Monday, January 03, 2011

On, In, and Around Mondays: Edge of the New Year's Orchard

Girl in Field

She wrote of challah dotted with raisins. In The Spirit of Food, Hathaway spoke of the moments making this heavenly braided bread for the Sabbath.

I thought about all the times I have tried to make bread—her idyllic description compared to my reality. There was no comparison.

This has been a year of admitting things like, "I can't make bread very well" and "I will probably never have a garden that results in actual vegetables." This year, I have left behind more than a few Wendell Berry/Laura Ingalls dreams.

So that, reading The Spirit of Food, I felt a sense of disconnection and slight sorrow. My realities are far from the visions of sweet homesteading and tomato vines overrun with fruit, of jams bubbling on the stove and land calling my name (as if I could do it justice with the turn of my unskilled shovel).

I came to the end of my assigned reading. Challah was baking, raisins plumping. And she, the successful baker, failed to keep her bees. Bees? It had been a new, hopeful endeavor that year, but the hives emptied, and the honey dreams disintegrated.

Wild bees came, in time, took up residence, redeemed the emptiness and her efforts. I think I was supposed to be comforted by this. But it was something else that caught my attention.

Little girl in the orchard, reaching.

Charlotte runs ahead, scampering through the bramble at the edge of the orchard to pick low-hanging fruit. When we catch up, Bea, her baby fingers grasping at everything, pulls at leaves, twigs, finally an apple.

This vision promised to turn my whole year around. Year past, and maybe year forward too.

I want to be the little girl who reaches for low-hanging fruit. I can make bread if I will let myself do it with a bread machine and a mix. I can grow rosemary and sage (but not thyme) in my garden, and gather tomatoes from the farmer's market. The whole orchard may never be mine, but an apple is waiting. Now I must simply reach. At the edge of the orchard. Reach.



Photos by L.L. Barkat.


On, In and Around Mondays (which partly means you can post any day and still add a link) is an invitation to write from where you are. Tell us what is on, in, around (over, under, near, by...) you. Feel free to write any which way... compose a tight poem or just ramble for a few paragraphs. But we should feel a sense of place. Would you like to try? Write something 'in place' and add your link below.

If you could kindly link back here when you post, it will create a central meeting place. :)

On In Around button

We're reading The Spirit of Food together at Join us?

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Blogger Maureen said...

I love how you worked into that quote and where you took it. It's such a treat to open the New Year with such lyrical writing.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Solveig said...

Deep truth in this post. Thanks.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Kathleen@so much to say said...

That's my trouble, too--always reaching greedily for the whole works, instead of taking joy in the sliver that is within my reach.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I felt a strange mix of sorrow too when reading these essays. Part of it, I think, is that I realize my Wendell Berry/Laura Ingalls (this description made me smile) dreams will never come to pass either. My paternal grandmother--wife of a farmer--taught my mother how to make homemade bread when she married my father at the tender age of 16. They divorced before I reached the age of passing down this heritage. I feel that particular skill may be lost in this line now. When I read Brian Volck's essay about the rich heritage and love for growing things he passed on to him, I felt such grief...such lack.

But I can give my sons more than I was handed. And so that is what I look to these days. Who knows? Maybe they'll take to it. First the seed must be planted.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

I think I love Jeanne's story the most, too (as long as I don't think about Brian's or Ann's ...).

I don't have a family lineage like Brian; I don't have any connection to land like Ann (though I love their writing to the point of heartache). But I can see myself in Jeanne's story, bumbling through the aisles, loving whatever wilted thing she finds instead of dreaming of rarified food achievements.

What I love about Patty's writing is the same: food from some nearly-ruined, neglected corner of creation. I'm sad I don't have that mastery. I do possess a mastery of palate, though: I could be really happy to eat those jams and jellies.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Ann Kroeker said...

This past summer, I picked blueberries from a Michigan U-pick that we return to each year to stock up our freezer. A friend invited me to pick blackberries from some domesticated bushes growing on her property. I bought kohlrabi and kale and chard and honey and tomatoes and potatoes and corn at the farmer's market.

I'm with you: this, too, is an important act of gratitude--reaching for the fruit and vegetables that were planted, tended, harvested, and set out lovingly on tables for purchase.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Louise Gallagher said...

Ahhh, those "wendall berry/laura ingall" moments. (I smiled too).

