Note: our Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival begins today, a joyous weekend of beautiful music. We are hosting a young violist and his wife and all week we’ve heard him practicing at the far end of the house. There’ve been long sweet breakfasts where we’ve talked of music and everything else and a celebratory dinner at the home of our Festival Chair —a stone terrace overlooking the sea, set with tables, and everyone relaxed in the beautiful light, the clarinettist Jim Campbell and his son Graham (whom we commissioned to compose a piece for the Festival’s 15th anniversary this year) performing as the sun set. I was reminded of this 2016 post, in part because every year there are moments when I know I have been gifted with happiness. It’s transitory of course but worth remembering and celebrating.
It came to me while picking beans, the secret of happiness.
I was hunting among the spiraling vines that envelop my teepees of pole beans, lifting the dark-green leaves to find handfuls of pods, long and green, firm and furred with tender fuzz. I snapped them off where they hung in slender twosomes, bit into one, and tasted nothing but August, distilled into pure, crisp beaniness… By the time I finished searching through just one trellis, my basket was full. To go and empty it in the kitchen, I stepped between heavy squash vines and around tomato plants fallen under the weight of their fruit. They sprawled at the feet of the sunflowers, whose heads bowed with the weight of maturing seeds.
–from Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
I have to confess, John picked this particular basketful yesterday. But the happiness is mine too. To tie up tomatillos, cucumbers, to re-stake the tomato plants falling over with their abundance, to cut a bouquet of sweet peas on an August morning, a handful of rosemary, a Merton Beauty apple with exactly the right notes of sweet and spice — I wait during the dark mornings of January, the windy March afternoons, the damp Junes, for just these days. Sometimes I’m so busy just watering and deadheading or coiling hoses or weeding to notice. But we don’t get these days again. Or we do, but they’re changed, charged differently. We’re different. Older.
I’m going to sort the beans and then briefly steam a large pan of the smaller ones to dress with green Maille mustard, a squeeze of lemon, and walnut oil to take to a dinner tonight. And some of the larger ones, grown from seed I’ve saved for years, will be frozen. I’ve been pickling the really small tender ones. And tomorrow or the next day, there will be this many again.
The secret of happiness is that it’s momentary and transitory. I’m trying to remember to claim it and celebrate it when I realize it’s often as simple as beans, a dragonfly perching on the top of the trellis, the warm breathing of my husband in the night.