After so many years of boastful posts on social media about my exploits with grape jelly, people have begun to drop grapes off at my door.
I have both friends and family who grow their own, but can’t be bothered with the labour-intensive process of turning them into wine or jelly.I didn’t set out to be known as “The Jelly Lady,” but I seem to have accomplished it by talking about it and posting pictures ad nauseum.
I am no gardener, but I find tremendous satisfaction in turning the fruit of the vines growing in my back yard into many bottles of dark purple deliciousness. They will be a burst of warm sunshine on my goat-cheese-and-bagel all through the winter months. And it’s something I can give away to my local friends and family.
(If you have received a bottle of Grapefulness this or any other year, I hope you feel love pour out of the open jar, because that’s what’s in it. L-O-V-E, from me to you.)
This year, I found two things interesting:
1. The 2016 crop was not as plentiful as 2015, when my two little vines had produced enough grapes to yield about 40 large bottles of jelly—far more than we could ever consume on our own. For this reason I tend to give a lot away. The entrepreneur in me suggests I could rent a table at the local farmer’s market and make my own labels and sell off a few jars, but I have to say I do delight in giving generously.
But this season’s crop only yielded about 15 bottles. Not enough to give away, really—until the other day, when my husband’s sister dropped a bucketful off on our doorstep, which doubled my yield. At first, I sighed, because it meant another trip to the grocery store for lots more sugar and pectin and lids, etc., after I had put all those things away—both physically and in my mind—for the year.
Afterward, when I piled all the bottles together, I felt a wave of thankfulness. I now had plenty to give away, not just to my sister-in-law, but to others who need to feel the love.
There it is, kids, your first Thanksgiving message. Give and ye shall receive, so that you may continue to give more.
2. Though this year’s output was small, the sunny, dry weather we enjoyed this summer made for perfect growing conditions (in fact, folk from the Jost winery in Malagash, NS told me it was their best year in many) and they were so sweet and flavourful that I ate them by the handful. I considered leaving the small, blue clusters on the table to grab as we walk by, like we do with blueberries.
As usual, I find an object lesson in this. As I have written in previous posts, the past twelve months have been a huge emotional and physical challenge, one that has taken a toll on my health. [See “For all those in dry places” June 10, 2016, and “Proxy Walk,” June 26, 2016.] My parents have gone into care, and as I watch my father’s health continue to fail, I realize that the end of his life will represent a doorway into the next stage of mine.
At the same time, our kids are still at home. Our youngest is still in middle school and our two older kids still struggle to find their independence in the world. It weighs on my mind and I long for the time I can see them established. One less thing to worry about.
I watch my other friends who currently enjoy travel to fabulous places or have earned big steps forward in their careers. These are people who do not have my responsibilities, and are not anchored by my financial restraints. Therefore, I shouldn’t be jealous, but I am—insanely so. I fear I am somehow running out of time, or that my best days are behind me. I watch the world passing by while I am constrained by circumstances I have grown so used to I think they will never change.
I have these sweet grapes:
–This year, I shared in a friend’s joy when she told me she had finally conceived after many years of disappointment. It was the greatest experience to share in those tears of joy and I love watching her circle of friends support her as her belly grows. Hallelujah.
–My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage this past week. I am not an overly romantic person, but I have enjoyed the benefits of being married to someone who is. I have learned much from him, and I am thankful that he makes every difficult moment easier and every joyful moment more fun.
–A relative of mine is beginning to experience real freedom after many years of crippling anxiety. The road ahead is still long, but her shoulders are straighter and her countenance is bright. When I look at her, I see a walking miracle.
–I find myself savouring every moment with the people in my life. My parents, my kids, my friends and my extended family. I memorize their faces. I chastise myself to listen, instead of talking so much. I try to be in the present moment instead of letting my mind wander to the schedule and to-do list in my head.
Life changes in an instant.
I must appreciate it while it’s here, while it’s in front of me and flowing through me.
So appreciate the sweet grapes in your life, my friends, even if your growing season has not been abundant. There’s always something to be thankful for, and somehow out of that, you will be given more.