Signs of Summer

Photo by Christine Valters Paintner,

Photograph © Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts

From Alyss in Portland, Oregon:

Summer is here!! The Solstice was only a few weeks ago so it is still light late and the warm, dry weather has come into full swing. I’ve been enjoying long evenings with friends on decks and patios all over town since it’s hardly dark at 9pm. The gardens are overflowing with greens still and fruiting trees and vegetables are starting to share their bounty as well. I’ve had three people give me cherries this week because trees are so overloaded! The tomatoes are starting to show green fruit and so are the apple trees.

I started a traditional summer infused alcohol last week called Vin de Noix. It is eau de vie and wine infused with green walnuts, cloves, vanilla and sugar. It is said that it is best made between Saint Jean’s feast day on June 24 and Bastille Day on July 14. I started mine on July 4th, an American high summer tradition. It smells fantastic (anything with cloves, vanilla and sugar will) but needs at least 40 days to fully infuse. By Lammas I will taste it and see how it is doing. I hear it might be a bit bitter from the walnuts, but that will eventually fade into a smooth, thick after dinner sipping alcohol.

Summer is a frantic time too. My friends complain that their weekends are booking up and that there just isn’t enough time to do everything we want to do during this glorious but brief warm, light, dry season. I get to feeling it too. So much to pick, to preserve, to cook, to eat, to see, to do. Last fall I remember feeling such kinship with the trees losing their leaves. That is time for letting go and focusing inward. This time of year though I like to give into the frantic energy. Yes, let’s go out! Yes, let’s go harvesting! Yes, let’s can, let’s play, let’s live while the sun shines and the days are long. There will be time for rest when the year is dark again.

Alyss lives in Portland Oregon and blogs at The Wheel and the Disk.

From Lu in Florida:

(Photo by Lu Merritt)

Hope in Our Hot Season/Moving Toward Fall in Florida

Harvest time comes early here in subtropical paradise, North Central Florida almost to the Georgia state line. Our seasonal shifts are more subtle here than in other parts of the country, but if you know what to look for, there are definite markers.

By mid-July, our local crops—corn, cantaloupe, watermelon—have peaked and been picked. The only things still ripening in the garden are late tomatoes, so thankfully it’s still possible to have one of summer’s perfect joys, a fresh tomato sandwich: Slather mayonnaise on two pieces of your favorite bread, cut slices of a freshly-picked tomato to your preferred thickness, lay the slices on the bread, and season with salt and pepper. Heaven.

Perhaps the most obvious marker of the season’s shift is a change in the quality of light. At the summer solstice, the light has a fierce, bright, almost blinding quality, like a giant searchlight that casts no shadows. Around the first of August, there is a change—the light begins to get noticeably softer, and while the days are still long, the afternoon shadows take on a smokier glow.

Right about now, too, the farmers begin to mow their hay fields, and we begin to see haystacks—or really, big rolls of hay—scattered throughout some of the neighboring fields. “Hay!” we call, and point out the fields to each other as we pass them, happy and excited to be the first to spot this particular universal sign of fall.

The night-blooming jasmine, which grows dormant and gets cut back in the winter, has been growing since springtime and now begins to put out flowers whose fragance will soon become noticeable. The beautyberry bushes, which flowered back in May, start to form little green berries that will turn a beautiful shade of purple a bit later in the season.

Grass and trees, all so verdant green this summer because we have had a lot of rain, begin to take on a yellowish tinge that is a definite harbinger of fall. We begin, eventually, to notice that a few leaves are starting to fall from some of our trees.

Newspapers are filled with flyers advertising back-to-school sales. The local newspaper’s sports section steps up its coverage of the area’s football teams; diehard football fans start counting the days ’til the first big game. And we all begin to keep wary eyes on weather reports about tropical systems and possible hurricanes; it doesn’t do to go into August and September without extra stocks of peanut butter, other canned goods, and water—just in case.

