I want to tell you the story about how Aaron and I would spend our early dating days gleaning free fruit and then cooking it and preserving it. How one of the first things I did to show him I liked him was gift him a batch of crab apple butter. About how one time we tried to make a huge batch of quince butter but somehow it just wouldn’t cook down. After countless hours at the stove stirring we went to bed, and Aaron set the alarm and got up in the middle of the night to stir it and check to see if it was done. And then after all that it still wouldn’t cook down and we gave up and composted it amidst much laughter. About canning tangerine marmalade in our tiny, dark, hideous first apartment together. Tangerines we’d picked from a family friend’s tree and then hauled back to our college town. And their exquisite jewel colors. About tomato canning parties and apple butter cooking on the stove. About falling in love during the summer and late summer and autumn. About being surrounded by this abundance of food and lovely cooking smells and his love, always his love.
About how I’d gotten out of the hospital just a year before after being admitted for anorexia. About how I was desperately trying to heal myself and my relationship with food and nourishment. About how I felt unworthy of eating, of taking up space, of needing anything. And about how much this simple act of finding food everywhere we went, of harvesting it and cooking it and eating it, about how it began to heal me. About the love and care and joy that surrounded those simple actions. And about how I realized that this seasonal rhythm of gleaning and wild-harvesting and cooking and eating that I so enjoyed as a little girl, that this was essential to my healing. It fed, and still feeds, something deep in my bones. Something absolutely necessary to my health and happiness. So every year I take part in, what has become for me, a ritual. A ritual of self-care and care of my ever-expanding circle of loved ones.
Some years it is only a batch or two; other years I have countless pots and jars full. Sometimes I feel a tad overwhelmed with the task. But then I reflect on just how much it adds to my life. How much I need this most simple and necessary of tasks: feeding and being fed by the abundance around me.
It’s apple season where we live. And like most years we’ve harvested unused apples from other peoples’ trees. It seems I always know someone who knows someone with apples to spare. And my home is filled with the smell of cinnamon and vanilla and cooking apples. And my heart, well, my heart is feeling so very full and so very blessed.