We all have different coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. Denise cleans. Sandy watches movies. Sometimes though, the tried and true methods don’t work. Your mind still wanders when you want it to be still.
We were sitting at the kitchen table on a Tuesday night, slicing Meyer lemons for our last batch of marmalade. We had been canning throughout the winter trying to perfect the pear butter and the marmalade, testing different kinds of vegetables for the giardiniera and trying our hand at aigre doux. Denise remarked that she was glad we were doing a Tuesday night canning project because she’d had a stressful week. Canning as stress reducer? We hadn’t explored that thought before, but it seemed to be true. The discipline of chopping and slicing, the preparation of the jars and the canner, heating water in the little pan for the lids and screw bands, making a brine, cooking down the marmalade, filling the jars, measuring headspace, wiping the jars, timing the process, removing the jars without scalding ourselves, and waiting for that popping noise that means the jars have sealed. All this takes concentration. In the beginning, the concentration was mixed with a little worry and uncertainty because we didn’t want to make a mistake that could be fatal to the recipients of our new found craft.
Now that we’re comfortable canners, the concentration is calming. As we talked that night, we realized on bad weeks, we were canning twice. With so much to do, we don’t dwell on the source of our stress, we work. That work, coupled with the sight of the newest jars lined up in our pantries, doesn’t make the cause of the stress go away, but it does put the stress where it belongs, in our mental pantries, so to speak, leaving us with clearer heads.
Perhaps it was better said by Thomas Edison: “As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.”
Even more fitting for us though, might be D.H. Lawrence: “I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.”