Fall isn’t here yet, by any means, but we definitely have some pointers to let us know it’s on the way­—giving us hope for cooler weather in the middle of our hottest season.

Lu Merritt lives in northern Florida and blogs at A Word Witch.

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Welcome From Waverly – Lammas 2009

It’s been a dream for a long time. The dream of a magazine. I first started writing about it in my newsletters in 2006. And I announced its imminent launch in January of 2009. Yet the time and clarity and resources I needed to produce it were not available until this summer.

I want this to be a place where you feel welcome to contribute your thoughts and experiences with slow time, sacred time and seasonal time. Right now, you can do that in several ways . . .

For the past few months, I’ve been working hard with my brilliant web designer, Joanna Powell Colbert, figuring out the design and features. And grappling continually with the question: What is it? Is it a magazine? A web site? A cluster of blogs? A school?

For right now, I’m calling it a magazine. The current plan is to “publish” four times a year, once for each season, with all new articles. But because it is based on blog software, it can be updated continually, and I suspect I will be tempted to do that.

So it is with great pride and trepidation that I present the inaugural issue of Living in Season. You might notice that most of the articles are written by me. That’s not the ultimate goal. But for right now, think early Martha Stewart Living when all of the articles appeared to be “written” by Martha (at least, there weren’t any bylines). By doing that she established a tone and style for the magazine that continues to make it recognizable today, while gradually opening up to creative input from others.

Ultimately I want this to be a place where you feel welcome to contribute your thoughts and experiences with slow time, sacred time and seasonal time. Right now, you can do that in several ways. The easiest way to participate is to submit a comment on any of the articles posted (I will be moderating these, at least at first, so it may take a day before you see your comments on the site). You can also submit photographs, artwork and articles (see the Guidelines page). And you can also reach out to the community of Living in Season readers and let them know about your work in the world, by placing an ad (see Advertising).

River at Lammas taken by Joanna Powell Colbert

River at Lammas taken by Joanna Powell Colbert

Eventually I hope to expand these offerings. Videos! Podcasts! More columns! For right now I feel like this first issue is a leaf tossed in a rushing stream. (I wish it felt more like a seed planted, but it just doesn’t.) I don’t know where it will end up but I am very happy to be drifting down this river, called the Internet, and I hope that all of you will join me. Grab your inner tubes!

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Spirit of Summer

By Waverly Fitzgerald

Years ago as I was deep in the lore of holidays, I came upon one of those nuggets of information that answer a question you didn’t know you had. The question was: “Why are there so few significant major Christian holidays in summer?” And the answer was that summer was thick with saint’s days, which provided an opportunity for people to gather at the fairs and festivals held in the saint’s names.

For instance, St. Peter’s Day (a sort of midsummer celebration) is widely (and wildly) celebrated on June 29 in Spain and Portugal. And Ellis Peters describes another St. Peter’s Fair in her highly successful series of mysteries about Brother Cadfael. This rights to hold this fair were given to the Benedictine abbey of St. Peter in Shrewsbury by Henry I around 1100. And the fair was held on the 3rd of July (don’t know how they picked that date). The founder of the abbey, Roger de Montgomery, the first Earl of Shrewsbury, also gave the monks of the Abbey the right to hold a Lammas fair on August 12.

Fairs were held throughout the year . . . but obviously summer, with its promise of good weather, is the best time for people to gather outdoors.

Fairs were also held throughout the year. In the same document from which I gleaned the information above, I found references to fairs around Easter and Christmas, but obviously summer, with its promise of good weather is the best time for people to gather outdoors. Country fairs, the descendants of these fairs, are still generally held in the summer, at least they are in Seattle. The Washington State Fair is in Monroe in mid-July. The Puyallup Fair (famous for its scones) is held in mid-September (July and August are usually our sunniest months).

