I went rose-petal picking yesterday with two friends. We sank into kayaks and muscled our way from Harvester Island to another, trying not to get wet. I tried to keep the dog from falling in. (She fell in on the way back.)
It’s been raining for several days. And it would likely rain on us as we went. But when the roses bloom, you go. Even if you have deadlines for six articles in the next two weeks (yes, all too true.) Even when there are fish in the nets and twelve people to feed.
Even when our nation continues to noisily grumble and riot toward an unhappy election.
We’re so divided from one another. We’re divided even from ourselves, our own cynicism corroding our faith and our hope. Has any other election in recent history so riven families, communities, and even self from self this way? (See the Atlantic’s excellent piece, “How American Politics has gone insane.)
This is why I went. You go too. “Gathering rosebuds while we may” is not frivolous or isolationist. I do this to remember whose world this is, who’s running it, and what we’re supposed to be doing here.
We land on the other island, crash our way through heavy ferns and bushes (attentive to bears). We pick what we have neither planted, nor watered. We gather up the aromatic silk, stealing the petals from bees, inhaling their perfume through the breath of clouds and the scent of ferns.
This is the world we’ve been given, and what will we do with it, what will we make of it? We kayak home on slate-grey seas and make wild rose petal jam that night.
You can do this too. Here is my recipe for wild nootka rose jam. (My process includes the petals. Most every recipe removes them. Try it my way! It is as close to heaven-in-a-jar as I know. And it includes some heavenly magic as well. (Or you less-heaven-minded can think of it as chemistry.)
3 cups of petals (compressed)
3 1/2 cups of sugar (Remember--we just eat a spoonful at a time!)
2 1/4 c. of water
3 T. Lemon juice
1 package liquid pectin (2 oz.)
*Carefully sort through petals removing every extraneous particle. (Even one tiny dark speck will mar the pink beauty of the jam.)
*With petals in a pan, pour in water and boil for 10 minutes, until the color of the petals disappears. (The water will look yellowish).
*Use a hand blender to puree petals.
*Now, the heavenly magic! Add the lemon juice and watch the color return!
*Add the sugar (and don’t faint here. Remember, you eat just a spoon of this at a time!) and bring back to a boil.
*Add the pectin. Bring to a hard boil, stirring, for one minute.
*Pour into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims to be sure they’re clean. Tighten lids and turn over for 5 minutes (to seal the jars.)
*Turn back over. Leave them still until they set.
From hands, feet, kayaking arms. From rain and bees, from soil and sun, from heat and pans and sugar and glass, we bottle the wild garden now for our plates. We jar the roses now for our bread.
Will this fix our nation? Will jelly-making fix our country’s jam? All I know is that it fixes me, it fixes us. The three of us laughed together. We remember beauty. We remember kindness. We launched out in hope and now we eat in gratitude. Let these things be the contents and measure of our lives.
Yes, vote if you can in November. But make Wild Rose Jam first. As often as you can.
Then throw a party and give thanks.
(Questions? Email me and I'll be happy to answer them! Leslieleylandfields@gmail.com).
(And---if my family doesn't eat all my rose jam this summer, these will be available in my Wild Harvest gift boxes.)