Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Human Nature Being What It Is . . .

Human Nature Being What It Is . . .
            I hate physical therapy. Writing with a computer means you’ll give me no sympathy. If we were talking face-to-face, I’d be able to mumble, “It’s my own fault. I quit too soon. It’s been mumble-mumble-slurred-words since I quit. Arturo told me I should do these few simple movements forever. Sheesh!” And you’d pat my hand and say, “There, there. Poor thing.”

            And if I were using pencil on depleted rain-forest, I could smear the tell-tale number with my tears of frustration and you’d never know I quit PT two years ago. I can hear you say, disgust tingeing your voice, “Two years! Your own fault! No pain, no gain.”

            Having vented my spleen, I can also tell you that three-and-a-half weeks into a routine, PT does me body good. I mean, two years! No wonder I hurt. I’m slowly increasing reps, feeling the burn (Why do people make that sound like a good thing?) and gaining noticeable strength in my legs.

Whether human nature or my own natural cussedness, when I recently interrupted my painful routine for three days, I did so with reluctance and disappointment. The reason?

Strawberries. Fragile, delicious strawberries.

Near as I can tell, strawberry season seems to be year around here. Whenever I’m in town near the Plaza, I look for the strawberry truck, across the street from the Guadalajara Farmacia. I generally buy a kilo, twenty pesos.

I decided next time to pick up six kilos and make mermelada—jam, to us. So when Carol asked if I’d like to go with her Thursday to the tianguis, street market, in Ahualulco. My first thought was “strawberries”. 

We’d barely entered town when we spotted a small pick-up, loaded with crates of berries, ten pesos a kilo; women lined in back up by the man with the scale. Carol squeezed her Jeep close to the truck, blocking three vehicles. I jumped out and got in line; six kilos for me, two kilos for Carol. The man indicated a crate. Since I wanted eight kilos total, why not take the whole crate for a hundred pesos. This is around $5.00 to us. Made sense to me. At the time.

There was no place to park within blocks of the tianguis so we decided to go on down the road to Teuchitlan. Carol wanted to buy a sculpture she’d seen at Carlos’ Artisan shop. I visited with Carlos and Brenda, new acquaintances.

We stayed an hour. With the hot sun beating down on the roof of the car, sweet strawberry fragrance permeated every molecule of air, reminding me I’d have to deal with them immediately when I got home. I handed Carlos a plastic bag, “Take some; take more.”

When I say a crate of strawberries, you have to realize the size of the crate. What was I thinking! This monster, which seemed to expand in the back of the Jeep, measured 20 X 13 X 12, heaped full of berries. It took both of us to carry it to my outdoor kitchen sink. Carol didn’t rake out nearly enough. I don’t think she realized a kilo is 2.2 pounds. Oh, well, I’d give her some jam.

I grabbed an apron and paring knife and began washing, hulling and chopping immediately. I have no idea how many kilos of berries that crate held; at least, twenty. I worked until dark and still had half a crate unfinished. Aching feet forgotten, I slept hard.

Morning found me hulling berries at first light. I finished the crate. In the beginning, I carefully cut away every blemish. It wasn’t long before any blemished berry hit the throw-away pile along with the hulls.

I had a limited number of jars and no pectin. This meant I made jam using the long-cook method. I made two batches and called it a good day. Next afternoon and three batches later, I finished. I filled my own canning jars along with every borrowed vessel I could find, fill and give away.

Canning jars, bright with berry jam, are as beautiful as any art. Making jam satisfies something primal within my soul. But, honestly, it’s cheaper to buy jam in town and I really like the kind at the tienda near the bazaar.

Maybe I’ll skip making mango jam this year. But, I heard of a place in Guadalajara where I can buy canning jars. Six kilos of mangos should be enough if I make it in secret and not give any away.

Perverse as it may be, I’m glad to be back to regular routine, including morning PT, which I still hate.

P.S. For those following the plight of my friend Carlitos, the tumor is shrinking and his family is hopeful for recovery. He’s not out of the woods, but the trees don’t seem impenetrable.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

June 8, 2017

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