Preserving Food, Attention to Detail, and Meditation: A Winning Combination

img_1099Yesterday I harvested tomatoes — a lot of tomatoes — and too many for me to eat before they spoil. So, I made tomato soup thinking I would freeze it for later. Once the soup was made and ladled into containers, I realized there wasn’t enough room left in my freezer from the fruit I’ve been picking and freezing all summer.

I decided that I would pull out my canning pot and preserve the soup in jars. Back at home after work, I prepared my kitchen for the canning process – cleaning the counters, washing jars, setting out my ladle, measuring cup, tongs, funnel, and water to boil in both the canning pot and a pot to sterilize the lids.

I don’t often think of myself as someone who pays a lot of attention to detail except when it comes to preparing food for canning. I am grateful to my mother for teaching me how to preserve food and, since she was exceptional at detail, I learned that each step of the way is important and makes the process easier.

Each summer into the fall, my favorite activity is to preserve whatever I harvest. The attention to detail makes me happy and becomes a meditation in motion for me. As I write this blog post while waiting for the full jars to process, I am aware of feeling very centered and calm like I do when I sit to meditate each evening. The detail of the canning process is so carved into my memory that each time I set about to put food by I move into a meditative state which can last for hours depending on how many jars are full and need to be processed.

I thought that this year there wouldn’t be time to do much canning. Now, I am excited to do more. I know that apples will be ripening soon which means I can prepare apple sauce and apple butter for those long winter nights when something that reminds me of summer helps to lighten the darkness. And, of course, my grandchildren love my applesauce.

I love knowing that I always have healthy food from the summer to open all year, especially when local vine or tree ripened fruits and vegetables are not available. I also love knowing that the food I’ve preserved has made me happy in the process and I do believe that happiness is in each jar when I open one months from now.

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Late Summer Musings on Change

“Every year we have been witness to it: how the world descends

into a rich mash, in order that it may resume

…how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?”

~ Mary Oliver

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In Oriental Medicine, late August into September is considered a fifth
season — Late Summer. It is the beginning of my most productive time of year.

Summer is ending,
leaves are beginning to release from their branches with the gentlest of breezes, here and there some trees are changing from their summer green to colors of fall, and the fields full of growth begin to shrink (only two weeks ago, I could only see the ears of deer standing in the field and now I can see their heads as they wander and graze). Crickets fill the air with their sounds and geese overhead are beginning group flight practice for their winter migration south. This is a time of change into the darker days of fall and winter — and here, in New England, this season change tends to be more dramatic in color and temperature.

In years past, long before the convenience of grocery stores, this was a time of preserving the harvest and hoping there is enough to feed a family through the long winter months. As my canning pot boils I can already imagine my joy at opening a jar of applesauce in January or spreading blueberry jam on a piece of toast in February!

I find myself excited and tingly as I, too, consider my personal inner harvest and prepare myself for winter. I very much feel the sense of closure and new beginnings. I am about to finish a year of assisting in the Certificate in Positive Psychology course that I, myself, took only several years ago. As the course nears graduation, I find myself wondering how I will fill my time? And how I will say good-bye.

How appropriate that the course ends now, in late summer. This is the time of year when I am personally assessing, evaluating, and considering how I wish to move forward. I find myself asking, “Who am I?” and “Who am I becoming?” In my journals, I explore my answers and consider the choices stretched out ahead as new beginnings are close at hand. I am making my lists of projects, dreams, and plans with joyful anticipation.

For now, I am aware of being steeped in my strength of ‘Appreciation of Excellence and Beauty’ or awe. My morning meditations are outside, on my deck, so that I can be surrounded by the beauty of dragonflies, morning glories, sunflowers, wildlife, and the sunrise. Each meditation begins my day with a sense of awe and gratitude for the natural world I am a part of.
What strength do you bring to this time of year? How do you prepare for the next season? What are you harvesting?