The bakery has closed for the season and I am officially unemployed. No more kneading or dish washing. No more coffee or cinnamon buns. Now I can dedicate myself full-time to "being a writer." Yesterday, to celebrate, I made jam. After an hour of preparation, of crushing huckleberries and measuring Certo, I ladled the ruby-red liquid into their jars. Two of them. It seems berries shrink when boiled down. Nevertheless, I held my two perfectly sterilized jars to the light and admired their ruby glow.
I thought of the day I picked those huckleberries in the fields beside what the locals call "Ops" or "The Elephant Cage"--a giant steel apparatus constructed by the Canadian military during the Cold War. No one has been able to tell me for certain what they do there. The odd rental car comes and goes at odd hours, rattling across the cattle guard. But the huckleberries grow well there--"the size of peas!"--my friend Charley--Londoner turned such a lover of huckleberries she can never return--proclaims.
Since I'm a full-time writer again, I'm trying to reacquaint myself with living in poverty. It's not easy. I failed on my last foray into town--unable to resist the organic baby spinach and a half-pint of dark-chocolate raspberry Haagen Dazs. My mother once made the mistake of telling me to skimp on anything else but food. She never could have foreseen my addiction to foodstuffs. Maybe I don't have refrigeration, running water, or a flush toilet--but I have cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil and Spanish saffron. Some may call this off-the-grid chic. Some may call it gluttonous.
Perhaps that's why when applying for writer's grants and fellowships this week, I've been grossly underestimating my subsistence costs. How can I be held accountable to the Canadian public for my love of sparkling mineral water (Italian)? But after reading several applications that use phrases such as "this criterion considers the achievability of the project" and "merit-based, independent adjudication is the primary method of evaluation," I was reaching for the San Pellegrino.
When I read that applicants must allow authorized assessors "reasonable access to view the applicants' facilities, work, program, or project funded," I began to laugh. I imagined one of the assessors in my cedar-log cabin, viewing the shelves lined with gourmet foodstuffs, and then glancing towards the Nabob coffee tins holding up the bookshelf. I realized my mother was right. Maybe the Spanish saffron is actually saving me from losing it. In a world where writers must essentially beg the government for money, one woman's gluttony may be another's self-preservation. I can live without a new pair of shoes, or a car manufactured after 1990, but please don't take away my oak-aged balsamic.
Thank you for reading.