Summer is the time of festivals. Here in Seattle we have outdoor concerts (at the Zoo and at the Pier), outdoor movies (the modern equivalent of drive-ins, where the movie is projected on the wall of a building), and outdoor dances (in the parks). I’m especially fond of the outdoor milonga (tango dance) held in a pavilion on the shores of Lake Washington during our big Tango Magic festival. It feels truly magical to be dancing in the warm night air, while the sun sets over the lake and the people passing by stop to watch for a while.

Summer is the season for camp. I do not have fond memories of my early experiences at Girl Scout camp (Camp Osito in California). I was just was not an outdoor, sleep-in-a-tent, make-friends-with-a-bunch-of -strangers sort of person. When I was in my thirties, I attended a new kind of camp: the Witch Camp in British Columbia sponsored by the Reclaiming community. That was also difficult for a shy person but the size of the camp (around 100 campers) was great. I could find time to be alone and ways to connect with others within the framework of activities (meals, rituals, meetings, workshops) provided.

In Seattle, our summer is book-ended by two big music festivals. Folklife on Memorial Day weekend celebrates the folk arts, and offers opportunities to learn and listen to music from many different cultures, while Bumbershoot on Labor Day features more popular music, and also a smattering of cultural events. And I have many friends who make a pilgrimage every year to the Vancouver Folk Festival in mid-July.

So the spirit of summer to me seems to call for being outgoing, for assembling with others in groups, for finding a place in your tribe.

Summer is the time for family reunions. Four years ago I was in Milwaukee for a family reunion for my mother’s family, the Wittaks. And I have two relatives on the Fitzgerald side who organize gatherings in the Seattle area every summer. Sister Anna Burris gathers together the Burris family for a week at a lake and Roger and Rosemary Enfield usually play host to a whole tribe of Enfields who gather in a nearby park.

And let’s not forget Fourth of July, a holiday which cries out for barbecues, parties, picnics and crowds (not to mention traffic jams). This Fourth of July, as I was heading down my usual lookout, a street above the freeway where I stand with hundreds of strangers to watch the fireworks bursting over Lake Union, I passed a seven story apartment building which was buzzing like a hive of bees. Every balcony that faced the lake was full of onlookers.

So the spirit of summer to me seems to call for being outgoing, for assembling with others in groups, for finding a place in your tribe. Maybe that is why I am launching this magazine now rather than in the spring as I originally planned, as it is my attempt to create a community dedicated to the concepts of slow time, sacred time and seasonal time.

I’m wondering if summer is a time of socializing, of finding community, of gathering your tribe for you. And if so, what experiences and opportunities are the most nourishing?

Photo credits:

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At Home in Summer: Staycation

Shaw & Pepe enjoying their staycation. (Photo by Waverly Fitzgerald)

By Waverly Fitzgerald

At home in the summer seems like an oxymoron. at least in Seattle, where summers are glorious. Most of us spend as much time as possible outside. And even when we stay home, we stay outside our homes: on balconies, on decks, sitting on the front porch.

So I thought instead of writing about projects to do inside the home, I’d write about staycations, a neologism which made it into the 2009 Merriam-Webster dictionary, and other ways of being at home and not at home at the same time.


The word is generally used to describe a vacation that you spend staying at home, perhaps doing things you wouldn’t normally have time for, maybe reading, gardening, watching videos, or working on some creative pursuit. One of my co-workers took off a week recently to finish her novel. She didn’t finish it, but she did take it apart, spreading the pages across her living room, and reconstructed it with a better sense of the direction she needed to take to finish it.

This is a slightly different version of a staycation and a game I like to play. You simply visit the places where you would normally take guests. In Seattle, that might be the Pike Place Market, the Ballard locks or the troll under the Fremont Bridge.

This one seems to require a certain amount of self-discipline, that I’m not sure I have. How do you resist the urge to clean out the basement or watch daytime TV? But maybe that is the perfect staycation.

Tourist in my Town

This is a slightly different version of a staycation and a game I like to play. You simply visit the places where you would normally take guests. In Seattle, that might be the Pike Place Market, the Ballard locks or the troll under the Fremont Bridge.

