What Strawberries Teach Me

Yesterday, I picked strawberries and made jam.

See how easy I made that sound? No mention of the dripping humidity in the berry fields, or the fact that it was already 85 degrees by 9 o’clock. I didn’t tell you how long and hard I had to hunt for each ripe berry. The picking will be better a week from now, but because of my work schedule, family birthdays, and travel plans, I don’t have a single other day in the next two weeks that I can devote to berry-picking and jam-making. And I’m afraid that if I wait, I’ll miss them. This has happened before, and those years, we’ve ended up eating unsatisfying, store-bought jam. So it was yesterday or never. What Strawberries Taught Me

Also in that concise opening sentence, there is no mention of how I had to stop for sugar and pectin and jar lids afterward, on my way home: how I sidled into the store looking like the very wrath of God: shiny-faced and dripping sweat, in a juice-stained shirt, with a ball cap crammed down over my unwashed hair, praying I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.

I left out the afternoon hours I spent over a steamy stove, with a 170-degree oven pulsing out heat around my legs; burning my fingers on jam and hot jars, my forearms sticky, my mouth cloyed with sweetness. Meanwhile, the DJ on the radio kept throwing out, like candy from a parade float, cheery comments about what a perfect beach day it was, and how she hoped we were all lounging around on chairs somewhere near the water.

Not that I was bitter.

Read more: What Strawberries Teach Me

The Creative Life, or The Impossibility of Ever Getting it Right

I’ve spent the last week at Mt. Holyoke College, outside Amherst, Massachusetts, at a conference called The Glen Workshop for Tormented Creatives. I mean, that’s not what the conference is really called, but it might as well be. This morning, at breakfast, the chef asked me how my “studying” was going. “Great,” I told him, only half-lying. Then I added the rest of it, the part that made it all-the-way true: “But it’s hard.”

            “What are yous studying, anyways?” He flicked his towel at a fly that was too interested in the pitcher of pancake syrup.

            “Well, I’m taking a fiction workshop,” I said, “but other people are taking classes in poetry, or memoir, or painting, or filmmaking.”

            “Wow, that sounds hard.”

            And I thought, You have no ideaWriter's Block


Read more: The Creative Life, or The Impossibility of Ever Getting it Right