Dear Pope Francis,
One of my strongest childhood memories is of my mom canning fruit in July and August. First it would be cherries — which we grew on a farm of 400 or so trees — and then peaches, apricots and finally pears. Thinking back, I don’t know how she did it. It would be stinking hot outside and she would be in the kitchen, presiding over pots of boiling water and sugar syrup, fruit juice coating her arms up to the elbows as she peeled and pitted and cut up all of summer’s bounty. (That she also did this after the three weeks of cherry season during which she worked from sun-up to sundown, while also taking care of us three kids, is nothing short of miraculous).
After the steam settled, I remember going into the kitchen and seeing all the jars laid out on the counter, gleaming like jewels. They were actually treasures, to be pulled down from the cupboard during the dreary winter, providing a taste of summer.
As a kid, of course, I took for granted all the work and effort that went into canning. It was just what my mom did. Only now, as an adult, do I appreciate it, particularly since I haven’t had my mom’s canned peaches in awhile. She has, rightfully, retired from canning. I flirted, briefly, with the idea of doing some myself this summer. But, after peeling a couple to go into a smoothie, I quickly decided I wasn’t up to the task.
One thing I lost as I grew up and went out into the world is a sense of the movement of the seasons. As a child, a teenager and even a young adult, my life revolved around seasonal change. School started in the fall. Then came winter and Christmas. And spring and cherry blossoms and Easter. Then the cherry harvest of summer, a month to recover in August, and then back to school. As an adult, I lost that rhythm for a long time. Seasons were more of an annoyance than anything else. I’ve always dreaded fall and that long, slow descent into winter. As it freezes up outside, and the light fades, I, too, slow down and become sluggish and dimmer. I’ve learned ways to cope over the years, but it’s always a bit of a struggle. Spring comes as a relief, and then summer, and then back into fall. As I grow older, these changes seem to happen so swiftly. Where summer once seemed to stretch on for an eon or two, now it rushes by in flashes of heat and light.
Lately, though, I’m trying to lean into the seasons, and accept their unique rhythm as my own. It’s not an easy task. We live in a world where we have to have one speed — rushed — all year long. There’s no patience in today’s workplace for moving with the seasons. Despite that, I’m trying.
One thing I do recognize as August nears its end is that it’s time for me to begin an internal harvest and put up some spiritual preserves. For the last two years, while I worked on my degree, I’ve been doing a lot of inner sowing. I’ve been exposed to countless authors, speakers, theologians, and thinkers and read many, many books. I am, I think, quite full, and laden like an apple tree weighed down with a bumper crop. I’ve got so many ideas, thoughts, inspirations, and possibilities whirling around in my brain that they, at times, weigh me down.
And so, I think this next time for me will be a period of sorting out, assessing and harvesting what’s been growing inside. Like my mom at the stove, I’ll be working hard to preserve all of this bounty — in poems, blog posts, maybe even a book. Who knows. But, I’ll put up my own set of jewelled jars, full of potential and new horizons.