You can also make a hotel or B&B reservation and truly immerse yourself in the vacation experience. One year for my birthday, my friend Kim and I stayed at a boutique hotel in downtown Seattle. Some of the musicians for the Bumbershoot festival were staying there, as well, and we got to talk to them during the wine tasting the hotel sponsored every evening. We ate out every meal and spent a long leisurely afternoon at my favorite book store, Elliott Bay.

You can also play this game by picking a neighborhood or nearby community which you don’t know well. Then spend the day exploring it, just as if you were a tourist. I did this with my friend Michael one Saturday in the then-sleepy (now ultra hip) Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. We wandered down the main street, window-shopping, and found a cool new coffee shop.

The Random Road Trip

Photo by Waverly Fitzgerald

Photo by Waverly Fitzgerald

This reminds me of another game you can play if you want to get a fresh perspective on your life. I’ve never tried this one but I read it a long time ago in a magazine and never forgot it. The author wrote about going on weekend drives with her children where they would flip a coin every time they came to a corner to decide which way to turn.

You could also do the same thing on a walk around your neighborhood, just as a way to break up routine and perhaps find yourself in someplace totally unexpected.

While researching this article, I found a wonderful essay written by Matt Hannafin about exploring his new home, Portland, using a variation of this technique.

Secular Sabbath

You could also just take a vacation from technology which is the idea behind the secular sabbath. Mark Bittman wrote about this in the New York Times in March 2008, and the term has spread rapidly. It refers to unplugging from all sorts of technology: computers, cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, televisions, etc.. My amazing web designer, Joanna Powell Colbert, wrote about the pleasure of unplugging in a recent entry of her blog.

Julia Cameron suggested a version of this in The Artist’s Way when she recommended her readers undertake a week of reading deprivation. I regularly assigned this to students when I was teaching a class based on the book, an assignment that was always greeted with howls of outrage and disbelief. More howls when I said that even listening to NPR was forbidden.

Although this is a difficult exercise, it produces amazing results. Sometimes reading is a way to insulate yourself, to keep your mind occupied with external input. Freed of the constant barrage of other people’s words, you get a chance to find out what you’re thinking or to interact with your environment in a new way. And isn’t that part of the joy of a vacation?

For more information about vacations, consider attending the National Vacation Summit, sponsored by the Take Back Your Time Day movement. John deGraaf, the founder of Take Back Your Time Day, always gathers the most interesting thinkers and activities in the fields of public policy, education, science and art. The conference occurs on August 10 through 12 in Seattle.

Have you ever tried any of these ideas in your life? Or do you have your own ideas about how to take a vacation while staying home?

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Your Turn: Scents of Summer

Margaret Bergen sent this photograph of a Duchesse De Brabant tea rose from her garden in northern Florida; it was taken by her husband, Fred Bergen. She writes: “The fragrance is both reliable and intense. This is a rose you can count on being able to smell at any time of day or night, under any conditions. The scent is the essence of Tea, a strong, dry, slightly acrid sweetness that is very memorable.”

There are many flower scents I enjoy in summer: roses, linden flowers, honeysuckle, jasmine. But if I had to say what is the scent that is most emblematic of summer to me, I think it would be the scent of rain on hot asphalt. Hmmmmm!

What is the emblematic scent of summer for you?

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The Path

Photo by Lori DeMarre

Occasionally when I would explain my concept for my year-long flower project, which involves getting to know the plants I encounter in the eight blocks between my apartment and my work, people would say, “Oh, like The Path by Chet Raymo.” And I always replied, “No, not like that.” I thought I had read The Path (I was mixing it up with another book) and my book was nothing like it.

Well, I finally got a copy of The Path and I’m thrilled and enchanted by the comparison. Raymo’s book is similar to mine in that we are both interested in using this device (the daily walk) as a framework on which we can hang all sorts of interesting information (he manages to incorporate architecture, history, botany, astronomy, etc.) His writing style is gorgeous, playful and supple. I hope mine is equally delightful.

