This afternoon I am forcing myself to do nothing. For most of the week I was hustling to put up some food for winter. Some of this busyness has been very satisfying in the light of the anxiety about sufficiency: about having enough to survive, should we both remain jobless. In the lean times, I often resort to canning fruit, hoping the sweetness will brighten the long winter.
I landed a windfall of beautiful red-fleshed plums from a friend's tree. In gratitude for the plums, I taught her a bit about canning and making jam. We were fully at work for eight hours on this process: two batches of jam (one sugar-free and the other low sugar) and some fancy brandied plums, which were an experiment, born of our desire to "get rid of more plums."
The poor plums were the same kind of juicy, red beauties we'd been swooning over earlier in the day. But by nine o'clock Saturday night, we were much more cynical. Nevertheless we loved the plums enough to preserve them, and to stand over them in the steamy kitchen, spooning them into gleaming glass jars.
Again the next day I had the energy to begin two more batches of canned plums, and this morning, with the last few cups of plums, I made a sauce for tomorrow's pancakes. I rest this afternoon with a pleasurable sense of weary satisfaction.
Interesting to begin this canning frenzy on Labor Day Weekend, when so many are celebrating the fruits of their labors. There will be more from my little garden, and I hope more windfall fruit. Those of us who are without paying jobs can work hard at what is given us to do, and to make the best of the windfall apples, or plums that come our way. It takes away the feeling of helplessness which sometime attacks me if I'm not wary. I'm doing everything I can to help my family, but sometimes everything I can seems to fall woefully short.
This shortfall feeling can creep up on me as I anticipate bills or expenses in the future, as I try to plan for events that are not in the budget, or as I try to imagine funding projects beyond the very basic needs. It is impossible to drive this angst away for good, so I remain on the look-out for it. If it should appear, I try to escort it away after entertaining it for a short visit.
Once eerie angst has had her cup of tea and biscuit, it's time to do the next thing. It's hard to do sometimes, but it is necessary to find a pastime, whether it be pleasurable or simply energetic, that demands my full attention, so my mind doesn't wander into areas of woe. I am very grateful for that windfall of plums, for the presence of my friend, and for the useful skills I have learned throughout the years: cooking, preserving, and making the best of what is.