Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer Waning

Water bubbles. I drop ears of yellow corn, fresh from the roadside, into my waiting pot. They boil for only a minute before they are dunked in cold water. We won't eat them yet- instead, they will be added to soups and casseroles throughout the winter. Bags of eggplant and squash, containers of jam and pesto and broth, wait expectantly in the freezer for when they are needed, making room for the bags of yellow corn that join them.

Rain drips on my shoulders as I lean over, reaching for a plump tomato. A splash of red among green stalks. My mother and I chat companionably as we move up and down the rows, picking the first round of bounty. We share stories and memories, we vent our troubles as we bend and stretch and our bags get heavier. We are keepers of a tradition, she and I- mothers and daughters bringing in the harvest.

Later that week, I arrive early at my friend's house, greeted with warm banana bread, a mug of coffee, and a cozy kitchen. We start to work, boiling water and rinsing jars. It is our first experiment with canning and we only feel confident because we are working together.

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After a few hours, tomato juice shimmers in pools on the counter, bowls and jars are scattered on every surface, and tomatoes are slipped into their new glass homes. Amidst all of this, we talk and laugh, bonding over our delight in our work and in the starting of new traditions. The jars of tomatoes glisten and steam.... and seal with a sweet pop.

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It is true that the swan song of summer is upon us, in the form of earlier nights and full gardens. Autumn creeps ever closer but I remain in my season of joy, calming my soul in the ritual of cut-dice-stir, finding pleasure in working with my hands. Alone in the kitchen in the dark of night, my thoughts run wild and smooth as I pull more colorful jars from their hot-water bath and wipe the counter for the last time.

Time ticks on, summer waning. All things come, all things pass. My task right now is merely to mark it.... and to preserve it.

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[All photos by my beautiful friend, Joanna].

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spontaneous Prayer

I started the month of August nose-deep in a memoir (Found by Micha Boyett) on learning how to pray amid the busy, the chaos, the to-do lists. A birthday present from my husband who understands my seeker soul. I found myself nodding my head with the writer as she learned to shed the guilt that has mixed in with her faith, embracing the idea that we don't choose Jesus and we certainly don't earn Him. I grasped onto her insights of the Benedictine Rule, which fascinates and excites me. And I smiled in recognition as she learned to weave prayer into her everyday moments of running errands and showering and cleaning up the kitchen.

Prayer has only ever worked for me this way. I've tried to regiment it, getting up before dawn to recite Psalms or setting a goal to read certain passages on certain mornings but it has never worked well. Prayer is too spontaneous to be molded into a to-do list. I don't schedule conversations with my husband so I've stopped trying to force myself to do so with God. The notion that prayer is not a performance but an earnest, truthful talk with God and the idea that our everyday work is a form of prayer is something that speaks to every fiber of my being. Sometimes I pray without words, instead communicating my needs or awe with my eyes, my hands, or my breathing. God is outside the language of human beings. I only ever think I hear him when I am outside anyway.

I am encouraged when I remember that faith is not guilt. It is not the opposite of doubts and questions. It is not a single life-affirming moment of conversion but a gathering-home that takes place every new day. And so is prayer. Prayer is one spoken word that can hold a dictionary of meanings. It is listening as well as speaking. It is in the work we do and in our relationships with others. It is the inhale and the exhale.


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