Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Preserving Lemons, Nesting and, a Good Book

My cabin is in a high alpine type valley that was first settled some 140 years ago. The ditch that brings water the three miles from the mountain to fill the ponds was hand dug right around that time period and is still fully functional today. I think often, when I'm up here, of the women who first eked out a living with sparse shelter in this beautiful spot. I think of how difficult their lives were; no running water, no propane gas delivery to fill up a tank, no electricity to power a fridge and oven, no car warm in the garage to take them to the nearest store. Perhaps it's those memories that bring out the nesting instinct in me whenever I'm here. The urge to create a sanctuary; to make things safe. Were I not alone I would happily forgo life in Tucson and move up here year round. As it is, I fill the place as often as possible with family and friends and, as is the case this week, my dog and a borrowed buddy for him - he misses his cat.

I brought up from the Tucson garden Meyer lemons, kumqauts, limequats and grapefruit and had fun preserving my little harvest. The lemons I've preserved in salt for later use in Moroccan dishes and to spice up sauteed spinach and kale; the kumqauts and limequats are in a syrup to be used over ice cream or poundcake in the summer months; the grapefruit are still sitting in a pottery bowl looking lovely but the work involved in making marmalade has been a bit off putting so I might just find myself drinking a lot of grapefruit juice.

For me, this preserving of a harvest held no risk. For the women who settled this valley, their lives depended on a good harvest and preserving what they could for the winter months when nothing would grow. I think of root cellars and jars filled with vegetables; I think of how welcome the one or two old apple trees still to be found around here must have been and what treasure there was to be found in the solitary black walnut tree. Life was so difficult for those women and men who pioneered a way of life in these mountains that has now become one of luxury for weekend visitors. With their indomitable spirit and resourcefulness I wonder what they would make of the current economic mess we are in.

Strong women feature in a book I finished last night - A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - you may know his first book, The Kite Runner. Miriam and Laila live a life so removed from anything I have ever known that the images in the book are haunting me. They struggle to make a life in Taliban occupied Kabul; women are nothing. The mother bear instinct of protecting children and the extraordinarily strong bond that develops between these two women leads to tragedy for one and a chance of life for the other. Only yesterday I read of the Pakistani government brokering a deal with the Taliban that allows them to impose the rule of Shariah on the region of Swat that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan - can any god help those women living there?

In www.connectionsforwomen.com we shared a story about refugees a month ago and I was most moved by a spirit that endures in people who have suffered unspeakable hardship and yet they see hope in the smallest thing and keep going. When you have nothing, there is nothing more to lose and going forward is the only choice. The human spirit is amazing; the cruelty that still abounds in this world is appalling.

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