I had a visit with two friends yesterday. In the morning I cooked for a homeless teen shelter with a friend of mine who I think of as the tutelary god of women's work. With one hand she feeds 75 people all weekend at a lab retreat, with the other she organizes women to come to her house and cook monthly for a teen shelter, she organizes monthly breakfasts at her house that brings together everyone working on issues of homelessness, racism, employment, education, tutoring, feminism, and genteel electoral politics, she goes up to New Hampshire or wherever she is called by the Democratic Party to run lawyer strike forces at election time, and she holds parties and fundraisers for progressive causes. While I was at her house yesterday it turned out that she also makes her own pectin, from her own apples, so she can jam her own cherries from her own cherry tree. I've known her for years, we used to run the PTA together at our children's school, and I know how she does all this. 1) She never says no. 2) She always asks for help. 3) She never over prepares--she just knows that she will have to do something in three months and starts right in doing it, doing a little every day. Being with her is like being with a very loving Scherezade--one story is never finished because it branches into ten, a description of the dish we are cooking for the teens becomes a long involved story about some people who might have known someone you know who ate the dish ten years ago when she was first cooking it using some other ingredients and each of the alternate ingredients are then lovingly explored. My children tease me that all my explanations for things go back to the Sumerians and to politics and racism. I would say that my friend's explanations are, like mine, Proustian but with the touchstone being friends and acquaintances. Oh and she paints.
Inspired by her example, and already having 6 quarts of Sour Cherries to pit and jam, I rushed off and bought 8 more so I could also make pickled Cherries and still have enough left over for pie. On the way to the farm stand I went to see another friend of mine--an equally talented and artistic woman--and found her having put herself under a ban: no new projects until some of the old ones were finished. I resonate with that--I never finish anything, it seems like. If the children hadn't taken over the task of growing up right from conception I probably wouldn't even have finished my pregnancy, let alone let them leave home. Not for too much mother love but because of too much procrastination. At any rate seeing this friend and hearing about her new plan to "stop taking on new projects until I finish the old ones" I decided, on reflection, that I prefer the original way of doing things. Just say yes, get started, and figure that it finishes when it has to finish and not a moment before.
So I am going back, refreshed, to my own chaotic way of doing things. I'm pitting cherries and pickling and jamming them today, starting bread, continuing to read politics and cultural history, planning my daughter's complex schedule, phoning to arrange things, working on my cookbook, heading out to help run my new mother's group, starting to plan to take a course or two in the fall--one in social work and one in drawing--und so weiter.