Day 1516 – Day 1529
I notice that I always seem to have something that needs to be done. I feel like I have more chores than I did when I lived in London but I know that I work less hours. Of course, I have to spend time driving everywhere, which adds a lot of time to my day, whereas in London I could simply hop on a train or tube and multitask, because I wasn’t driving the thing. But commuting aside, somehow there always seems to be a lot that I need to do, just to maintain myself. In my last few years in London, I lived in a very small place and there was a cleaner who took care of much of the cleaning for me. And, I used the washing machines in the basement, which meant that I could do all my laundry at one time (unless everyone else in the building had that same idea!) And I do think there is something to be said for having less things, because the more we have, the more we have to tend.
As grateful as I am for my bounty, I think that it is really my garden that has taken up so much of my time, lately.
This weekend, I canned the second to last batch of my tomatoes. I still have many tomatoes ripening in my home. It took 5 hours to process 5.5 pint-sized jars or roasted tomato sauce. Now, given that time is money, those tomatoes better taste incredible at just under an hour per jar! I wouldn’t pay my hourly wage for a half pint of home grown tomato sauce, but I didn’t mind spending the time because I know what is in each jar. I grew it and I sterilized everything and I canned them. There is pride in knowing that it was my labour that went into my sauce, and it’s a nice, “homey” thing to do.
Right now, we have amazing weather that we normally don’t get at this time of year in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and so my garden has lasted for a month longer than one would reasonably expect. I harvested a dozen peppers, bunches of broccoli, kale, swiss chard and leeks this weekend. I even harvested some peas, which are normally an early summer crop. It has been a wonderful summer for growing. But everything has its time and place. And when you’re growing, you also have to be harvesting and preserving, as well. I underestimated how much time this would take.
I realise that this summer, I had to clear the plot that I planted, build the structure and put up a fence. It took more time than it will, I hope, next year. But even still, one doesn’t get a great harvest if one isn’t willing to put in a couple of hours a day into watering, pruning and staking plants, building plant supports, improving the soil, and weeding one’s plot. As the summer goes on, harvesting and preserving begins as early as June and, at least this year, has lasted until the end of October.
It has been bountiful. And it has been a lot of work.
I never once went hiking this summer. I love hiking and being outdoors. I just never got out to do it. I did get to go kayaking but not as often as I would have liked. Next year, I have decided that I will commit to kayak racing at least one night every week, because I love it. Every time I thought of going kayaking, or hiking, I felt the pull of something needing to be done. And so, I managed to go kayaking only every other week and not hike once, in the summer.
The winter months are dreary and depressing for me, so I grabbed some stolen moments and did some things that I had been missing. I live in a valley, and unless I’m kayaking on the water, somewhere at a higher elevation, or meeting friends at the seaside for a walk, I don’t get to see the sunset. When I lived in London, I lived on the 14th floor, facing the Thames and – later – within 2 blocks of the river. On the 14th floor I saw the sunset every night, and when I lived such a short distance to the river, I was able to walk the Thamespath or sit on a public bench along the path, and watch the sunset reflecting on the Thames River at least two or three times a week. What a gift I had, in living there, and I am indeed grateful for that time. But, I miss the sunset.
And so, two weekends ago, after my day-trip to Seattle for a singing and hambone workshop, I decided to steal 3 hours more and go to West Seattle to watch the sunset on Puget Sound. It meant that I didn’t get home until nearly midnight and Monday was tiring. But it was glorious, and I’m so grateful for the wonderful weather and the ease of finding parking so that I could walk along the beach and see the Seattle skyline and then return to Alki Point to watch the sunset glisten on the Sound as it dipped behind the Olympic mountains. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. I hadn’t neglected all my chores for the weekend. I had spent one whole day gardening, the prior day, and began the process of clearing my plot for winter, but I didn’t get other chores done when I decided to allocate some time for solitude in nature.
I think that solitude and awe are important parts of the contemplative path. It is a part of the experience of sensing something greater than ourselves when we see beautiful artwork or a glorious sunset like the one I witnessed. It’s a pathway to feeling Oneness with that which inspires that awe, within. I was filled with awe at the glorious hues of yellow, orange, pink and red that lit the sky and at the way the light flickered and hid as it danced on the water. It was well worth it to miss doing laundry and feel a little tired on Monday.
This past weekend, I had no travel plans and was set to do more harvesting, food preservation, cleaning and clearing of the garden. I felt a bit sad that I had not planned a hike in the sunshine or booked myself a final kayak session for the summer. So, on Saturday, as I headed to the garden, instead of turning left, to the road where my allotment is, I powered onward and headed into the Canadian side of the North Cascade mountains and into the Canadian part of the Skagit Valley, where a little known hiking trail will soon be closed – to the Othello Tunnels.
I had heard about these tunnels that went through the mountains in Coquihalla Canyon, and really wanted to explore them but was a bit scared to go alone, in case the rock was unstable. The tunnels were carved into the mountains in 1913 for trains to transport people and goods from the USA border up to the interior of British Columbia. They stopped being used when the railway was re-routed from this perilous path in the 1960s. The tunnels have been deemed to no longer be safe enough for hikers, without considerable maintenance. I had wanted to see those tunnels before they were closed to hikers forever, and I really didn’t think I’d ever get the chance. But I made it happen, and I am grateful that I did.
Seeing the fall foliage was a joy and taking a short and easy hike on a level trail was the perfect antidote to my feelings of deprivation from a summer that was lacking in opportunities for hiking. I met the most beautiful dogs and their owners along a 5 km walk and it was just what the doctor ordered – if doctors wrote prescriptions for dry souls.
I did feel a little guilty that I passed the town where an elderly relative lives and I didn’t stop to visit. It would have been a service to do so, but sometimes we need to make sure that we are listening to the needs of ourselves, before we give to others. I needed to spend some time just taking in wonder and visiting new places. I needed a rest, drinking in vitamin D-laden sunshine, not thinking about what needed to be done, or having any goals except to return, safely.
I will remember the summer of 2018 as the summer I fulfilled a dream I’ve held my entire adult life – to grow my own food. And I will continue to feel pride as I roast squash and eat baba ganoush and salsa from the vegetables I grew. I will remember this summer whether I grow another vegetable this year or not. But I don’t want to remember the summer as the year I was deprived of enjoying the outdoors.
It is these stolen moments that open up the space to dream new dreams.
I don’t know if that space that I gave myself contributed to new insights, but I’ve had some interesting new ideas emerge this week. They’re crazy. And I’m not dismissing them. I’m not acting on them, either. I’m just giving them space to sit beside me for awhile, and we’ll see.
As much as it has pained me to pull out living plants, I’ve cleared my garden of all but the marigolds and a few plants that can winter in the garden until spring. I’ve thanked each plant for the food it has produced. I may have gotten a few more peas and a few more broccoli florets, but there comes a time when every gardener has to give the soil and themselves some time to rest.