I have a yearly tradition of adventuring into the hills of East Montpelier to apple pick at the beautiful home of a former student and current friend/second mom. The tradition originally started with me biking up the laborious hills of Town Hill Road, picking apples, filling my bicycle panniers chalk full, and biking home. However, as my body quickly degrades into old person status, I opted to take the lovely dirt roads in a cushier fashion in my car and bring a friend to do the heavy lifting and ladder climbing.
I look forward to this yearly trip not only for the fun of picking apples and seeing good friends, but also with the anticipation of making homemade applesauce with my bounty. Nothing tastes as sweet as homemade unsweetened applesauce…..well maybe homemade sweetened applesauce, but that isn’t as good in my opinion. I love seeing the fruits of my labor…. *giggle*…. lined up freshly canned and ready to be eaten. There is something so satisfying (and slightly gross) about making your own applesauce. It makes me so happy every year.
This year, because I drove, I picked twice as many apples as I normally do since I didn’t have to pedal the extra weight home. I decided to make as many batches as I could of applesauce, as well as, keep a few apples aside to experiment with other apple oriented recipes. Because of the size of my kitchen, and the lack of cooking paraphernalia, I am reduced to making small single batches of sauce at a time. This is good in someways and entirely annoying in others. The good part is that the small batches are quickly finished and I can stop and rest at any time or quit entirely and come back to it another day (which is what happened today after making a few batches). The annoying part is that I have to make single small batches, and since I am aiming for large quantities of sauce it takes forever to get through everything. I have decided to break it up into several days of small batches with rest days between. (Much like what happens when writing these blog posts.)
Todays saucing went fairly well. I usually just randomly throw things in with the apples that I think will make them tastier. For instance, my go to ingredients to add to the apples are usually Cinnamon, Ginger, and Nutmeg. This year I had several lemons lying around that my aunt had brought to my mothers house and I decided that lemon might add a nice touch. The first batch I made I was slightly heavy on the lemon, which added a slight sour puckering of the lips during the aftertaste. Although I usually never sweeten my applesauce, I decided to add a teaspoon or two of my parents’ Maple Syrup just to remedy the tartness of the lemon and apples. In my opinion maple syrup is nectar of the gods and makes anything so much better. However, I didn’t want sweetener in my sauce so I put the first batch with the yummy maple flavor aside (usually I combine all the batches together to make canning easier) and started the next batch with less lemon. The second time around, I got the quantity just right and the sauce came out perfectly tangy and rich. Several batches later, I was a walking zombie. I cleaned up and collapsed on my couch with the intention of finishing up making the sauce another day, as well as canning on yet another day after that. **To me canning is like pulling teeth. I need to be well rested and have a day where I am feeling really well before I can tackle that task.**
Applesauce side, I’ve recently been thinking about the last couple years of health struggles and noticing how much I’ve changed as a person with this illness. I don’t even think I would recognize myself now if my ten year old self saw myself. I’ve always been very driven with very clear goals and dreams. Many of these I have succeeded at even with the health issues. You can ask my best friend from childhood and she will tell you that at age 10 I was saying I wanted to be a dance teacher and make my own dances. To quote myself exactly, I believe I said “I want to be just like Rose when I grow up.” Which for those of you who know Rose know that she is a super fun, badass, dance teacher who “makes (incredible) dances.” Fast forward to senior year of high school, and I was teaching classes and choreographing right along side Rose. At that point, I told the same best friend that I wanted to dance and have a company, as well as teach kids and mentor them in the way that several of my teachers mentored me (which went way above and beyond the norm). I was taught to love dance and love myself through dance. My body has never been on my side and I struggled for many years with self-confidence issues oriented around my body. Some of these put on by myself and some of these forced on me by seriously cruel kids who did not understand my differences. Fast forward 3 more years and, although struggling significantly with health issues and injuries, I started my own dance collective, as well as, a choreography mentoring program. I aimed to teach kids how to choreograph, as well as, how to tap into their individuality and embrace the things that made them different no matter how tough they are. I have to say that what I am most proud of today is the fact that each and every one of those students were able to open up to me and let the excitement of creation bloom uninhabited by fear or judgement.
At that point in my life, my dreams and goals began to change. From dreaming of teaching and choreographing in Europe and developing full length works, they changed to dreaming of being able to fully stand up in the morning without severe pain. From wanting to collaborate on project with artists of different mediums, bridging the divide between composure and choreographer, painter and dancer, I dreamed of being able to eat a meal without feeling incredibly sick after or going for a walk without having to lay down for the rest of the day.
My goals have changed as well. Now each days goals are oriented around menial tasks and the bare minimum of energy output. I set a goal to eat and take a shower before having to rest. A goal of making it through a single baking adventure without having to pull a stool up to the counter. Going for a walk downtown and back without having to crash Tom’s work so I can sit down and rest a few minutes. It saddens me that each day I feel a little bit more and more of my imagination, creativity, and luster for spontaneity slip away into a monotony of pain, rest, and basic routine. I strive so hard to keep a shimmer of the former creative rainbow in my life, but sadly the unicorns and clouds with puppies have moved on. **For those of you who don’t get that reference it is the imagery I often gave my young students when I wanted them to be excited and really emote the happiness of movement….for who can be sad around unicorns and clouds of puppies.**
ME/CFS has muted my color pallet considerably and I have been struggling to continue to create a vivid life for myself no matter the circumstances. Many people often tell me I must be sad and depressed. Although I admit it is incredibly tough and taxing, and it is hard to always have a positive outlook, I don’t find myself struggling with depression. Yes, occasionally I’ll have a moment of feeling down and maybe depressed, but mostly I feel frustration and a little lost. However, I mostly feel determined. I’m determined to not give up on healing. I am determined to make the most of this life and fight for the things that keep me going. Yes, occasionally I make dumb decisions that can be slightly detrimental to my body, like baking too much in a day, or stealing a bite of Tom’s ice cream, but it is really important to do the thinks that make you happy (within reason…. I can’t steal too much ice cream or I’d probably be single.) I am determined to find beauty in my life and I am determined to dream in technicolor.
To Be Continued….