When all else fails, make something beautiful.
As we squelch ever-more-quickly toward the end of the summer, we have found a bare, staccato peace. Everett has learned to ride a bike; were I to have started him back on the Prozac at any other time, I would have attributed all his marked emotional grace and even-ness to the sheer athletic joy he's expressing, riding miles upon miles while doing tricks and making often-inappropriate jokes with me. But given the coincidence of timing, I've been thanking the pharmaceutical gods in addition to the Real one. Thank you for the sweet child who reads to his little brother for hours on end, who creates "calming areas," who takes himself outside when he's upset and rides the 180 feet of our property back, and forth, zooming past cars and chickens and bedraggled garden boxes, jumping, hopping, pedalling with all he's got.
Thank you, too, for peaches.
It may be that my garden produces nothing in abundance but herbs. In these herbs, then, is my own particular obsessive joy. It started with a comment from Harriet on a blog post (mine? hers? someone else's?) in which she suggested marinating strawberries with herbs. I imagined the possibilities from my very own garden. Lavendar sounds lovely matched with anything, but sage goes with blackberries, of course, and marjoram with strawberries and that honey melon sage would be lovely with peaches. And then I was at the market with a pocket overflowing with cash and saw the huckleberries.
There was no recipe online for huckleberry fig thyme preserves. But late one night when Jonathan had fallen asleep and the boys had tumbled into slumber after many books and I had already been making jam all day, peach-golden raspberry-lavender and blueberry-lavender and strawberry-marjoram-honey melon sage, I climbed my fence to grasp the few ripe figs from my neighbor's tree I could reach and walked a few blocks to beg superior figs (only one huge one was ripe) from an enormous tree there, all I could do was create this jewel-toned treasure and a preserving obsession was cemented. My fingers are sticky from licking pots and stainless-steel ladles and wide-mouthed funnels, of exploring the complexities of each and every jammy wonder.
The artistry of fruit preserves astounds me with its possibilities. How can I encompass all the fantastic bounty of this Northwest late summer with jars, deep pots of bubbling water, a few tools and an eager palate? How can anyone eat jam made only of one fruit, chemical pectin, white sugar when there is such a thing as peach-calendula-honey melon sage jam? The jam is made with currant juice instead of pectin and sparkles with the astringent loveliness of the calendula petals, it begs to be spooned in giant glops on the best bread you have ever tasted, it sings to you in the night when you close the pantry door, I am lovely, I am perfection itself, I am summer.