Water bubbles. I drop ears of yellow corn, fresh from the roadside, into my waiting pot. They boil for only a minute before they are dunked in cold water. We won’t eat them yet- instead, they will be added to soups and casseroles throughout the winter. Bags of eggplant and squash, containers of jam and pesto and broth, wait expectantly in the freezer for when they are needed, making room for the bags of yellow corn that join them.
Rain drips on my shoulders as I lean over, reaching for a plump tomato. A splash of red among green stalks. My mother and I chat companionably as we move up and down the rows, picking the first round of bounty. We share stories and memories, we vent our troubles as we bend and stretch and our bags get heavier. We are keepers of a tradition, she and I- mothers and daughters bringing in the harvest.
Later that week, I arrive early at my friend’s house, greeted with warm banana bread, a mug of coffee, and a cozy kitchen. We start to work, boiling water and rinsing jars. It is our first experiment with canning and we only feel confident because we are working together.
After a few hours, tomato juice shimmers in pools on the counter, bowls and jars are scattered on every surface, and tomatoes are slipped into their new glass homes. Amidst all of this, we talk and laugh, bonding over our delight in our work and in the starting of new traditions. The jars of tomatoes glisten and steam…. and seal with a sweet pop.
It is true that the swan song of summer is upon us, in the form of earlier nights and full gardens. Autumn creeps ever closer but I remain in my season of joy, calming my soul in the ritual of cut-dice-stir, finding pleasure in working with my hands. Alone in the kitchen in the dark of night, my thoughts run wild and smooth as I pull more colorful jars from their hot-water bath and wipe the counter for the last time.
Time ticks on, summer waning. All things come, all things pass. My task right now is merely to mark it…. and to preserve it.
[All photos by my beautiful friend, Joanna].