The Weekend Before Thanksgiving

Weekend Meditation

Today was supposed to be the day that I did something with the quince which was ripening so beautifully on my kitchen table. The weather cooperated and produced a chilly autumnal day and eventually the rain came which grayed the sky and bared the branches of the trees outside my kitchen window. It was a perfect day to stay at home, peeling and slicing the fruit, mixing it with sugar and leaving it to sit for a while in a big clay bowl until it wept out its own sweet cooking liquid and was ready for the stove. It was the kind of day to have something to tend to in the kitchen where it's quiet and warm.

It's a perfect, lovely picture but my day did not end up looking like that, not even remotely, for ten thousand boring, everyday reasons. Busyness and distraction and procrastination all conspired to leave the quince whole and intact, sitting on the table where they still smelled sweet and continued to be beautiful in their ripening. It was disappointing that I didn't get to them and frustrating that I let the day slip away so easily.

It's a busy time, this weekend before Thanksgiving. There's so much to do, so we make plans and lists, and set goals and intentions. We make promises and have expectations which lead to worries and anxieties and disappointments. And we try to make it all come together reasonably well and sometimes it does. Usually, though, there's always something left undone, some loose end we leave trailing behind us as we rush out the door.

My unfulfilled quince project is far from a crisis situation but it it's an example of how I sometimes put off doing things that give me comfort and pleasure. I look at them now, sitting there on the table, so ripe and beautiful and absurd in their lumpiness. Wisely, I make no promises about tomorrow, but I do take the old clay bowl down from the cupboard and knock on my neighbor's door to borrow (yes, this really happened) a cup of sugar.

Maybe if I get things started tonight, if I cut up the fruit and toss in the sugar and cover it tight for the night, I can hedge my bets for tomorrow. Maybe the crappy weather will hold and I'll get my cozy kitchen moment, standing with my belly pressed against the warm stove, stirring a spicy-scented pot full of sugar and absurdity.

It's never entirely certain what tomorrow will bring.

Update 11/23/2014: Well, very little has changed in the past few years! It's the weekend before Thanksgiving 2014 and I'm once again in a crazy place, only this time it has to do with my manuscript deadline overlapping with a Thanksgiving trip back to my ancestral home. It's raining and it's cold and yes, there are a few knobby quince rolling around my kitchen counter, patiently waiting to see if I can manage to do something with them before they rot.

I'm happy I revisited this post for a number of reasons but mostly because of the small bit of practical wisdom found towards the end: if you can't do it all, at least bite off a small corner of a project. Take 20 minutes, or even an hour, and get something started, especially if it's an activity that makes you happy and brings some kind of quiet reflection.

I thought I was going to spend today in a completely different posture (ass-in-chair, fingers crouched over a keyboard) but instead I took a small nugget of wisdom from my younger self and found myself 'standing with my belly pressed against a warm stove.' Now I am exactly in the place where I need to be, stirring a pot full of spice and sweetness and absurdity, and getting done what needs to get done. Tomorrow be damned.

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I hope you enjoyed this encore Weekend Meditation, originally posted on November 20, 2011. I will be posting these vintage posts every Sunday (with the occasional new post, if I can manage!) for the next several months while I focus on writing my first book.

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Dana Velden has just finished writing her first book: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Meditations and Recipes from a Mindful Cook which is based on her Weekend Meditation posts from The Kitchn. (Rodale Press, Fall, 2015) She lives in Oakland, CA.