Saturday, August 2, 2014

Peeling Peaches: The Everyday Divine

Just a little while ago, as I stood at my kitchen counter peeling peaches for a pie, it dawned on me that as I held a fat, ripe peach in one hand and a sharp, ceramic paring knife in the other, I felt a quiet, serene happiness and a deep sense of connection to the Divine.

 How can a simple, mundane, kitchen chore bring such a lovely sense of satisfaction and gratitude?  Well, without moving into my usual mode of over-thinking things, I knew where it came from.

I felt a deep awareness of the peach itself, of where it came from, and all the goodness of light, water, and healthy soil needed for the trees to thrive, and the flowering and subsequent fruiting that allowed the peach to grow.  But more than that, I felt a deep awareness of where I came from, of the women in my life who wielded a paring knife in kitchens on hot summer days or frosty winter nights with strong hands, a hot stove and a sharp knife. 

These women turned out peach pies, jams, jellies, and pickles, alongside everyday meat, potatoes and salads, with me at their feet watching their hands, smelling the sugared fruits simmering, the chicken frying, the bacon sizzling.  Throughout life, they did these things, even as children grew up, and loved ones died, and sorrows multiplied, and health problems grew more prominent in their lives.  And still, they persevered, in life as well as in the kitchen.  I remember one Christmas morning, my husband, children and I arrived at my parents’ house to find my mother taking a turkey out of the oven with tears running down her cheek.  Her oldest sister had passed the night before.  My mother did not staunch her sorrow; in fact, she seemed to find solace in the basting of the turkey, the crumbling the cornbread for dressing, the pouring of the iced tea.  

  And in my turn, as I grew older, married and began to have children of my own I began to do the same thing.  I learned to chop, to slice, to bake, to fry.  Between raising children and working at a job outside my home, I sliced peaches and rolled out pie crusts.  Peeling peaches for me was a learned skill; my first few pies had some pretty clumsy pieces in it.  Between sorrows and fears, joys and celebration, though, I did the same thing my mother, and my grandmother and my aunts did.   I kept going. And today I can peel a pretty good peach.

My children are grown now, and have homes of their own.  I see my daughter-in-law starting down the path all the women in my life have walked. It is a joy to watch! 

And so when I pick up a peach to peel, to slice, to make my favorite peach pie recipe for a celebration today with friends, I feel gratitude, and an unwavering connection to my heritage.  It’s a deep spiritual connection.  What a gift it is!

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