onions, peppers, and herbs, I am opening a summer day full of memories and love, sweat and hard work. I'm also opening a prayer made months ago, letting it loose into a darker, less sunshiny day. Summer prayers have special magic to them, I think, because they're full of vitamin D and suntan lotion and the smell of beach and sand. When mid-winter comes by and I crack the seal on something delicious, I let out all those memories and emotions, along with the simple goodness of my own veggies.

This year, why don't you preserve some prayers? You needn't have a huge garden to do it. Just pick up a handful of ripe tomatoes at your local farm stand or co-op, take them home, and process them in the time-honored way. I think I will see if I can get a bushel of over-ripe tomatoes for canning. Perhaps we can get an end-of-summer deal...
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