Friday, 7 October 2011

I have never seen that before

apple butter

apple sauce

Nothing smells nicer on a crisp fall evening than apple sauce simmering on the stove. I walk around this old house, enjoying as always my little late evening slice of quiet. I love time to myself; I'm not one of those people that gets lonely easily. I'm social and I cherish my relationships, of course, but I am comfortable with my own thoughts, and I enjoy being in solitude where I can hear them clearly. I love to dream- desires for our own future, or complete fiction. Sometimes I really get going and a whole story unfurls in my head, and then a wave of frustration hits me knowing I'll forget it all before I have the chance to write it down, or I try, and it just doesn't translate through my fingers onto paper. I love the physical act of writing but sometimes I just can't keep up with myself, and I lose it. 
There's no story this evening, just me, and the quiet, and this old house. I'm worried about keeping it warm this winter. Did I mention it's old? No insulation, anywhere. The original upstairs windows sparkle as streetlamp light falls on the condensation covering them. The glass has that wobbly look to it that happens after defying gravity for 130 years. Some of the panes are cracked. The walls are cold to the touch around them. I press my ear to the drywall and here the street noises clear as a bell. We will insulate before it gets real Canuck-cold, but I still worry. There are zero right angles in this place and all the off-kiltered "character" means lots of cracks and nooks for air to seep in and out. Now that we've been here for a few months and added the weight of our belongings and our daily walking about to the floors, I can see the house has already shifted to accomodate us. Lines have appeared on the ceilings and walls that weren't there in the spring, doors don't close that used to, floorboards have warped here and there. 
The house and I are alike in this respect. Motherhood is changing me the way we are changing this building. My posture has shifted to accomodate the chronic upper backache. My hips don't rotate the same way they used to. Things crack that didn't crack before, and won't crack now that used to. And I still get charlie horses in my feet- a third trimester symptom that apparently didn't get the memo when pregnancy ended. 

My mother told me today (or maybe yesterday?...) that I am becoming quite the little suzy homemaker. That would probably offend some girls. I thought it was great. She said this in response to me telling her I made apple sauce. The truth is that I get a little thrill these days in doing anything that makes me a little more self-sufficient, that makes our family a little less reliant on consumerism. I still go to WalMart and eat Kraft Dinner (I won't buy non-organic lip balm but I friggin' love KD), but I haven't had to buy bread in 3 weeks, and I am learning to work with the bounties of the season. Tomorrow hubby will come home with more apples from the roadside stand, and I will make another pie for my dad's birthday dinner this weekend. I will knead the dough with my own two hands, a meditative process I can picture every woman in my family doing, the motions unchanged, stretching back centuries. Woman after woman, mother after mother, making sustenance with her palms and fingers- smiling as she watched the fruits of her labour being eaten by those she loved. I'm realizing as I learn to do these things- bake, sew, garden, preserve- that these are sacred acts. We left them behind as technology progressed, thinking them nothing but time-consuming chores, no longer necessary thanks to modern conveniences. But I think we really lost something important along the way. A rhythm to our lives that followed the seasons and made us pay close attention to the earth. A deep appreciation for and commitment to making the best use of our resources. Thanksgiving. It used to mean something much more. A true gratefulness for having just enough. It's amazing how something like a loaf of bread is so meaningless when it comes from the grocery store (and there is the crux of it in my phrasing, because it didn't come from the grocery store at all, did it?), if it goes mouldy you throw it out and don't feel that bad about it. But bread you've made yourself- fed the yeast, worked the dough, watched it rise, pulled it from the oven- that is something precious. Exactly how food should be. 
It's not a new idea to talk about how we've become disconnected in this respect. We only see the steak wrapped in plastic, not the animal it was or the farmer who raised it, and so on. It's not a new idea at all- but it is a new thing for me to really feel it in my heart. It's a beautiful, new thing, for me to watch the steam rise off my bread and think to myself,

          God, I have never seen that before. 

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