November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, the day we gather with family and friends, eat too much good food, follow traditions, and make memories. And, hopefully, find a moment in the busy-ness to be thankful for what we have.

Every family has its own way of celebrating the day. For some people it’s a full-on turkey dinner, for others it might be a picnic at the beach. Some families aren’t even related to each other, but have found a heart connection that binds them as surely as blood. It’s all about setting aside some time to be with people you love and really seeing each other in the best, most caring light.

We’ll spend the day at my sister-in-law’s house, gathered around a huge table filled with amazingly delicious and beautiful food. It’s going to be a good day, full of all the things that make a holiday.

I have so much to be thankful for: my husband, a warm home, that in a tough economy we both have jobs, for the families of my heart and blood, for the many small moments that make life magical.

I’d love to hear about your day. How do you celebrate?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

November 17, 2009

Making the Bitter Sweet

Have you ever eaten a fresh cranberry? Let me tell you, you haven’t missed out on anything. There’s nothing to recommend it. You wouldn’t want to grab a handful to nibble while watching a movie. They’re not a tasty treat.

But add a little sugar, some chopped orange and walnuts, raisins, and port, cook it for awhile and magic happens. Put it in jars and you’ve got deliciousness to last all year. Today I canned 24 four ounce jars of Cranberry Port Conserve. I can’t say it’s my best effort, but it’s pretty good.

Making jams or conserves is a meditation for me. I breathe and pay attention to details, one step at a time, everything in its own time. No hurry, no wishing it might be different. It just is.

Most often jam is made from sweet fruit; it’s not a stretch to make it edible. A cranberry requires something more, a willingness to see what it might become with a little imagination.

Cranberry Port Conserve

4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup port
½ cup finely chopped, peeled orange
1/3 cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts

Combine cranberries, sugar, and port – bring to a full boil over high heat and cook, uncovered, until berries pop.

Add orange and raisins. Return to a boil, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until mixture forms a light gel, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in nuts.

Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

November 12, 2009

Wishing and Hoping

Every year, when the dandelions go to seed, I can’t help but want to make wishes on each one that floats by. When I was a kid we called them fairies, chasing and then catching them with both hands so they couldn’t escape before we’d whispered our wishes to them.

I still make wishes on dandelions and stars and birthday candles. I also know that wishes don’t always come true, and when they do, they often look differently than we’d imagined. And sometimes the wish itself needs a little adjusting – kind of like the dandelion seed in the picture. It’s a little ragged.

That doesn’t mean we should stop making wishes, or be afraid of what we wish for. We need our wishes. They help us live well.

So go ahead … close your eyes, make a wish, hold it gently, let it go.

November 7, 2009

Sometimes there are no words, only our own quiet breath.

November 2, 2009

Not So Perfect

Almost forty years ago I made this little cup. It’s been packed up and moved with me at least a dozen times, and never, not once, have I thought about throwing it out. It was the first thing I ever made.

It’s supposed to be a Japanese tea cup, a beautiful thing for a graceful ceremony. I was nine; grace and beauty weren’t within my reach then – and often aren’t now – but I tried anyway.

The cup is too shallow, the rim too wide, the glaze drips down the side without pattern, my little fingertips left indents where there should have been a smooth surface. I compared my cup to those made by my classmates and came up short; I may have cried.

It now sits on the china hutch where everyone can see it. I keep it because it reminds me that something doesn’t have to be perfect to be precious. It’s a good lesson about the other parts of life too.

In the last few years I’ve ventured into making things again. Sometimes they’re beautiful and sometimes they’re kind of pathetic. There probably isn’t an artistic masterpiece in my future and it doesn’t matter a bit. What I love is dropping into a meditative state when I’m mid-project, the sense of curiosity about where I’m being led, the satisfaction of having done my best.

If, in the end, I’ve made a thing of beauty, that’s an extra gift.