I always need time to get back to my center, a center that naturally teeters off balance after connecting to the people I meet and come to know in the countries in which I travel. Countries in the midst of violent conflict, or perhaps emerging from a war or revolution and navigating the bumpy road of transition. Through the people who live the conflict or transition on a very personal and daily basis, I learn of their struggles, frustrations and oftentimes the trauma they experienced. At the same time, I learn of their courage, aspirations, and a level of resilience that is often awe inspiring.
It is a challenge to process all of these things and integrate them so that what I learn and experience can become part of the foundation from which I engage in my peacebuilding and rule of law work. It is also a challenge to switch gears upon arrival back in the United States and integrate back into my own life in Washington, DC, with my family and the routine of life. So, I need to find a vehicle through which I can switch off the clamour in my brain, with thoughts firing like pistons vying for attention, and manage my emotions, that seem to recede and peak like ocean waves. In the planting and harvesting season, digging in the earth and working my vegetable garden serve this purpose. In the late Fall and Winter, canning can do the job.
There is something very nurturing about taking fresh vegetables and preserving them for winter or later use. There is also a sense of security in knowing that I have jars upon jars of canned vegetables “just in case.” Maybe it is from living and working in countries where “just in case” is a regular event, or perhaps it is from my childhood when my single mother struggled to make ends meet to support my brother and me. In any event, I like knowing that I have an abundance of canned goods in the cupboard. This could be why, despite my intentions to use them all thoroughout the winter, I tend to hoard them and use them as soon as I know for sure that my spring crop will bring in replacements.
So, I am en route to the United States from Libya. I think I feel a canning session coming on……
Note: My gratitude for my friend Elizabeth who graciously opens her kitchen and home so we can engage together in our canning sessions. Spending time with her is as much part of the integration process as the canning process itself. Loads of thanks goes to her daughter, Hilda, whose photos grace this blog. Hilda is a fifth grader and budding photojournalist.