Yesterday, I 'canned' 5 quarts of applesauce from the tree in the backyard. The apples are yellow, and sweet this year. Sometimes they are only edible after a frost, and taste like Granny Smiths. This year they are more like a yellow delicious. I share in a statewide bounty and have filled a plastic milk crate and three 27 gallon litter buckets, as well as a 10 gallon Rubbermaid container with drops and the proverbial low hanging fruit. Emmett has made several quarts with apples from the same tree, and I have yet to pick any of the apples that are out of easy reach. These are the blessings of sun, and soil picked out of rock-hard landscape a century or more ago.
I 'canned' 10 pints of chutney made with apples, onions and green tomatoes and huge amounts of spices. It won't be ready for another month, so I have to hope that the 3 pounds of still green Sungold tomatoes and the apples will be happy partners when I open a jar at dinner beside the wood stove.
I threw out some of my earlier efforts at 'canning', from before I knew to label everything with its contents and a date. There was rhubarb, one jar of that same chutney and a few jars of applesauce. Once open, I realized that they were probably made two years ago when Grazyna and Howard were visiting because one bottle of applesauce had a tiny stick of cinnamon that she had included in the ones she made. I wish I had labeled it because it was a good weekend with friends, and that tiny cinnamon stick was a marker.
There are more things to be done. The oregano and rosemary are thriving but need to be transplanted to pots as it is supposed to freeze tonight.The brussels sprouts will be ok in the ground, but the rest will be gone. The dahlias will be blackened, the nasturtiums limp. I got an extra week out of the garden as I thought we would lose it all over the weekend with rain and very cold temperatures, but there has been a reprieve. And I am feeling grateful for the slight extension on the fall. The leaves have not yet peaked. The grass is still green beneath the leaf fall. The mushrooms that I picked last week are still growing, though the Blewits that were intensely crayola blue have now gone to mauve and the caps are curling up rather than down. I have some remarkable spore prints from these and what may be a 'Xerula' that was growing beside a freshly cut maple tree. And I feel as though there is time yet. Winter is not yet here, though we have taken the air conditioners out and have ordered two truck loads of wood to add to our substantial pile in the garage.
I have swept, and peeled apples, and chopped onions and tomatoes. I have washed dozens of 'canning' jars, sterilized them, moved the antique plate set we bought at auction into the rubbermaid bucket in the basement. I have picked potatoes, made spore prints, brought in inside plants that were on vacation beneath the maple tree. And the garden is about to be done. With the ending of the season, I will turn to spinning rather than gardening. I will drag carts of wood from the stacked pile to the wood boxes, and will continue to sweep the debris out the door, only now it will be wood rather than grasses and leaf litter.
I said to Herb a few days ago, that this is an important time for me. I love Spring, and it has its rituals, but there is something about these last days before the cold settles in to the mornings, when bare feet on the kitchen floor is unthinkable; there is something about this time before cocoa and tea from our wedding gift tea pot, before wind that howls outside, before low sun disappearing early in the day; there is something in this I love. And it centers me. I don't talk much. There is no music on the radio. There is a sound of Fall that I listen for, as there is that cool edge to the dusk before the light is gone. And I find myself cleaning and washing and packing and sweeping and watching the leaves scatter before the winter.
It is as though it was a throwback to something ancient in my Ukranian family roots. It is as though the shtetl comes alive in me. It is not something I learned from my mother or her mother or my grandparents on my father's side. Deborah Tall has written eloquently of the search for a place of belonging. She has written:
After years of pursuing myself through the world, I am ready to pause, to arrive once more...at a here, and stay long enough so that “here” is all that need be said. I want to recognize my neighbors, not wake up in the morning and squint trying to remember where I am, not hesitate wondering how to answer when asked where I’m from. (16)Pause for an intermission.... ( a glass of wine, a cigarette)
I thought of Tall's words when I wrote about the connection to some imagined shtetl and of some sense of belonging to something I've never known. I thought of how she made her place in a landscape that was alien. I thought of how she had made her place in Ireland though she had grown up in suburban Camden, N.J. I thought of Tall for the first time in many years, because she had written my thoughts on Ireland and on belonging, before I had the words for them. I have known her work, as long as I have known that I wanted to understand 'home.'
But I have not thought of her work for many years, so I googled her and found that she had died of cancer a few years ago. I googled her and found that she had written a book, published just before she died. I googled her and the book and found that the book was on the discovery of her Ukranian family roots. I googled her and found that hers was a Holocaust story of a family that fled the Nazis, a Jewish family that made little of their past when they settled in America. I found that they had reinvented themselves, as so many children of the Diaspora had done before them. I googled her and found that I knew her ...in ways that had nothing to do with having met.
I have a place in New York that is familiar, but not one I choose. I have made a place here in this town. I have a place now beside the man I married 102 days ago. But I find myself oddly drawn to a place I do not know, have never seen, do not intend to live. I find myself drawn to roots that may not be mine. I find myself drawn to the land and to this place, and to the apples and tomatoes of Fall. I find myself drawn and settled here, in the season, in between fall and winter.
And once again, this is a post unfinished, as so many others before them.