“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, Salem’s Lot
Fall is in the air. You can’t really tell from the high 90 degree weather we’ve been having and the smoky skies; but it’s there. The promise of coming Fall. It’s in the overnight low temperatures that have dropped into the 60s and tomorrow will begin to be in the mid-50s. That’s the beginning promise of the coming fall. For me, the end of summer is brought on by peaches and potatoes.
I have two peach trees. They explode with pregnant exuberance in the middle of August. The deep green branches shade the stark orange-peach hues. The peachy red color winks out from between the branches at me every morning while I write.
I have free stone peaches. I never knew that before this year. A free stone peach is when the pit falls away cleanly from the rest of the peach. My peaches don’t ripen all at the same time, and I have so many friends who volunteer to come help me pick peaches and go through the peach preserve dance with me. While I appreciate the offer, that’s not how it works. I pick three or four baskets on one day. The rest of the peaches aren’t ready yet. They will round themselves out in their own time. I check the trees every three days or so. That means my backyard peach season lasts about 3 – 4 weeks.
I like to pick the peaches early in the morning, among the rising sun. The dark orange glow of the sun attempting to penetrate the smoky skies match the color of the peaches. The occasional soft whisper of air cools my skin. As I touch each peach, deciding who is ready and who needs more time, ladybugs and pincer bugs leap onto my shirt and shoulders and hair. I try not to think of creepy crawlers and wait until I’m down on the ground before I give a good shake to rid myself of unwanted visitors.
I always intend to pick just a few, but then go around each tree, and come down with bushels. I have a list of those I give peaches to so after the picking is done, I text the recipient and declare “Peach Season is in full effect.” I’ll slice and freeze 20, gallon freezer bags. Peach cobbler, upside down peach cake, peach salsa, peach cheesecake and peach milkshakes will be made. Then it’s time to make peach jam.Though, it’s not really peach jam. I make peach ice cream / yogurt topping. And I use a fraction of the sugar required. The peaches are sweet enough on their own.
I’m not great at canning. Oh, I understand the science behind it now and can accomplish the task, but somewhere in my beliefs, ‘canning’ stands for everything domestic that I dislike and never wanted to be a part of. I never intended to get married, not that I didn’t want to, I just never thought it was in the cards for me. I was perfectly content to travel and write and see the world. My gypsy spirit was at ease with only a laptop and printed words on a page as my baggage. But here I am, married with kid and house. And domesticity in the form of canning is like the last straw. I mean, what about feminism?
I’ve had time to figure this one out. I’ve been at odds with domesticity for a long time. For me, married with a kid and a house = loss of self. You see, I traveled and was on my own for 34 years, so my sense of self was quite strong when I finally married. So I projected my fear and came to equate domesticity as a horrific end of a woman’s freedom and life as she knew it. It seems dramatic, but that’s how I saw it. Historically, women had few choices, so a life of domesticity was a woman’s calling, her role, and her job. And for some, it became synonymous with submissiveness. When I did get married, I made sure the word “Obey” was not in my vows. It only stands to reason that the gypsy who had traveled the world over feared domesticity in the form of staying chained to one place.
Good news, I have continued to travel even more than before and turns out I married a man who understands me and lets me be the best version of myself.
It’s always this time of year when the final battles of redefining domesticity in my life comes to its height, however, over the past two years, the task of canning and preserving food has become less of a domestic woe and more of a history lesson.
In learning to preserve my crops I’ve learned a lot about those strong pioneer women I come from. Their tenacity, their stubbornness, their light. I think about my great grandparents from Idaho. Who worked this same soil I work every spring, who preserved because they were coming out of World Wars and The Great Depression, which made fruits and vegetables a precious commodity.
As I fill the boiled clean jars with jam and lower them into the roaring bubble of a water bath, the water splashes up and nips at my skin. I don’t think about feminism, but about preserving. Preserving a genealogical history; preserving the summer (yes, even this year there have been one or two precious instants to preserve); preserving this moment in time with my kid who is helping; preserving the land of my ancestors; and I suppose I’m preserving their memory as well.
Yes, I do get this sentimental. Yes, I do think about history this much. This year especially, I think about our ancestors who lived through difficult times, who had less than we have and did more with it.
You see, it’s the first cool wind that brushes the promise of the coming fall over my skin, that begins to make me this thoughtful. Fall inspires me, and I am wont to write more and ponder more. And it’s learning to preserve a little part of my world, whether on paper or in a jar that helps me embrace the fact that this too shall pass. This moment right here, right now, is not our forever lives. Even in the good years, we can’t keep these moments. So we preserve them in photos and journals and sometimes we attempt to can them.
How do you preserve what is precious to you?