I bake bread. My father passed along his love of baking bread to me. I bake bread. Neither of my daughters bake bread -- though they do love to ask me to make some for them.

Baking bread for me is meditative.

I do not garden. Nope. You wouldn't want me in the mulch! Ever.

And that's ok.

Love to shop at the farmer's market. Love to receive other people's bounty -- which I think is part of the giving is receiving balance of life. I have friends who have bountiful gardens who need -- and I mean need -- someone willing to take the bounty off their hands and put it to good effect -- that's me!

There's a company in Calgary who will garden your back yard and pay you in produce for letting them use your land. they go on to sell the residual to farmer's markets -- I think I may try out thier gardening strengths this summer!

Beautiful post Susan. So lovely to feel your poetic beauty in words.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Louise Gallagher said...

Ooops -- and I apologize -- I meant to write, L.L!

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kelly Sauer said...

The idea of slow, deliberate growing... Yes. This is where I am this year myself. I can hardly wait to write what I know now.

11:01 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Louise, no worries. My mom almost named me Susan. Because, she said, I have eyes dark and round like Black-Eyed Susans. :)

11:19 AM  
Anonymous heather said...

This is a much-needed reminder for me. I have high expectations for my endeavors, and when the broccoli won't grow or the pie crust is too hard, I indulge my disappointment. I also like what Kathleen commented about taking joy in the sliver that is within my reach.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Louise Gallagher said...

Thanks Laura!

I hadn't meant to write an On, In, and around Monday's post -- but, it happened.

just as packing up Christmas happened yesterday!


12:26 PM  
Blogger Jennifer @ said...

I, too, leave behind Wendell Berry/Laura Ingalls dreams. Which may seem strange, seeing how I live on a farm.

We grow food here. Crops and livestock.

But I don't live the idealized farm life, as much as I sometimes dream I would. Most of the food we produce here ends up being hauled away in wagons and on livestock trailers. (And here's a confession: I, the farmer's wife, end up occasionally serving PopTarts and Captain Crunch to these children.)

I can do better, I know. And The Spirit of Food challenges me on so many levels. But I also don't want to become legalistic about my food choices.

Reaching for the low-hanging fruit with you, L.L. Great post...

12:27 PM  
Blogger SimplyDarlene said...

I am not doing the book study at THC (so I am not sure what your Berry/Ingalls reference is really about), but I am focusing on nourishment of body and soul, both at home and hopefully on my blog.

Reach for the apple! And you don't even have to make it into a pie to taste the beauty.


2:39 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I have missed reading your wonderful words.
I can identify with this L.L. After I read the Little House books (in my 20's) I began baking bread and making handmade Christmas presents. It really was nice, but it wasn't something I continued.
I think I am much more suited to doing it your way. There is great joy in making those simple changes. I can grow basil in a little pot in the kitchen, because I know a garden just isn't in my future.
Thank you for always being so real.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous kingfisher said...

You will indeed find the low-growing fruit when you reach for it, Laura. I know you will! But I think you're also going to find some higher fruit in your emotional and spiritual walk, perhaps not the fruits you chose, of bread or gardens, but of maturity and promise, of hope and strengthening of your friendship with God.

I'm sorry, but my link to "On Mondays" didn't work, again. I just can't seem to solve it. Haven't a clue why the first "take" pointed to the wrong entry -- I typed in the url very carefully. And the 2nd try says it can't find the page, but there's a link to view the rest of the blog, and voila!, within that one, the "ladybugs" comes up. Very mysterious. Somewhat frustrating. Or maybe this only happens on my machine, not to everybody who clicks?

God loves you, Laura, and so do I!

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this dissatisfied feeling must certainly go all the way back to the curse, back to those words to Adam that his work would be difficult. "In toil you will eat of it . . . by the sweat of your brow you will eat bread." This growing and creating and stewarding is never quite as idyllic as it sounds on paper. I love that you just came out and said it.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Laura, my name is Michelle and I am a poet from Ontario, Canada. I have enjoyed reading your work in Catapult Magazine, and I was wondering if I could ask your advice. If so, could you e-mail me at Thank you so much!

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love food. I appreciate it deeply, and savor every meal and morsel. It somewhat defines our family life, to a certain extent, thanks to an exceptional wife who is an exceptional cook.

But I do not grow, garden or bake. I do not feel compelled to do these things (at the moment). Although she is starting to talk about a garden in the back yard...

6:25 AM  

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