persevere / preserve

Nearly every August I feel compelled to try to make a pie. And nearly every August I’m a tad disappointed. I don’t make the prettiest pies, nor the best tasting. However, I’m also reminded that by mixing butter, sugar, and fruit, you can  never go entirely wrong.

You may not take home a blue ribbon from the state fair, but the mere act of persevering – of trying yet again – can be satisfaction enough.

I know this. I get it. And yet I still believe that one of these years I’m going to get it “right.” Let’s call it the Perfection part of my brain versus the Equanimity part of my brain. They duke it out. And then I try, try again.

I like that I keep trying. It endears me to me.

(“What endears you to you?” I asked my kids just now. “That I’m weird,” says Bella. “The bump on my leg,” says Tobey.”)

Trying again and again at crow pose. Trying again and again on the page. Trying again and again to figure out the best way to deal with my son’s  tantrums.

I can get really bleak about it, very “woe-is-me” and “why-couldn’t-I-have-been-an-accountant?”

Perseverance is equal parts tenacity and attitude. I think of parenting and how what can feel bloody impossible one day is just plain funny the next. Or a yoga pose that was impossible is suddenly within reach (by god – I did an assisted back drop just this week!). This is true with writing, too. Sometimes I just have to write – it gives me such pleasure and helps me to sort it all out. But the current state of publishing means you have to be a perseverance junkie to actually want to make any kind of living do this. I can get really bleak about it, very “woe-is-me” and “why-couldn’t-I-have-been-an-accountant?” It’s all I can do some weeks to put my fingers to the keyboard and believe that what I do matters even a little to someone else. Writing at this point in history – this Kindle, post-novel moment – often seems like a decadent hobby from an earlier century. Just call me Jane.

But then I do some yoga, and I want to write. Then I fold stacks of laundry and cook noodles, and I need to write. And the writing leads me back to the yoga. And the yoga helps me to enjoy my kids more. And it circles round and round.

August is also the time when I preserve summer. Or I try to. You can never really capture its sticky sweetness. I put corn and peaches in the freezer, already thinking wistfully of the day in early December when I’ll unpack the final bag from its frosty hiding place. I buy a palette of tomatoes and boil off their skins, mush them, cook them down and then can them. I never have the perseverance to do much more than about a dozen jars, but those jars are little gems that get me through the coldest days.

Watching my kids walk into school today – the beginning of fourth and second grades – I also had a longing to preserve them. To remember them just now, just so. I can’t stick them in jars or press them between wax paper, of course. As much as I want to scream, Don’t change! I also take pleasure in knowing that they will. I hold my breath and wait to see what will happen next.

September will be here soon, and October before you know it.  The peaches will soon stop appearing at the grocery store. The kids will outgrow the tennis shoes that fit a month ago. One yoga pose will meld into the next. And, yes, the pie gets eaten.


I can’t preserve anything without thinking of this Greg Brown song.  “Taste a little of the summer…grandma’s put it all in jars.”


3 thoughts on “persevere / preserve”

  1. Once again I read your words and my insides are all moved (yes in a good way). Connecting with so many emotions, the full range, I am laughing and crying- who would have seen that coming! I think, this is preserving at its finest. I just dropped my 20 year old off at college and wonder where the time went and if I have enough memory intact to preserve all the stages and changes along the way that got us here. Thank you for preserving with words!

    1. You – cry and laugh at the same time? I can’t fathom. Ah, Mary – I know it must be tough taking Lindsay to college. But it’s the second time around, right? She sounds like such a solid person – just like her mother. You’re an inspiration to me.

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