Have you worked on a personal project with diligence and idealism? What about a way of life or a love affair or a work of art? Did that process turn out the way you dreamed? What if it failed? What then?
Our little farm produced hundreds of pounds of the most beautiful grapes you ever smelled or touched. Succulent to the eyes. Honey to the heart... These grapes were jewels. So, I decided to make a project out of canning them. The process and the result brought forth introspection and a surprising touch of grief over other projects I've participated in.
Canning at the End of a Long Growing Season
When you work the vines,
when you cut and fertilize,
when you water and wait,
then the harvest,
then storage in a cool dark room.
When you steam and juice,
when you infuse the skin with sugar,
when you boil and add pectin,
when you sterilize, fill and seal,
then you process in a rattling old kettle.
When you wait for the set,
and the grapes dream liquid dreams,
then you awaken the next day,
and you arrive at 48 gleaming mason jars.
All your hard work is right here,
contained and steeping.
Then you open the first jar
with a pop and a whoosh
of inward rushing sky.
You dip in the spoon.
What do you find?
What does the process
bring forward in this world?
You find the jelly
you labored over for six months
is only very sweet syrup.
The pectin you applied failed.
The long work of your hands has not set.
Can it be that your taste buds still celebrate
despite the shift in expectations?
What do you do now with 48
expensive jars of useless syrup?
Just dip the spoon in again.
Taste all of the long journey
that you expected jelly.
you got syrup instead.
Is the taste of the explosive sun
worth the lacking texture?
Only you can answer.
Do you taste disappointment or possibility?
Perhaps the single spoon of wonder is worth
the past push of growth and harvest
through a season of sprinkler songs.
You must decide how to process
the difference between
what you dreamed and what is.
Disappointment or possibility?
Your answer will create your true experience of these fruits.
Your answer will honor or degrade you inner labor.
How will you label your seemingly stunningly flawed long won work?
Just sit for a moment and view what's here.
Distilled and preserved is all the sun and sweat and soil of summer.
A spoonful of bright earth!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~I write to you wondering what to do with many things I've made and co-created that seemingly went awry. Such is the experience of life. A poetry book that sits in a tall pile of wrapped bundles. A family member who will not talk on the phone. A roof that leaks. A lover who has left after years of laughter and long winter talks. The grapes are just another choice point of how to label the process.
How will I deal with my seemingly flawed long won work? How will I name it?
I could just sit and view what's here. Or really, I mean Really, taste that one spoonful of distilled sunlight. I could re process the whole batch. Would I process again with gratitude or regret? I could possibly make gifts of syrup, a sweet offering to a Sunday morning stack of pancakes. I could even shuffle the rejects away into the root cellar, in shame, with the purple fruit dreaming of the vine and the man who forgot to pray.
What do you do with the flawed?
Reject or love?
What will I...what will you...choose?
(c) Copyright on text and images, Rick Sievers, October 2014.