Acts of Faith, Part 2
I’d long planned to write about canning what Greg and I have grown in our prairie garden this summer. We’ve got loads of tomatoes, beans, peppers, leeks, potatoes and kale. I wanted to talk about the sheer poetry of sealing San Marzanos into steaming glass jars with garlic and basil—also from the garden—in the anticipation of the snowy day when I would open up a bit of summer for cacciatore or marinara or meatballs. The act of preserving would be one of faith—faith in the future, faith in my relationship with my artist lover, faith in the goodness of sharing food, faith in what we’ve built together. It seemed to me that harvesting what we grew would be a rich metaphor for the ways in which our relationship has grown to develop its own roots in the last year of living together. There would be some of us preserved in each jar.
And while we have been preserving—I have a shelf of kosher dill pickles in basement, next to half a dozen (and counting) quarts of preserved tomatoes, not to mention the spicy sun gold tomato ketchup I whipped up this week—it has not been the meditative experience I’d imagined. Instead of spending days with steaming pots and hot glass jars and produce I work quietly with my hands, I’ve been canning in pockets, in frenzied bursts of in between a harvest of another kind: Along with the fruit of the garden, I’ve been preserving memory.
I am on a self-imposed early autumn deadline for my memoir proposal about the decade I lived alone on the mountain. It’s a story I’ve been trying to tell for years. Only now can I see that I’ve needed to be able to look over my shoulder from the perspective of the flatlands to see the story of how the wild shaped me. Writing about it now feels as satisfying as opening one of the jars of tomatoes and as tenuous as tasting the pickles I’ve aged for months. Living on Overland Mountain, I preserved days by writing down weather and birds, keeping a journal about bear and bobcat, deep snow days and thunder-filled nights. In combining stories about wilderness and my dog Elvis with stories from my childhood, I’m finally making something from all that I’ve been through. The memoir tells the story of how wilderness worked its way into my skin and a life that had been too hermetically sealed and opened it wide. Everything I can hold in my hands right now (my career, my relationship with Greg, the fertile soil beneath my feet) is because of living deeply with landscape.
And believing it’s a story worth sharing is the biggest act of faith I’ll harvest as summer ebbs into fall and the lovely winter to come.