Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love in the Time of Blackberries

On Sunday, M and I celebrated our one-year anniversary! He made me a darling wedding video; I baked us a heart-shaped cake and surprised him with concert tickets. Together we stood on our front steps, me with my dried-up bouquet, and remembered the glorious front-yard celebration last year. We crushed the year-old flowers and sprinkled them down the wedding path to our garden.

But the real highlight was blackberry picking--serious picking, for hours, until our fingers were sore and stained a deep purple. M clipped the vicious thorny branches away so I could duck into little coves filled with fat, juicy, beyond-reach clusters. We braved poison oak and bees as the sky turned from cloudy drizzle to hot breezy sunshine. We took one picnic break halfway through, then soldiered on, foragers by the lake-side, sharp primate eyes, determined to fill our deep second bowl. I cooled off with a dip in the velvety lake. We came home with almost 10 cups of berries!

This morning we made jam. First we rinsed and mashed up the berries.

We washed all the jars in hot water and boiled the lids. (Small poison oak rashes are blooming all over my face, neck, and arms. M, ever-empathetic, is more upset about it than me).

Then we simmered the berries and strained out half of the seeds. We added lemon juice, sugar, and pectin, and stirred it all up to a boil. A bee flew in the window and I cursed its attempt to lick my spoon. M reminded me that we wouldn't have any of these berries if it weren't for "those cute little bees."

Next we filled the jars, plopped 'em back in a boil bath, and voila: a delightful bounty of blackberry jam to last us through the winter. An incredibly satisfying and fun way to spend the morning with my dear husband, who makes every day rife with possibility and sweetness.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mother of Us All

In Louisiana on Sunday, at my aunt's bayou-side home, we celebrated my Maw-Maw's 80th birthday with two kinds of gumbo (shrimp and okra, chicken and sausage), potato salad, and a big white cake with pink flowers of icing. In attendance were all 6 of her children, 7 out of 10 grand-children, 4 out of 5 greats. The sixth one--now about the size of a sweet potato--elicited plenty of cooing and conversation. Even I'm growing more and more charmed at my stomach, whose bulge will not be restrained by spandex.

Since my mom has four sisters, family gatherings often consist of the women chatting in the dining room while the men watch the Saints on TV. Over birthday cake and iced tea, as I asked and they answered, I entered the sisterhood of Mothers. Alicia, my younger cousin, wishes someone would have told her how painful the recovery of childbirth is. My Aunt Sandy gained only 19 pounds in her first pregnancy. My cousin-in-law celebrated the epidural as joyfully as the birth, whereas my mother chose my dad over the anesthesiologist (the doc said only one other person could be in the room with her).

But perhaps most shocking of all is Maw-Maw, who delivered all six of her children without any epidurals. "When it was time to push, they gave me ether," she told me, "which numbs the pain for only a second." When her first grand-child arrived, Maw-Maw was only 40, still raising her own small kids. "But now I have all the time in the world," she smiled, "for my great-grand-children."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Answer Me This

Ten years ago I was working my very first job out of college, beginning my first serious relationship, living for the first time in my own apartment. I wanted to write, but never really made the time. I was taking a ballet class, watching Sex and the City, and eating plenty of Amy's vegan pot pies. My world was transitioning from friend-centered to boyfriend-centered, which was kind of thrilling but mostly terrifying. Life was about to get much more complicated.

I must admit that when 9/11 happened I paused long enough to be shocked and saddened, then went about trying to figure out my own life. I was haunted by difficult pirouettes and an increasingly jealous boyfriend, not America-hating terrorists. So it took me awhile to start asking the kinds of questions that I wish more people were asking, even ten years later. Here I will issue a disclaimer: since I recognize that 9/11 is a highly taboo subject matter that even good liberals don't dare question, I am not in any way claiming to know "the truth." I am, however, intrigued by a number of FACTS, which raise some chilling questions. For example:

Why did scores of people (firefighters, police officers, and eye-witness newscasters alike) report hearing explosions in the towers, as though it were a controlled demolition?

Why are these the only steel buildings in the history of the world that have fallen in their own footprint from fires?

Why were bomb-sniffing dogs removed from the site in the days before the attack?

Why did the government issue a stand-down order to air defense?

Why were the towers closed the weekend before the attacks for an unprecedented "power down," in which all security cameras were turned off?

Why does no one talk about the fact that George Bush's brother, Marvin Bush, was head of security for the World Trade Center?

Why was the mayor of San Francisco warned not to fly on September 11?

And I could go on. There's so much information out there it's really rather daunting. Aside from way too many discrepancies about the attacks, there were the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan afterward. Ten years later, our military is still in both countries and our economy is in the toilet.

So, yes, I agree with the media and all those patriotic folks who declare that we should never forget the tragic events of September 11. But what good is memory without inquiry? What could be more patriotic than insisting that the government be held accountable to its citizens?