Today, a friend, who lives in Vermont, gave us three jars of crab-apple jelly â€“ ruby red, and tantalizing.
We could not wait. Together, we broke into the first jar right away, digging a spoon into the jelly and then spreading it, wobbly and translucent, onto some crackers dug out of the kitchen cupboard. Sweetness and tartness rolled together in our mouths, small treasures of delight.
Kathy said, â€œYou know, you canâ€™t put a price on these jars of jelly. If I knew I was going to be asking money for these jars of jelly, everything would have changed.â€
Oh. So there must be a story here? And yes, there was.
A batch of five jars took Kathy about an hour and a half of active work, not to mention all the additional time in preparation and cleaning up. She made 300 jars. Sixty batches. All told, three weeks.Â As the days, then weeks, rolled on, time went by in a blur of activity. There was no time to count the time.Â Time only to keep at it.
When it first dawned on Kathy just how much time this was going to take, she felt a stab of anxiety. It struck, unexpected. The questions followed: Could she afford all that time?Â Didnâ€™t she have a ton of other things to do?Â And didnâ€™t she need to be out there in her paying job (grooming dogs in her daughterâ€™s dog-grooming business)?
But then, in that exact moment, the aha moment came. â€œWeâ€™ve got our thoughts about time all wrong,â€ she realized in a flash, â€œWe say that time is money. But thatâ€™s where weâ€™ve got it wrong. We each have our time â€“ and that time was given to us free. It was a gift.Â And yes, we put a price on that time. Sometimes we have to put a price on time. But, really, it was free. If you just remember that: â€˜My time was given to me, freeâ€™ â€“ then everything else clicks into place.â€
So for Kathy, three weeks became, in truth, just one, long breathless, glorious, expanded moment of time that was for her this summer of 2015.
Here is what she did in those three weeks of crab-apple-jelly-making from start to finish:
First: She had to pick those crab-apples from the tree-tops. (Hubby hoisted her up using a tractor’s bucket loaderÂ since they didnâ€™t have a cherry picker.)
Second: She cut and laid out the crab-apple in halves in pans, using just the right amount of water so they would not float, and baked them until soft, then pulled them out, allowed to cool, smashed up the fruit, then carried it outside for operation â€œstrain.â€
Third: With muslin slings she strained the mash, using bowls to catch the dripping juice-to-become-jelly â€“ and as she awaited the juice, she baked and sterilized jars for the jelly.
Fourth: She filled the jars with the glowing jelly and stacked the jars in row upon row of glowing light.
And fifth: She repeated the whole cut-cook-strain-fill-stack operation. And repeated. And repeated.
And, then, it was done. Three hundred magical, priceless, ruby jars were arrayed before her â€“ three weeks of free but precious time, transformed.
She watched the gorgeous light as it filtered through the jelly. She anticipated the gifting. The pleasure, shared. The smiles, shared.Â The thanks given by friends, neighbors, family, customers â€“ long-standing and short.
And what she also knew â€“ the real joy of this â€“ was that the story would not in those moments of gifting end. Her friends, family, neighbors, customers (long-standing and short) will be gifting back to her. More smiles.Â More pleasure.
The circle of gifting, based on the awareness of time as the original gift.
And, at every step: Fulfilment.