One difference is significant. Chet Raymo’s path is linear–he proceeds along the same path every day and his book moves along that path in segments. My path is more like a maze. My work is five blocks south and three blocks west of my house. I haven’t really worked out the math but I figure there are probably at least 45 ways I could walk those blocks, depending on which block I turn at, and that’s not including the occasional alley (I love alleys).

One consequence of this is that I’m always getting lost, a habit praised by another favorite author, Rebecca Solnit in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. (She’s also an advocate for walking in the city.) And I lose track of where I saw the plants as well. That’s partly because the landscape is always changing as the seasons pass. And partly because I walk a different way every time.

Last spring I encountered a fragrant rhododendron within blocks of my apartment but I’ve never been able to find it again. And a few weeks ago, the lovely aroma alerted me to a new linden tree, which I then lost for almost a week. This getting lost, and discovering new plants, helps create a sense of mystery and magic in my life. And I hope it adds depth to the stories I am writing about my floral adventures.

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Good Enough to Wait

By Sonya Lea

Preserving food is the extended foreplay of the gustatory world.  Especially for city-dwellers, it revives a sense of connection with wild nature, and rejuvenates senses dormant from over-reliance on the fast and the cheap.  If drive-thru is the dining equivalent of the quickie, preserving fresh, seasonal produce for later supping is tantric bliss.

If drive-thru is the dining equivalent of the quickie, preserving fresh, seasonal produce for later supping is tantric bliss.

The last week of summer I drove out to the local farm and purchased boxes of coral peaches, firm pickling cucumbers, banana and pasilla and sweet Anaheim peppers, ripe red and fleshy green tomatoes and plump blackberries.  It didn’t look like promiscuity until the saleswoman sized me up and down behind the mountain of produce stacked in eight large boxes.  “Well, you’re sure going to have your work cut out for you,” she snarked.  And the old man in line in front of me offered a wide grin, as if he knew what I would be up to, and said, in a wistful tone: “Me and the missus used to put up.  Oh, I miss it so.”

By the time I unloaded the car and began washing the long, nubby cuke, I realized I was going to be days in this kitchen – days immersed in the sweet perfume of fervid juice and musky field; days with my fingers in slippery seeds, days nudging the ruby pit from its fleshy center.   I filled the sink with cool water and stripped to my bare feet, and brought a berry to my lips, tracking its nib with my tongue before biting into its succulent drupelets.

Canning, freezing, drying, curing, fermenting, pickling, jam and jelly making – preserving holds the genius of our earliest people.  Preserving developed between 5500 and 3500 BC, creating villages, and vessels, and livestock, perhaps even the very urge to civilize in the way we experience it today.  (Though it seems strange to this acculturated cook, one of the ways historians categorize societies as being ‘civilized’ is when the primary purpose of food gathering, preparation and storing has been diverted to allow the pursuit of other, more ‘complex’ activities, such as war, religion, bureaucracy.)  Homo sapiens found he could manage his stock, and digest proteins better when food went over fire, and intentional cookery followed, leading to food as a social engagement, as taboo arbiter, as identity-maker.  What we keep can communicate our sense of frugal sparseness or our abundant beguilement: the heirloom we shelve can be our strained broth or our rose-drenched honey.  We preserve what we wish to have known as the common good.

It’s possible that salt was the first additive used as a method to preserve food.   Used by ancient communities close to the sea, salt preserves by inhibiting toxin-producing bacteria, making it essential for forms of flesh – meat, fish and the human body, as for mummifying.  Those who wielded the salt wielded the power, as the Emperor Claudius knew when he strolled into the senate one day asking if man could live without salt meat.  Before it was the Eternal City, Rome was a staging post where local marketers exchanged their goods for precious salt.  Leaders and merchants preserved their own futures along the Via Salaria, the salt road; when unforeseen circumstances meant there was little access to fresh food, salt could define a government’s rule.

