A little while ago, on one of the hottest days of a very hot summer, I put up with undulating waves of steam in my kitchen. I might otherwise have questioned my sanity, but I was a woman on a mission: I was making this jam right now.
My friends know that I have a passion for preserving food, and my pantry has been filling up with season bounties: jams, chutney, salsa and so on.
This jam was a necessity. You see, the strawberries were perfect: tiny, flavour-packed berries, just picked and sliced. With that kind of heat, though, those conditions were not going to last.
What I really wanted to do was preserve the moment, not just the fruit. These berries, which I picked myself with our son, were at their best, and freezing them … well, that would just be wrong.
So, I put up with some discomfort and put the water on the boil, and made ready the steamy sterilizing process that makes preserves possible. It did seem weird to be making one part of the house even more uncomfortable than the rest, but that’s the price I paid.
Later, I thought about the lengths that we’ll go to to preserve a moment — or rather, to manufacture one.
This came to mind as I was flicking through photographs — mine, and those of others.
Not only can we take photos now, pretty much anywhere we go, but thanks to social media, we can share the moment practically as soon it happened.
The ones that work best are spontaneous, I think, the funny or charming or sweet slices of life that present themselves to us, and we’re fortunate (or observant) enough to record them.
Back in the day, we used to call them Kodak moments. Now, with the Kodak brand a fading memory (I imagine future generations will need help figuring out Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome”), it’s not about 35-mm film but rather megabytes and whatever digital device made it possible.
The key issue, though, is the same: preserving for posterity that special instant, the one when the magic happened.
I’ve noticed an odd thing, however: a sense of disappointment, even loss, when that special moment could not be recorded.
On a few occasions, friends related how they tried and tried to get what they were feeling in the frame, and somehow it did not translate. I heard recently of a bride who felt let down when one of her main wedding photos did not at all resemble the imagery she had in her head.
More often, the letdowns are on a smaller scale. Earlier this summer, a scene played out as a small group of friends tried to engineer a group selfie on a local beach.
For whatever reason, none of the shots were working, and it appeared that a mood or two was rising. That’s a pity, because it looked like they had been having a hoot; it’s too bad that the overall good time wasn’t translating to the camera.
I know the frustration of going through images later and not seeing on the screen what had been in my head.
The only advice I can give myself, and anyone else, is this: let it go.
Almost always, I find unexpected gems in the camera: moments I didn’t even know I had captured, details in the background, the smile on our son as he gallivanted about.
One of the best things about digital photography is the lack of operating expenses. In the Kodak era, when I had just 24 exposures in my camera, I thought carefully about what exactly I would shoot.
And yes, it stung when those frames were overexposed.
Now, I snap away, quite a lot.
I delete a great many of them later, and find my happiness in the handful of delights along the way.
Besides, pruning those pictures is sure a lot less uncomfortable than a sweltering hot kitchen.
Martha Muzychka is a writer, consultant, and canner
of all things edible. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.