It’s tomato season here in central Ohio. We pick the ripe red fruit only to find, a few days later, that there’s another basket waiting for us. My mother-in-law has been responsible for teaching me her canning and preserving wisdom over the last few years.
While we’re slicing the tomatoes and putting them in the pans to cook in round one, she throws out bits and pieces of the wisdom she’s gleaned over the years. It’s not limited to tomato wisdom; she has shared all manner of goodies with me while we are at her kitchen sink.
When I stood at the sink in an endless streak of processing, filtering the seeds and skins using a contraption that makes my older kids beg to help, she bustled back and forth, narrowly escaping burns even as she seemed to be everywhere at once.
Then, after the strained sauce had cooked down, she walked me through the specific process she uses, washing jars and sterilizing them, then putting them in the canner in groups of seven.
Truth be told, this is my favorite time of the year. The smell of the tomatoes, the work of my hands, the teasing change of seasons…it’s the stuff of miracles.
Though I live in the country, I’m as guilty as anyone of being removed from the physical lifestyle that, only 50 years ago, was a standard. So when I read about some of the long-ago apparitions of Mary, I have to realign myself mentally. I have to think about the message for those people, do some transposing to get the message to make sense to me, in my life now.
In the Guadalupan apparition, we have Mary appearing to an apparently insignificant person, a poor Indian convert. Juan Diego was as “nobody” as it got.
Boy, do I know that feeling!
So much of what Our Lady of Guadalupe has to say is relevant to me now. She meets me where I am.
It seems so fitting that I finished a book on Mary waiting for the tomato sauce to thicken. With the red smell of cooking tomatoes in my nose, I closed the back cover. Finishing a book and tasting the fruits of my labor are rewarding in a way so few things seem to be. Clearing out Google Reader just doesn’t have the same satisfaction. Emptying my inbox just doesn’t taste as good. Answering all my messages doesn’t meet my inner need for creativity.
We have many more tomatoes to can. The plants are bogged down with the promises of at least two more sessions in the next few weeks. While I stand there, at the sink, I’ll think of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of Mary, the girl from Nazareth. I’ll consider the work the Indians of Juan Diego’s time did and the humble clothing they wore. The story will be mingling with cooking tomatoes in my mind, to the tune of my mother-in-law’s stories and advice.
I think that’s just the sort of beauty Mary intends for each of us, don’t you?