heart's ease: on making candied violets
by Chappell on our previous farm
i woke to the sound of the redheaded woodpecker drilling for grit in the gutter. he makes for a great alarm clock. it was not yet 7:30. when i rose from my bed and made my way to the window, the elusive blue bird with his red chest and white belly was hanging out casually within view. i observed him for a moment, just to enjoy his proximity, and finally decided to fetch my camera. when i came back, he was still there.
i thought: perhaps finally, i will get a shot of my favorite bird.
as i closed the distance with my camera, he made off to the eastern hill.
so i did not.
the forsythia i trimmed back radically two years ago to fight a disease is finally raging in yellow bloom while the un diseased younger one (which was spared such drastic measure) is still quite bare.
the first butterflies of spring were winging their way between the two bushes: an eastern tiger swallowtail and the spicebush swallowtail which always makes me think of my dead father. perhaps my heart should have gladdened at this sight, but it did not. i found myself feeling heartsick and saddened instead, trying to shake off the umbrage of loss that i was feeling.
i busied myself with opening the greenhouse and tending to the young green ones while the temperatures rose in tandem with the height of the morning sun.
i concentrated on work. potting up --tend to the living.
surely this can soothe me? it did not.
how to let go?
how to center my heart?
i thought of the sweet violets and their tender blooms nodding toward the ground in their bouquet of heart shaped leaves. viola, or heart's ease, an old folk remedy for heartache and grief. so i wandered outside searching out clusters of purple in the sea of green and the still pale golds of winter. stooping to admire the tender blooms i gathered them in one by one, selecting the choicest blooms and those leaves which furled into the most healthy of heart shapes. as i gathered i was thankful for their presence and their healing gifts... thankful but still sad.
at least now i had a place to focus my energy and a mission to distract my aching thoughts.
shall i dry them for some tea? shall i make a beautiful simple syrup? or candy them?
i walked along the garden paths, through the yard, along the stream and hillsides until i had exhausted the ready supply. they are not as prolific in number as i had hoped they would be. more will be coming into bloom during the next few weeks and i will harvest and process them as they come along. for this harvest, i opted on making candied violets (recipe here) because we had extra egg whites set aside that could be put to good use.
as i sat painting the tender blooms with whipped egg white, sprinkling each one with a fine ground sugar, my mind relaxed and the angst gave way to the task at hand. sometimes the act of making the medicine becomes the cure.
"sea of grief" digital collage, 2013