Even though we now have more sugar than we know what to do with, we continue a romance with the saporous temptress: we call our beloveds ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ and ask them to give us some ‘sugar’ when we wish to be kissed.

Indeed, whoever holds the keys to the pantry holds the power.  None knew this better that Mahatma Gandhi, who emerged from his six-year prison confinement to protest the exclusive British licensing of Indian sea salt.  When he marched from the ashram to the beach at Dandi, he placed salt crystals evaporated by the sea into his small palm, enacting a potent ritual that defied the authorities in one simple act.  Indians followed, breaking the law en masse, literally assuming worth of one’s salt, until the Brits relented and asked Gandhi to represent his Indian Congress Party at the 1931 leadership conference.

At Indian rituals, Roman feasts, Athenian festivals, Chinese banquets, Middle Eastern merry-making, and Egyptian sacraments all manner of seeds, plants and flowers were preserved with sugar.  After the fourteenth century, the master confectioners of Paris made their fortunes selling to the aristocracy, and since gifts of preserves were considered luxurious, these sugared treats became a regular expense of anyone who had a role with the law. (Used as chamber spices for ‘dispelling wind and encouraging the seed’ these sweets, often called sweetmeats, were at least poetically-perfect: a candy by any other name would surely not have prefaced lovemaking.)  Sugar was brought to the New World after Columbus’ affair with Canary Island’s Governor, one Beatrice de Bobadilla, who sent him from their month-long tryst with cuttings of sugar cane.  From that sweet union, came America’s love affair with all things candied.  Jams, jellies, syrups, sugared fruits, sugar-wine (rum) – sugar was once an international currency, with labor rewarded in casks of syrup, and millions paid for its becoming a standard with their very lives, including creating a caste of slaves from Africa who would do the back-breaking work of sweetening up the colonist’s diet, and his pockets.  Even though we now have more sugar than we know what to do with, we continue a romance with the saporous temptress: we call our beloveds ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ and ask them to give us some ‘sugar’ when we wish to be kissed.  “It must be jelly,” says the blues singer, “Cuz jam don’t shake like that.”

There is no savings in preserving food at home.  The costs of labor and equipment and of what will break or go rotten through experimentation is high compared to what we can stroll down to the store and buy for a dollar or two from Smuckers or Kraft or Heinz.  Still, there is a part of our relationship to food we are buying back when we agree to follow the transformation from field to table.  In grocery shopping there isn’t the kind of bond to the elements, the land, the season, the home, the kitchen; there isn’t the connection to one’s memory, or history or intention; there isn’t seasoning or sensuality or seductive surprise that can come from becoming present to food as it changes, or even likelier, as we are changed by its presence in our midst.

We are preserving passion, which is, I believe, able to be ingested as nourishment, as earth-muse, and for us, as remembrance of a moment’s lovemaking.

This is how it happens in our home – we weave food preparation with the events of the day, with the weather, with the quiet and the conversation, watching movements and mistakes as they assert themselves, upon us and upon our food, asking for our attention.  This is how dried lavender gets shaken into the sugar canister for lavender-scented sugar; this is how the lavender buds get dumped into the peach jam, when the sifter is forgotten; this is how it gets stirred in with a jam-coated spoon; this is how it drips onto my breasts when I lean over to sample it; this is how my lover, walking by, missing no entreaty, turns me around and licks it from my flesh; this is how the fire leaps into me and my peaches while we’re dancing and kissing above the flame; this is perhaps what you also taste when I make you toast from fresh bread and chunky fruit and violet sprigs of calming flower.  We are preserving passion, which is, I believe, able to be ingested as nourishment, as earth-muse, and for us, as remembrance of a moment’s lovemaking.

