We're on vacation this week at my in-laws' home.
It's quiet here on Maryland's eastern shore, where time is measured by tides and seasons rather than the pressure of the clock. Their house is filled with people and dogs and laughter and it is a balm to my weary spirit. We have come down here every August for years and returning to our normal routines is very much a part of returning to our lives.
Traditions are important because they ground us, link us both to the past and to the future. There are certain things we do when we're here. We eat mountains of fresh tomatoes with basil, dozens of ears of fresh corn, blue crabs cooked with Old Bay seasoning. And then there's the fruit.
One of the things I have missed this summer is preserving. It just wasn't something I had the energy or desire to do when we were living in our temporary quarters. Besides, all of my canning equipment was lost in the fire and needs to be replaced. Until now, we had no place to store it all, so no canning.
But one of the fun traditions of our August sojourn here is harvesting the neighbor's fig tree and going raspberry picking. We did both, and now we have 36 4-oz jars of beautiful preserves; golden fig spread and ruby red raspberry jam.
Preserving summer's bounty was certainly not anything I grew up doing: I have learned over time from friends and neighbors how to can, freeze, and dehydrate. It is extremely satisfying to realize that these skills are now in my head and in my hands. It is part of me and my life. I am so happy to return to it.
The other ritual I have happily returned to is the starting of a new novel during our holiday. I've barely written anything new in the 10 months since our fire. I have been working on my craft, editing and revising, but I didn't have the brain space available for creating new work. Now I do.
I'm thrilled to have started my next novel, a YA ghost story/murder mystery provisionally named "Manifest Destiny." Pre-writing and preliminary research is done, main story arc is plotted out, the first 3 chapters outlined, and I've written the first 1000 words. My plan is to finish a first draft by the end of 2011.