One thing I didn’t anticipate after having a baby is just how homesick I would be. Fall has a way of making me especially conscious of this. I crave homemade meals, the scent of decaying leaves, cobalt blue skies, and football games. But most of all, I crave family.
I miss getting together with aunts and uncles and cousins, eating delicious food and laughing until I almost pee my pants. I miss inevitably listening to the stories I’ve heard a million times, as familiar and exciting as a favorite song coming on the radio. There is an ease and comfort that wraps me up like a warm blanket and fills me up like chicken pot pie.
Since my husband and I moved to Seattle over a decade ago, we’ve grown our own little family. First with a dog, then a baby, but mostly with our friends. I do feel a deep connection to the Northwest and over the years our friendships have grown into family. I am eternally grateful for this and feel very lucky.
Here in the PNW, I feel my short thin roots reaching down and spreading but they are still searching for nourishment, grasping to take hold. Back on the east coast, I stand firm. My thick healthy roots spread far and deep. I need to nourish my Northwest roots. And so, with the help of a good friend, I did just that.
When my pal Laura offered to share her elderberry picking spots with me, I jumped at the chance. We headed east to Leavenworth in the late September smoky haze. Laura showed me where she went to camp growing up and where she and her dad would look for elderberries. We found some in her usual spots and then saw a jackpot of a bush along the road in someone’s property. The owners were outside and gave us their blessing to go pick all we wanted. We got bags and bags full.
I knew that the blue elderberries are poisonous to eat when raw, so I asked Laura what to do with them. She explained to boil them and put them through a sieve to get the juice. She gave me a tip that proved invaluable- freeze the berries on the the stems before you pick them all off. It worked brilliantly. She also gave me her dad’s recipe for elderberry jam and it is so delicious.
Sure, I could’ve researched online where and how to pick elderberries, but it is so much more enjoyable to get this information passed on from friends and family. These are the things that make roots grow. I kept telling Laura all day, I totally feel like a local now!
In October, Laura invited me to Vashon Island to pick apples and make cider with her husband’s extended family. They have deep roots on the island and I got to listen to the catching up, the familiar stories, and eat the delicious food.
No one here will ever replace my own family of course, but I so appreciate getting just some of that comfort and warmth I’ve been craving. And the harvest; the jam and cider, tastes that much better.
The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury
Norbury, who was adopted after being left as an infant at a convent, takes her daughter, Evie, along the banks of Welsh rivers to trace them to their source. Not knowing where her true roots lie, she seeks peace and familiarity, ultimately searching for a beginning and a sense of belonging. This book, filled with gorgeous descriptions, unpronounceably delightful Welsh locations, history, and fairy tales, quickly became a favorite of mine. It is truly the most beautiful book I’ve read in awhile.