Of Happy Bees & Fruitful Trees
Our little neighborhood is kind of a hidden gem, surprisingly peaceful and sunny despite being tucked away behind tall apartments. Small as our lots are, quite a few boast dwarf fruit trees that produce a remarkable amount in a good year. This has been a bit mixed in terms of fruit; some trees are loaded, others hardly have any fruit. Depending on when they bloomed, the cold winds may have blown away the blossoms before the bees could get to them. In some cases, icy sleet kept sensible bees in their snug nests and fertilization never occurred. Wherever happy bees found nectar and pollen last spring, we are now harvesting fruit. The ever-changing odds make it even more delightful when our little local trees have a bumper crop, especially because sharing the bounty is part of the neighborhood ethos, so we all benefit from the good fortune.
Our usually heavy bearing local plum tree wasn’t especially fruitful this year, but because nobody else was picking them, I was able to gather and distribute the best of them before the raccoons moved in to clean up. In my kitchen, a dozen turned into plum vinegar and another dozen, split and stoned, went into the freezer for a holiday plum tart. Now it’s time for pears, and that’s cause for rejoicing, since our neighbor’s Clapp’s Favorite pears are just plain fabulous. A heritage variety dating back to the 1800s, this is a succulent variety I remember fondly from my Massachusetts childhood, when local farm stands sold them each fall, along with apples and pumpkins and winter squash. Each luscious yellow pear has one rosy cheek and offers crisp yet juicy sweet-tart fruit that’s perfect for eating fresh. Like most pears, they’re best harvested before they ripen fully, which they readily do in my kitchen.
Perfect Pear Treats
Fresh, ripe pears are so delicious that we usually enjoy them as is, but a few recipes are part of welcoming autumn around here, among them this simple pear clafoutis. Though the ingredients are similar to a crispy Dutch baby, clafoutis has a tender, almost custardy texture that cradles fresh fruit like a warm, soft blanket. Clafoutis will slowly puff up and get golden brown but don’t up the heat if it’s not browning quickly, and don’t overcook it or it can get a little rubbery; 35-40 minutes tops!
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 almond if you prefer)
1 cup milk (whole or 2% but not skim)
2 tbsp melted butter OR avocado oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 ripe pear, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Blend eggs, sugar and vanilla well, then stir in milk and butter or oil, then add flour and mix well. Pour into a cast iron frying pan (my favorite) or a glass pie pan and arrange pear slices on top, scattering ginger bits if using. Bake at 325 F for 35-40 minutes. Enjoy it while it’s hot. Serves at least one.
On The Home Front
As the weeks whirl by (or crawl, depending), I’m remembering how lonely long term caregiving can be. Initially there’s often a rush of kind and sincere offers to help, some vague, some specific, but as time rolls on, people get busy and move on. As your personal situation gets displaced by so many others, there can be what feels like a kind of impatience from some early supporters if you continue to reply that things are rough, as if you’ve had your turn and now it’s time to get over it (whatever your ‘it’ may be). That’s very understandable, especially given the rate at which dire things are happening these days, particularly to those in my age cohort and older. However, with fewer and fewer folks willing to listen to what must sound like the same old same old, it can feel like there’s nowhere to go with our ongoing sorrow and weariness, and that’s the part that can feel lonely. I’m even hearing the same experience from caregiving friends involved in traditionally supportive faith communities; seems like everyone’s so stressed out that there’s little extra empathy left.
I have to chuckle and shake my head when I remember my mom telling me it was time to get over it two weeks after my husband died suddenly, because she wanted me to take her to the grocery store instead of the pleasant and kind volunteer I’d lined up for her. It’s only kinda-sorta funny, but I think much of her generation (she’d have turned 100 this summer) was brought up to button it up and march on, pretty much no matter what. I can understand that too, as it eventually gets tiresome both to hear about other’s travails and to recite our own. But after two weeks? That’s a pretty brief allowance for a pretty major grief. However, the deeper lesson may be that externalizing our comfort source and looking to others to provide it isn’t ultimately as effective as learning to find lasting and ever-present comfort from our own inner teacher or guiding light.
Listening To The Light
Call it what you will, I believe that everyone has what the Quakers call ‘the still, small voice within’; a calm knowing that may present in words or images or feelings or all or none of the above. For me at least, the key is shutting up long enough to hear it. In her beautiful, powerful book, Sacred Instructions, Penobscot Elder Sherri Mitchell tells a great story about bringing a spiritual teacher to tears of helpless laughter as Sherri described her own increasingly desperate, passionate pleas to hear that inner voice to the teacher. She says, “When she was done laughing, she told me, ‘You have to stop asking and be quiet if you want an answer’.” That still makes me smile because it’s so close to home for me. Surely it’s all about finding just the right words, right? Or maybe it’s about finding just the right silence? Onward, right?