Weekend Meditation: An Unambitious Jar of Strawberry Jam

This post is about the pleasures of being unambitious. Not lazy (although I approve of that as well) but not all determined and zealous either. Unambitious, as in making just one jar of strawberry jam, instead of mounting a jam-making superproduction, complete with vats of boiling water and industrial sized bags of sugar and cases of fruit. Not that there's anything wrong with a good, old-fashioned canning-palooza, but sometimes the circumstances are such that you have to aim small.

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My life is a little up in the air right now as I pack up my kitchen for a move, an event that is unfortunately coinciding with the height of an abundant strawberry crop. It seems like everywhere I go, I to run into people carrying cases of strawberries, their eyes glittering with that 'Honey, I'm gonna make us some jam!' look. I find myself sighing inside, feeling envious and also a little sad for my future self who won't have the comfort of strawberry jam next winter, when the days are short and gray and damp.

It's important, however, to remember that life is seldom all-or-nothing. I could abandon my annual strawberry jam making completely, adding it to the list of sorrows that I'm experiencing right now. Or I could just scale back - way back - to one simple, perfect jar.

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So I did just that this morning. I cut up about two pints of strawberries and brought them to a boil with a handful of sugar. While it was cooking I put a plate in the freezer and washed out an old jar with very hot water. When a jam dribble thickened on the frozen plate, I scooped the hot jam into the clean jar, wiped the rim, and covered it with waxed paper secured with a rubber band. And into the refrigerator it went.

There was even enough left over to gift a neighbor a small jar and to add a spoonful to that morning's yogurt. Even though I have just one jar and it will probably last a week, maybe two, I am not in despair. Instead, I feel great joy with this smaller offering. I decide that the next time I need some jam, I would do this single jar batch again, with whatever fruit was in season.

Sometimes you have to aim large and muster up the energy for an ambitious undertaking. And sometimes, the wise thing to do is keep it small and immediate. The trick is knowing when, of course, and also in not assuming that the larger endeavor is better, or more powerful, or more effective and the smaller is just a compromise. My unambitious, single-jar-plus-a-little-extra, small batch jam is perfect, just as it is, beyond compare. It stands on its own merit, warming my heart and dancing on my tongue: a sweet abundance, just enough to fill this moment completely.

Related: Weekend Meditation: Saying Yes

(Images: Dana Velden)

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Weekend Meditation

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.