On the Sunday after I’d been at the farm, a box of enormous tomatoes sat on the kitchen table, their pulp so ready to burst forth they practically split sitting in the afternoon sun.  It was time to get ready for dinner, and my man had lit a fire of mesquite and hickory on the smoker just outside the kitchen door.  As he came and went, smoke infused the house, leading us straight into an ancestral domain.  Before long we had gathered those beefy reds and laid them on the grill and waited until their skins split from heat and flame.  I let them cool on the counter, then quickly cored and peeled them, sliding eighths into a large pot, simmering slowly, before adding grainy salt and a handful of fresh basil.  An hour or so later, I lifted a wooden spoon to my mouth and felt another woman enter from the balls of my feet to the curve of my belly to just below my throat.  And then she was yelling a phrase I knew I’d heard my grandmother say a long time ago, — “Oh. My. Lord!” – a gusty, guttural call of a blues woman, an expression coming more from kinetic core than mental knowing, the smoke-dazed freshness of the fruit a memory of a time I hadn’t had, couldn’t know.  The man looked inside from the fire, smiling.  He didn’t know who this woman was yet, but he was about to taste her.


peachesPeach Lavender Jam

4 cups granulated sugar
large bunch lavender buds*
Shake buds into sugar and let rest for two weeks, shaking a few times each week.

2 1/2 lb. peaches, peeled and pitted
juice of one lemon
1 cup water

Prepare peaches, cut into chunks, then sprinkle with lemon juice and stir.

Bring the sugar and water to a bowl; sift the lavender out, or not – your choice!  Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and boil rapidly five minutes.  Add the peaches, return to boil, and boil rapidly, stirring often twenty minutes, or until jell stage.

Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for ten minutes.  Skim well.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal.  Process according to recommendations.

Makes three pints.

*(if you don’t grow and dry your own, purchase buds from a botanical store locally)

Smoke-Infused Tomato Sauce

4 lb. beefsteak tomatoes
large bunch basil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Prepare a grill or smoker and soak wood chips in water.  A few minutes before placing the tomatoes on the grill, let the chips begin to smoke.  Quickly place the tomatoes, cover and peek every few minutes to see if the skins have burst.  Take them off the flame (use the grill for a kebob or steak to go with the sauce.)

Peel the tomatoes, cut into eighths and if you prefer, remove most of the seeds.  Place in a heavy bottomed pan, and bring to boil.  Add salt.  Simmer 45 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Take off the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Add a few basil sprigs to each hot sterilized jar.  Pour the sauce over.  Heat process, cool, and check the seals.  (If you prefer not to heat process, you can refrigerate up to one month, or freeze for two months, but cool the jars first before refrigerating.)

Makes 5 cups

Use in pasta sauces or on pizzas.

Photo Credit:

Judy Maselli


Crumpacker, Bunnym The Sex Life of Food, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2006
Fisher, M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating, Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1937
Schwartz, Oded, Preserving, DK Publishing, Inc., 1996.
Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne, History of Food,  Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, U.K., 1992
Weldon, Amy E.,“The Fruits of Memory,” Corn Bread Nation 2, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C., 2004

Sonya Lea is the author of Wondering Who You Are,  an intensely honest and lyrical memoir,published by Tin House in 2015, about what happened in her marriage after her husband lost his memories, due to a traumatic brain injury. Check out my interview with her here at my writing web site.

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A Rare Conjunction

by Sheila Belanger

This summer brings us a rare and unusual dance of three interesting celestial characters: Jupiter, Neptune and Chiron. All three are turning retrograde during a three week period at the start of the summer: Neptune on May 28, Chiron on May 30 and Jupiter on June 15. They are all in the sign of Aquarius and hovering close to about 26 degrees of Aquarius.

When a planet goes retrograde, it looks like its stopping and backing up. Planets don’t really move backwards, but they seem to stop and hover in a particular place in the star wheel from our perspective on earth. This action calls our attention to the place in the star wheel where they are shifting.

When planets are in Aquarius, they activate the role of the rebel, the one who is authentic, unique, alternative. Aquarius encourages us to think outside of the box. It’s about the collective and the tribe.

