There is the welcome clatter of glass jars. The jars I gather from the pantry, the ones I saved up since my blackberry picking in September, the ones that have lain empty for months waiting to be filled with something seasonal and new. I put them into the oven to sterilise away, to banish the gathering of lost days. I was making Marmalade. The queen of January. The promise of golden light to settle in my dull kitchen.
Thank heavens for the electric juicer. The oranges from Malaga are ripe with juice. The pips are bountiful too and the pith a guarantee of pectin.
I have the house to myself this Saturday morning. I set about the pleasurable task with relish. I am a woman in the midst of creating sunshine. Nothing will stop me.
What is nicer than this? The feel of skin on my skin. The sunshine that grew it. The bitter smell. I juice the oranges. Dig out the pith. Gather the pips. Put them into muslin as my mother did all those years ago and I was thinking how stupid I was to decide that what she was doing was a waste of time. But I was full of children then and their needs. The pull and tug and push of motherhood. I scarcely could gather myself into one coherent piece because I was always needed, called upon, cried to, pleaded at, wished for...
Today, free of demands I slice the peel into slim slivers. I like it that way. No coarse cut. No uneven patterns. I put the fruit into a big pan with the water and the juice and the muslin bag. I set it to boil and then, simmer. It takes two hours. I warm the sugar. I watch the marmalade evolve. The kitchen reeks of orange. The windows mist with sunshine. I stir now and then. Step back. Write poems in my head. Dissolve the sugar in no time. I stir my cauldron of sunshine until the setting occurs. I think this has to be the same process of writing out something. Writing out the words, the ingredients, the method. Everything is clarified like eight jars of Marmalade on the windowsill, clear as crystal. As satisfying as your first sentence. As challenging as your last.