preserved meyer lemons with chili and spices
Maybe it's the weather: it's one of those rain-all-day days in Seattle. Fine rain, light rain, but constant. So much of it, it's drenching everything (good, I have seeds that need germinating.)
lavender tangelo marmalade with lavender buds
Maybe it's just recent events. My friend William had a massive heart attack over Thanksgiving. I came to campus Monday morning, excited that my long day of editing sessions at a campus cafe meant that I would have a chance to touch base with William. He was such a funny guy. Great Jack Benny impression - and he was kind of always "in character" as that kind of Benny-entertainer-guy. I adored him. But I walked in that Monday, and they told me he was gone. Like that.
Last month, a contact wrote me to let me know that Rea, a major source for an article I've been working on for four years - and which I've been working on getting published - had passed away over Christmas. He was, my contact told me, happy that we'd talked, and that his story was getting out. And he was gone. Like that.
In January, Cass' aunt had a double mastectomy. She's doing great. But she tested positive for Lynch Syndrome (not really a surprise; she's HAD colon cancer already - and beat it). Cass' mother also got tested. Also positive. Cass has to be tested.
In February, one of my beloved professors, a man who will be 87 next month, was diagnosed with cancer. I adore him, as if he were my own grandfather. I dote on him. I've sent a card. But I haven't heard much. I don't want to trouble him - or his wife - he's had a long and successful life and I know there will be many worried admirers, like me. Instead, I have nightmares: he's supposed to be speaking at a conference, but I can't find the room. Or I get an email that he's been admitted to the hospital in critical condition, but only family are allowed to visit. Or I get an email that he's already passed away. Sometimes my whole night is filled with restless worry or tears. Some afternoons I just sit and have a little cry, and keep going.
This month, my aunt was just diagnosed with a rapidly-growing, very aggressive breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy yesterday. It didn't get into the lymph node. We are all relieved; it seems surgery was successful, though of course, she is only at the start of a long battle.
pickled green garlic
Then today Rogert Ebert passed. I mean, I didn't know the man personally. But it came a bit suddenly, on the heels of his "leave of presence" blog post. I read this excerpt from his memoir, Life Itself, on salon.com. Go, take a few minutes and read it. It's amazing. He takes up the meatiest of meaty questions: the function and practice of religion, death, the meaning of life.
I don't think I'd ever realized what a truly noble human being Roger Ebert was. I think I'd like to pick up his memoir this summer and read it. This passage, in particular, I found striking:
"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To... make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
Now that is a philosophy. And a good one. We must try to contribute joy to the world.
early preserves: the start of another season of "putting things up"
And I'm not sure what exactly I have to say today. Somehow in the middle of all this apprehension and uncertainty and downright loss, I am preserving.
Pictures of jam seem a little silly in contrast with (literally) discussions of the meaning of life and death, but then I stop and think about the act of preserving. This is a technology which humans have developed to slow the progress of natural age and decay, to salvage and save and keep that little taste of summer or winter, the sweet and the bitter that we want to carry with us into another season, another time - the taste we want to keep
... then I start to see the act of canning as a kind of metaphor for one of the dearest qualities we humans have: we love. And we try to hang on to things that we love - be it our spiritual grandfathers or simply the last gently sweet-tart meyer lemon of the winter season.
So I'll go on, stopping time with acid and salt.