Increments

It’s blackberry season, thorns, and sweetness and stored sunshine. We gather pails of wild blackberries in forgotten corners of the county; country roads, tangled backyards, in-between alleyways. The price of such harvest is counted in stained fingers and a few pricked fingers, but we are amply repaid, in jars of jam to line the pantry shelves, and in cool glasses of this weeks featured recipe; a refreshing shrub beverage, to ward off the heat of early August. Drink it topped with sparkling water, or with a splash of your preferred spirit, and be quenched.

California needs quenching, these days, as last winter delivered less rain than usual. Though our coastal mountain community has escaped both brutal heat waves and wildfire so far, we are all aware of the impending 1 year anniversary of the CZU Complex fire, and it stirs up uneasy memories of smoke, uncertainty, and loss. Amidst the memories, like a fine golden thread, we remember the way communities took care of each other in those murky times, and in the aftermath which continues to this day. We gather with friends in the changed landscape, stringing shade cloth to create shade where trees once cast it. If our summer parties are smaller than they were pre-Covid, and still take place mostly outside, the silver lining is the depth of connection between friends that have been through fire together. If these last 18 months have taught us anything, it is the value of community and friendship, the wealth that resides not in objects but in experience and emotion.

There is wealth in the garden, too. Not in the monetary value of crops that we grow ourselves, but in the feeling of abundance that the growing engenders. Here, have some cucumbers. Share this plenty with me. It is enough. It is more than enough.

There is wisdom in the garden, too. Not just the knowledge of which bug may be damaging the squash leaves, but the lessons that percolate, like water into the subsoil, about how to care for our little patch of earth. How to work within the limitations of what we have, how to allow and let go and learn and lose and try again. How to reap what is sown, how to make use of the time that is given to us. Sour grapes, unripe, make verjus. Ripe, they become jam, or wine. Wine sours and becomes vinegar, which preserves the rest of the harvest. Over and over, the cycles repeat, overlapping, and each year we spend in communion with our soil enriches us as compost feeds the soil; incrementally, irrevocably.
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