They say that six weeks is the period of time that it takes to establish a new habit. My sixth week of writing this gratitude journal fell yesterday, the 44th day. This new habit developed during my usual routine. As I may have mentioned before, what I write is not planned beforehand. Whatever thoughts have been filtering through my mind prior to waking, these are what eventually find themselves on the page. But away from my normal routine and with only intermittent internet access, it is a completely different story. I am sure you’ve noted the omission of the usual words of thanks in yesterday’s post. Nevertheless I hope that my thankfulness was evident in my appreciation of that beautiful day. It had occurred to me that I should have taken a break. But I felt that I had to keep it going. It may not be as regular as previously, but I aim to continue.
The other day I visited an olive press – it is almost the end of the olive harvest. This year apparently is a very good year – although the harvest is meagre, the fruits are big and fat and full of oil. Pressing is no longer done the traditional way with stone presses; all has been mechanized. Each family brings in their harvest – fruits and any remaining leaves all go into the input chute. They are washed, leaves and other extraneous materials separated, and the fruits crushed and then squeezed. After sieving, the oil flows out — a cloudy liquid the colour of liquid sunshine. No cash is involved, as the pressing is paid for in kind. Curious as to what it would taste like, I asked if it was possible to buy fresh oil. Normally they only sell in bulk — about 16 liters’ worth. I only wanted a tiny bit. A man brought out a filled one-liter bottle. Kept standing for 6 months, the oil’s cloudiness disappears as the sediment settles. I prefer it the way it is – freshly pressed, its complex and diverse flavours intact. How much for the liter bottle? No charge, the man said smiling. I am so touched by this surprising generosity and kindness!
Across the street, women were picking olives, one high up on a wooden ladder, and the others stripping off leaves from the olives on a blue sheet beneath the trees, or picking those that had strayed to the bare ground. No pictures, please, they said. I asked if it was all right to photograph the trees and the fruit. They agreed. One brought out pickled olives for us to taste – black and green, home-made – from their packed lunch — another unexpected blessing. The olives were deliciously sharp with chili, lemon juice, and an unidentifiable herb or spice. Most likely rue, my companion said. Ruta graveolens. Interestingly I have been meeting this herb rather often in the past weeks – previously in Ethiopian coffee.
A recent family highlight was a wedding. Don’t weddings bring out the best in everyone? It was a privilege to be in one such delightful occasion the other day. To experience a shared life being officially (the couple had been living together for years) and joyfully celebrated in historical surroundings with great music and dancing was truly extraordinary. To be among close family and friends, to dance with abandon, to sit and talk and share confidences after years apart — to just be on such a rollickingly fun event, free of fussy formality — was brilliant. It was most definitely a celebration of all the good things in life – love, friendship, families and the ties that bind each family member to the other, good food and drink, music, and dance – especially dance! Additionally – for two family members, a return to well-being and healing after serious illness.
The weather cooperated too – it started out cold with heavy rain and hail. Fortunately the sun came out to grace the proceedings, particularly at the exchange of vows – the sole element of formality — that was performed outdoors. The rain falling in its season and the sun providing warmth — both in good measure – were unmistakable promises of great blessings in store.
For all these things, I am grateful.