Autumn Blessings

I have a confession to make. Autumn has always been my least favorite season. I know that all seasons have their own beauty, but I have always had some trouble appreciating Autumn. I have never been all that fond of Winter either, but in Autumn, the days get colder and darker and the coming season is Winter. Even through the cold of Winter, the days are at least getting longer and brighter, and Spring is on its way. I often start to feel a little sad as Summer winds down and by November, I am often battling deepening depression.

Yet, this year, for the first time, I experienced one of the main blessings of the Autumn season…the Harvest.

I hope that the reader will indulge me a little in boasting about my grandmother. My grandmother has always been an amazing gardener. She is going to be ninety this fall, and she loves to garden. Even when she lived in the North Side of Chicago, she managed a substantial vegetable garden in a tiny backyard.

To be honest, I never had all that much interest in gardening. I have never even been able to keep houseplants alive. It may be because now we live in the same building as my grandmother, so I see the garden every day. It may be that reading the Little House on the Prairie series in Japanese inspired me. By the way, I have just finished 大草原の小さな家, “Daisougen no chiisana ie,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and I have just started プラム川の土手で, “Puramu kawa no dote de,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”  I also recently read Farmer Boy in English. In any case, whatever the reason, this year I participated in the Harvest for the first time.

I learned how to make tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, apple sauce, and apple butter. I learned how to blanch and freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter. I baked several rhubarb, raspberry, and apple deserts. It was quite a busy time.

The abundance of food turned out to be quite the blessing. This October, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday, and relatives from Sweden came to stay with us to celebrate. My mother also came in from California and stayed with us for about a month. The abundance of food was really useful in feeding all of the extra people.

Today, I started feeling my usual Autumn depression. I felt sad as I raked the leaves and watched the sun go down before it was even 5 o’clock. Yet, then I went back inside, and I cooked taco salad using the last of the green peppers and tomatoes that my grandmother had dried over the summer. Now I am making apple sauce using the remaining apples that were stored in the refrigerator.

The garden is now gone. Our full freezer has emptied out. We still have green beans, green pepper, sliced apples and rhubarb in the freezer though, as well as a couple of containers of apple butter. We also have dried herbs and tomatoes that were carefully preserved by my grandmother.

I still feel a little sad, but I am also feeling intense gratitude to Our Mother, who provides for us every year. It was a good Autumn, I think.

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Harvest of the Heart

(This article is written by a new author for Temple of the Home, Cure Ocha. She is pleased to meet all of you and hopes you like her humble offering.)

The sacred harvest! Time for it again already?

The sacred harvest! Time for it again already?

In my city’s buyer’s cooperative, the planning has already begun, two months out, for our country’s oddly placed Thanksgiving. A few hour’s brainstorming has already expanded the vague notion that “someone really ought to organize a group buy for these things we will all be needing” to a virtual fair of homemade delicacies, a plan for a leftovers potluck, multiple offers of hospitality to those without family to celebrate the holiday with, and shopping lists for not one, but two kinds of donation boxes to distribute to members of our community – ingredients for those who are too poor to afford them and ready-made for those who are unable to cook their own this year. The whole thing has been a natural outpouring of the enthusiasm and joy which the members of this cooperative have brought to everything this group has undertaken. It has also been a response to their natural desire for harmony.

Now, when I say harmony, I am not surprised if you think first of musical harmony – the creation of beautiful sounds from different notes produced simultaneously. However, musical harmony is just one form of harmony – there is the harmony which can exist between people and the even greater harmony of the cosmos, with which we try to align ourselves when we are being good – the very definition of rightness. The very start of the buyer’s cooperative came from one mother’s desire for this rightness – it seemed wrong to her that all the mothers she knew who wanted to buy the same things online would have to pay separate shipping when they could order together and pay to ship to one house and divide the big order up there with just a little cooperation.

Not actually a portrait of one of our members, but might as well be.

Not a portrait of one of our members, but might as well be.

Understand that in a society that praises competition, self-reliance, and individualism in all its members, it is the mothers, who are often the last to leave the home and hearth due to simple necessity, who still crave harmony the most. Home without harmony gives no rest to the heart, and even a soul-sick society still senses this.

The seed of a single coordinated online purchase has sprouted and grown into a vast enterprise bringing humanely raised meat, organic produce, and other harmoniously produced goods to hundreds of members on a weekly basis. Several of these people are pouring so much of their time and talent in that they operate at what I have heard called an economic loss – that is, their talents could be applied elsewhere for greater monetary gain. At one point I worried that these leaders would discover this and vanish – our society values money so much. However, looking over the posts on the Thanksgiving board, I am no longer afraid. They are, as I am, receiving value – a spiritual sustenance as nourishing as food – from the harmony this group is generating. The opportunity cost of their going to work for wages instead isn’t one any of us can readily afford.