To whom do you turn? I am not going to get religious here. I am not religious. I am deeply spiritual. And I believe with every ounce of my Lutheran up bringing, that prayer is the most powerful tool in my toolbox. And the entity, or being, or spirit that I turn to, is listening.
After prayer, I turn to my friends, who are often prayers-answered-in-the-flesh. I have a friend who responds in chocolate pudding, or poetry or home-brewed kombucha, or peaches.
I think responding in chocolate pudding is a kind of help isn't it?
When I am in a state of need, whether stymied by a mechanical failure, a non-911 accident, or stuckness of the sort that I cannot worry my way out of it, chocolate pudding will do the trick in all cases. It makes me sit down. It requires my undivided attention. It lets me breathe. I relax. With the first spoonful, I sense the loving care that went in to the pudding. Before long, I have a solution or at least I am willing to approach the tangle again.
Help comes in many forms. I do not discount the value of help in the form of chocolate pudding or peaches. I take up offers to "call me when you get stuck.” Not as often as I could, but I do ask for help. It is a human action, to ask. And I know, as someone who helps, that there is grace on both sides of the helping equation.
But I cannot think about help without also thinking about honey.
Think with me for a second. Honey is not a fast food. A direct link between the producer and you, there is nothing fake about honey. You spoon it into your cup. It liquefies and your mint tea turns into tonic.
Last November, I lived in the country of Armenia for a month on an artist residency. This project is called New Illuminations. I interview artists to learn about their lives, and work with them teaching the book arts and daily writing practices as a way to build community among women who live in a very patriarchic society. Over three visits to this far Eastern European country, I have built relationships with the artists with whom I work; I have gotten to know their families. Armenia is a very poor country. People in the city where I work have little material wealth, but they are agriculturally bountiful. Many people have fruit trees around their very small homes. I have sat down to many interviews to be served home brewed cherry or apricot juice. November is the season of the walnut harvest and have you ever tasted a freshly picked walnut? Then, there is the honey. Armenia has many struggles, but its soil is rich, untainted by pesticides. The produce is vibrant and vigorous. The honey is delicious.
When I arrived in Gyumri in late October, I was gifted two jars of honey. One I set aside to carry home as a gift for my family. The other became my daily source of comfort. It helped me adjust to life in Gyumri, it touched my tea with a regular dose of gold straight from the homestead farm from which it grew. I found so much help in that jar of honey.
When the sap starts running in the Berkshires in late winter, it is around the same time that I am ready to be outdoors, no matter what cruddy winter conditions prevail. Tending a sugar shack means splitting kindling and keeping several fires stoked, stirring and filtering the sap as it boils down through stages, turning from a watery liquid to the elixir that you pour over pancakes. It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup. Working in a sugar shack keeps me outside and alongside friends for whom hard work is part of what we enjoy doing together.
I have puzzled over the topic of help this week as I prepared to write this post. Despite several other ideas, this one idea about sweetness and comfort, and what a help these things are stuck. No, honey or syrup or chocolate pudding do not pay bills, but they do improve the quality of whatever you are doing at the moment.
(When I offer help, it is coconut rice pudding, FYI, sweetened with maple syrup.)