As a wise fellow professor-type once said (a few days ago), I wish the term would just hold off until I’m done canning. When the tomatoes come, we know the end is near, but it’s such a push. I managed to make some very concentrated tomato sauce-paste, this brilliant ruby sauerkraut, a half-gallon of fermented peppers, and a gallon of lacto-fermented salsa. I think I’ll be good for the winter if I can just get a few days to put up more peppers and prune plums.
I love the chilly mornings and the quality of late summer light, but my stress level increases maybe ten- or twenty-fold as October draws near each year. There are the most undignified deadlines of October 1: curses to all ye who entered that date. And the last, fleeting research hours, the citation that takes half the day, the writing snippets one can get done if one really tries, the submission letters, the edits boomeranging back to you, the forgotten article, the doubtful guest, the hammering deadlines, the performances, the letters requesting recommendations of you, the letters requesting recommendations of you, the shifting ground, the syllabus drafting, the administrative headaches that are like unhappy families (never two the same), the funding requests, the deeply anxiety-provoking summary of all you’ve accomplished and your blazingly confident path to the stars, the parking permit, the rush to the finish, the informational interviews, the introductions, the too surly colleagues, the too happy colleagues, the achingly new apples, and the dread of knowing once the machine cogs start to crank and roll, you’re in it.
And the riverbank sings of the waters of fall. It’s the will to survive, it’s a jolt, it’s a jump.
As always, the anticipation is worse than the reality, because once you’ve endured that crack on the head like Frankenstein’s monster, you find you can find a way. But these last few weeks are always hard to muddle through.
I’ve quoted Massimo Montanari before on canning as the purest form of human anxiety, even leading to a September-grumpy post on planning last year (good to see I am writing the same prickly post on schedule this year, but without the obscure The Jam video reference, which no one got and made me grumpier). Canning to preserve the harvest is our pitiful attempt to keep summer alive.
But fermentation, fermentation…that’s the zombie science, our anxiety brewing and morphing, the after-life of a harvest dead and chopped to bits. It’s the celebration of autumn, the cyclical, all that is connected, but it’s also the flower blooming in the night, the toil and trouble, a whisper in the dark, the space for the odd. The promise of spring, the joy in your heart.