I keep losing things. Like my camera, and scarves, and so on. I sort of keep track, and have a tally in my head – my scarf is probably at the grill, that book might be under my bed, I should really look harder for the camera, and so on. But what’s on my mind is salt. It’s ridiculous: I made salt again this year, which isn’t actually making something, it’s taking what was already there and waiting.
Here’s how it went: M. invited to me to Whidbey Island to help with some gardening, which was fun and hard work and good company and the only tiny downside was when, after hours of digging up sod and planting trees, I laid down on my back for a minute to rest, and in the gentlest way possible, she said, “I think I’m going to discount your time for being a little slow.” This is the young person who voted for Jill Stein, campaigned for Obama, and wrote the POTUS a letter that she described as “stern but congratulatory” earlier this week, reminding him of right and wrong and what he should do this term. She's not someone you want to disappoint, because she's so hardworking and sincere and awesome.
Anyway, after a few days we finished planting trees and went to the beach, waded in, and collected water from the Sound. Since then, like a month ago, I’ve been making it into salt. I don’t know why. I really don’t. I did it last year, and it was a novelty. Now it’s crossed that line and I’m afraid it’s become one of the Things I Do. Arrgh.
I’ve been minorly irritated at myself for putting so much effort into the salt. Here’s how it goes: I pour seawater into a cooking pan, spilling some on the floor. It’s sticky. I put the pan on the stove and try to heat it up to that sweet spot, maybe 200 degrees, but get distracted and it boils over, causing more stickiness and rust. I wear a digital thermometer around my neck to remind me to focus on the temperature, and then put a Spirit Corps bandana on my head for good measure. I hope no one drops by, and more importantly, I hope I remember to rinse the thermometer off before I test my coffee temperature in the morning.
As the substance evaporates, I add more seawater, and continue to spill it everywhere. All this stickiness and rust in the name of getting salt, for goddsakes, which is about as cheap and available as anything. This goes on for weeks and weeks. Everything is rusting, including the top of the woodstove and my nice cooking pots and the inside of the oven, and every time I want to cook something I have to consolidate many vats of salt potion to come up with an empty pot.
But I feel like it’s good practice to do something that requires mostly waiting and being attentive but detached, and not being irritated that it’s messy and slow and complicated, and not expecting something amazing, but just something decent.
Eventually, I have a collection of beautiful white salt crystals, and I have to say, they are stunning, fanned out on a piece of parchment paper like glittery jewels. I give some to Cake Boss and some to The Competition, and they seemed pleased, and I’m almost done with the 5 gallons of water, except for one small vessel that’s still evaporating.
I fill a mason jar with the new salt, and take a picture of it with my other salt, which, really? I’m that person? I have an awkward amount of self-awareness where I realize this isn’t quite right, but I can’t stop myself either. Let’s call that mental health, where I understand that painting a watercolor backdrop for a portrait of salt is perhaps the tiniest bit, um, I'm not sure what the word is, but it hasn't escaped my notice. I think that's a good sign.
Anyway I took the picture with my cell phone due to the missing camera, put the salt away where it belongs, went back a few days later to use some, and it's gone. Poof. I'm not sure what to make of any of this.