When planets are in Aquarius, they activate the role of the rebel, the one who is authentic, unique, alternative. Aquarius encourages us to think outside of the box. It’s about the collective and the tribe. Aquarius is an altruistic sign, in the true meaning of the word altruistic: orienting to others. Yet it also calls us to be true to ourselves as individuals, to be unique members of a collective.

So how do these three planetary characters play with the Aquarius energy?
Jupiter is a big gassy planet: it asks us to expand and open up. Jupiter in Aquarius says “I want to support your expanding your sense of the collective and the community. I want to help you take your place in your tribe.”

Chiron is a comet that represents the shaman or wounded healer. Chiron points out where you need healing. In Aquarius, the wound that needs healing is marginalizing yourself, judging yourself, putting yourself outside of the group because you feel you don’t belong.

Neptune’s gift is the ability to dream and vision. In Aquarius, Neptune can help us envision a new way to work together. The negative side of Neptune is a feeling of helplessness. “I can’t make a difference so why bother?”

The conjunction of these three planets is rare. The last time it happened was in September of 1945, at the end of World War II. Before that, it was in 1881. Chiron has a very unusual orbital period around the sun: sometimes short and sometimes long. Jupiter and Neptune come together every 12 to 13 years. Jupiter and Chiron come together every 13 to 20 years. Chiron and Neptune come together every 57 to 80 years. So this conjunction offers us an amazing opportunity.

It is a call to healing, a chance to change our vision in terms of the collective, to move away from a sense of helplessness.

It is a call to healing, a chance to change our vision in terms of the collective, to move away from a sense of helplessness. We saw this during the campaign and the election of President Obama. In a sense, this was his campaign message: yes we can, we can make a difference. And the economic crisis is encouraging more of the same attitude. We see that we need to make a change. And we understand that we all in this together.

These three celestial characters will go back and forth connecting with each other throughout the whole year. Jupiter (the teacher, the expanded one) conjoins Chiron (the healer) three times on May 23, July 22 and December 7.

Jupiter connects with Neptune, expanding our ability to dream, our intuitive, spiritual and psychic selves (as well as our victim and overwhelmed selves) on May 27, July 10 and December 21.

You may feel the call from your inner teacher (Jupiter) to come out of the fog (Neptune) and attend to some old pattern (Chiron), particularly a wound having to do with dissociation and escapism (Neptune). The healing can come from the positive qualities of Aquarius: staying true to your self, and the unique gifts you bring to the world.

When you feel angst about your addictions, when you feel overwhelmed or victimized, say a prayer for your ancestors who felt the same way. Offer them love. Offer them light. It’s a way you can shift the pattern for yourself.

Chiron has a link with healing the ancestors. So the wound may not be (just) a personal wound.  Many of our ancestors struggled with addiction, found ways to escape from the pain in their lives, had to give up aspects of themselves just to survive.

One way to heal an ancestral pattern is to ask for help. You can call on your healed ancestors, ten, twenty generations back, before there was a wound. Ask them to help you, to stand at your back. You can also use Neptunian tools like prayer, meditation and sending compassion to your ancestors.

When you feel angst about your addictions, when you feel overwhelmed or victimized, say a prayer for your ancestors who felt the same way. Offer them love. Offer them light. It’s a way you can shift the pattern for yourself.

Aquarius is connected with technology because it’s about progressive, alternative ways of doing things. Because of the Internet and television, we are now connected to people all over the world. But the shadow side of technology and Aquarius can be too much information. There’s a psychic, emotional component to all of the information, especially the bad news, we are being bombarded with.

Aquarius tends to be a mental sign and that can lead to dissociation. We just shut down. When Aquarius energy is stressed, it tends to want to escape, to check out, to run away. How the hell to I get out of here?

One solution can be found in the compassionate nature of Neptune. Ask yourself: How do I keep my heart open in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me? How do I stay open and sensitive to the collective without losing myself?

Transcribed from a talk Sheila gave at East/West Bookshop on March 26, 2009. The complete tape which covers many other astrological cycles for Spring and early Summer can be purchased at

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