Sour Cherries

A friend recently posted a photo on Facebook asking what kind of cherry she had found. It is like a large chokecherry. While I couldn’t definitively answer her question, it reminded me of the sour cherry tree we had in our backyard the first decade of my life.

It was quite an old, large tree and it produced lots of fruit. It made the BEST jam- a sweet-tart deliciousness that was my favourite. I don’t know if I’ve ever had any since.

Photo copied from novascotiagardening.com

The tree reminds me of my mother and her industriousness. Whenever the fruit ripened, she would diligently get out there and pick as many as she could before the crows and starlings cleaned off the tree. She would spend time pitting them all- individually. And then she would make preserves and jam- all while minding four children under the age of 10. You’ve got to respect that!

I don’t remember ever helping, but I do remember that my grandmother from out-of-province was there one time when the cherry harvest was on. I remember her sitting in the shade of the tree pitting brilliant red-orange fruit.

I remember sparkling, noisy aluminum pie-plates dangling in the tree in an attempt to keep the birds away. I don’t know if it worked.

I also remember that our picnic table sat in the shade of the tree, and my brother and I would play there. He liked to put on shows and I was the audience.

Best of all was going in to eat the yummy cherry jam on fresh bread when we tired of playing.

Thanks Mom!

Now to find myself some sour cherries…

Aging and Life

An aging man in the airport security screening has to take off his jacket and shoes and has to be completely scanned. He is out of sorts and doesn’t understand why there is so much fuss. When he is finally cleared and can put the contents of his pockets back  in place, and his outerwear back on, he walks away, only to realize that he has lost his glasses. He goes back to retrieve them, not knowing where they are, and the cold-hearted personnel do nothing to help him until he becomes a nuisance. They are doing a job, you know?

This was a picture of my father-in-law this past week. A man who in the past was strong in body is now walking slowly.  A man who would not hesitate to speak his mind is now showing great vulnerability. It is profoundly sad.

We can do nothing to stop aging. Millions have been spent on attempting to slow down the effects of time on our humanity, but ultimately, the end result is the same. Like watching a loved one go through airport security when you stay behind to watch, unable to help, death and aging can be frightening, frustrating. We can feel so helpless, and even hopeless.

So what do we do? How then do we live?

There are so many things that are out of our control.

Like aging and death.

But what is in our control?

Ultimately, I think the only thing that we can really take responsibility for is our own choices. We have opportunities every day, over and over, to make good or bad decisions. We can do right or wrong. We can love or hate. We can be bitter or be beautiful.

We cannot necessarily change the ugliness of life and death, but even in dark places, our choices, our attitudes and our actions can make a world of difference. In every situation, we have the opportunity to counter the downward spiral of things and make bold choices in victorious living.

That is not to say that we shun painful things. Rather, I think truly victorious living is when we look painful things in the eye, acknowledge them, and move forward despite it all.

There is a great poignancy here, living between pain and optimism. There is also a richness of life in these places that cannot be found by drowning in or denying either pain or optimism. Both are part of life, and embracing both leads to the best life possible, no matter what the circumstances.

I encourage you, no matter what your situation is, to embrace life, embrace death. And above all, to consider the choices you are making. Will you live a life that makes a difference?

Quilt Therapy

One of the things I do to relax and rejuvenate is play with fabric. The wonderful colours, patterns, and texture of printed cotton is an endless source of delight.

And using geometry and other math skills to piece the fabric together stretches my brain in another dimension, that is sure to benefit my writing…

I give my mother the credit for this love of sewing, quilting and using fabrics. As far back as I can remember, Mom has always had a sewing machine standing ready for use. She used to sew me clothes. I remember distinctly when I was in grade two that I was home with the chicken pox for two weeks, and during that time Mom sewed me a new red outfit- pants and a tunic top. I wore it back to school that first day, and was thrilled with all the compliments I received! I’m not sure if the compliments ever made their way to my mother’s ears, but she did a fine job!

Later in my life, Mom naturally became a quilter. Everyone in our family has been the recipient of more than one beautiful quilt throughout the years. We all think it is fantastic that she had the opportunity to be a quilt store owner for a few years as well. (To see her recent work, go to: www.artquiltsbyjan.com) It was an awesome, cozy feeling to visit her in the store, surrounded by beauty and comfort.

So I guess it is natural that I absorbed this love of quilting. It makes me feel alive and satisfied.

How fun it is now- to teach my teenage daughters the same skills. To infuse their hearts and minds with the ability to create beauty. I hope this becomes part of their lives too. Thanks, Grandma!

A Mariner's Compass Quilt made by my mother almost 20 years ago

Strawberry Jam

Tonight, ten days before Christmas, I made cooked strawberry jam.  I used crushed berries that we had picked this summer, and froze. What a yummy smell in the house in this dreary dark weather! The scent of strawberries is so fresh and summery and brings back wonderful memories.

Memories of this past summer u-picking strawberries and raspberries with all six of us. Memories of me, small, watching my mother diligently making all sorts of preserves. Memories of phoning her when I was first married, to make sure I was making the jam right.  Memories of my father and my brothers always wanting mom’s jam on their fresh bread… and as memory goes, one thought leads to another… all evoked by the smell of strawberries cooking.

Before my children all grow up and fly away, I better teach them how to make strawberry jam!