Summer is full of holidays. We passed out sammies at the Memorial Day picnic, after placing bowls of potato salad and pepper cabbage at the community table. We celebrated the red, white and blue with a banana cream pie and the Tricolour with a French-inspired Weeknight Dinner that included French martinis and a salad dressed in vinaigrette. The month of Leo beckoned, and we celebrated the good life with a classy cocktail party and a fabulous weeknight dinner. August is the month of the first harvest, and this bounty is too plentiful not to express our gratitude for this abundance, by using a bumper crop of green beans to make three-bean salad and turning black-eyed peas into Texas Caviar.
These all had shades of remembrance in common, for summer is the season of making memories. Memorial Day sets up summer as the season of remembrance, as we recognize the service of soldiers from the Revolutionary War to contemporary tours of duty. It is the season of summer vacation and summer homes, of community gatherings and home entertaining, of visits with friends and family in locales from exotic to familiar. In our urban home, summertime is heavy on birthdays, but we also celebrate Pride Weekend, honor the Fourth of July and observe Labor Day. It is also the season of at least one anniversary, as I passed one year out from being diagnosed with and cured of cancer.
There are lots of ways to preserve memories. Shadow boxes, scrapbook pages and photo albums protect mementos and crystallize memories. Last summer, making scrapbook pages at night of the California vacation that inaugurated the Summer of 10 helped me through the days of treatment that wound up defining that summer. Wherever it is based -- from kitchen to garden, from wood shop to drafting board -- a creative project grounds and centers. Skill and training meet inventiveness and expression, and perception emerges. Perhaps this is especially true when doing memory-keeping projects, which by their very content force us to examine where we are in our lives through the lens of where we were when the event we are conserving took place. Perspective went into the camera lenses that framed and captured the shot. How could anything but perspective emerge from handling the photo?
We keep memories not just of our own summertimes but of lives lived long ago. One of my earliest content areas for Urban Home Blog was scrapbooks and albums. This started because I inherited a box of old photographs, some very old and many damaged. I made the decision to preserve these historic documents and to weave together their stories, whether captured by a flash bulb or scrawled on the back of old card stock. That project goes on to this day. Because this project is complex and requires deep concentration, I find myself working on it in the quiet of early morning or late night. Many ghost watchers advise that it is during quiet times that spirits attempt to communicate, so who knows, maybe unseen hands guide mine as I sort through these delicate photographs and tintypes, and generational voices whisper as I try to deduce the stories these fragile records from another era have to tell.
And, as is the tradition both in our urban home and in homesteads across the country, both the height of summer and its descent towards autumn herald canning season. The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables peaks, and we are compelled to preserve some of this bounty in jars. Every jar put up now is insurance against future want. The hard-won wisdom of providing for the future goes into every jar, but conservation is also an act of gratitude. We are literally preserving the fruits (and vegetables) of days of abundance. It is no wonder competition for the blue ribbon is so intense at the county fair, for these high stakes are captured in the simple, pleasurable taste of fresh preserves.
In the spirit of preserving memories, I am pleased to offer free, downloadable canning labels from Urban Home Blog (click here). The ghostly backgrounds are distilled from heirloom family photographs from the Depression era, while the concentric circles around the labels represent the twine that frequently encircled jars of food from that era. These labels are designed to print on any standard 12-round label sheet such as Avery 5294. They look especially good printed on clear labels, with the contents of the jar and the date canned written on the label with a brown or dark red pen (to order a set of my favorite crafting pens, click here). I hope they are of use to you both practically and creatively, as you preserve your own memories of abundance.