February 28, 2011

Starry Night

Tonight, under a clear, star-scattered sky, I burned a bad time in my life. It’s been a long while since I held a fire ritual, the letting go of what no longer serves me well. Something about flames and purpose gives me a sense of a fresh start. And that’s where I am right now – cherishing the moment, recognizing the hard work that’s led me to this sweet time.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been clearing old files, digging through storage bins, drawers, closets, and cupboards. I’m astounded at what I’ve found. Things I didn’t remember owning. Or writing. Things I’ve kept for no rhyme or reason.

In the bottom of a drawer I found my old journals. When my first marriage ended, and for several years after, I poured my guts onto paper, frantically trying to figure things out and fix myself. While reading through a few pages this evening I wanted to reach back in time and smack that girl I was then, the one who so willingly took all the blame and cried how all her dreams had been destroyed. Maybe slightly amused pity is a better response. Because life has turned out almost exactly the way I wanted it to, despite my fears I’d never be happy again.

I watched the smoke from those journals curl away from me, like a living thing. A satellite eased across the sky; hundreds, maybe thousands, of frogs croaked melodiously while I sipped blackberry brandy and snuggled deeper into my coat and scarf. And I let it all go.

February 21, 2011

A Bit of Summer on a Cold Winter Day

Last summer I was a blackberry fiend, picking more than 40 pounds of wild blackberries. From most of those berries I made far more jars of jam than I’ll eat, which makes them ideal for gifting, and a few jars of blackberry sauce that I could fall into and happily drown. That left one large bag of berries still in the freezer, calling out to be made into something easy and summery in the middle of this cold winter.
Because I’m on a big organizing spree, I don’t want to can anything right now. The prospect of hauling out canning equipment and then waiting for jars cool on the counter just doesn’t appeal to me right now.  Clear counters are so pretty; I want to enjoy them a while longer and still have the satisfaction of having made something delicious to enjoy later. Last year I made a small batch of blackberry brandy that has aged perfectly. It’s a good thing to do with fruit when you’re already up to your eyeballs in jam and can’t face another jar.
Here’s the basic recipe. (I’ve played with it a bit in the past, using more berries, granulated sugar, and letting it sit for about a month longer.)
1 lb. blackberries
8 oz. superfine sugar
1 liter brandy
Combine all three in a gallon jar (or divide it between smaller jars) and stir. Stir it again once a week or so for the next two months. Strain, bottle, drink.
This batch of blackberry brandy won’t be ready until we’re well into spring, when we’ll lift our glasses of summer to toast the passing of winter.