Recently, I dreamt that I wore a high-necked lacey blouse, hair done in a Gibson-girl bun, and had discovered a way to preserve lemons while standing in a farmhouse kitchen that was part of a farm and not a kitchen remodeling trend. Lemons were hard to get in dreamland, and in my current reality they seem to go bad within two days. They have become worse than avocados, skin browning and insides mushy—surprising, since they seem so firm in the store. My busy but supposedly resting brain figured out a way to preserve these precious lemons, if only I could remember. I swore to myself in the dream that I’d remember, but apparently even I don’t listen to myself sometimes.
Perhaps I have read too many articles on Pinterest lately about making simple syrups and homemade vanilla extract. I now know how to make brown sugar pecan simple syrup, but what I’m supposed to use it for perplexes me. So far, it tastes good in coffee—a toasty kind of sweetener ready for cooler fall weather. But my lemon dream confused me. Maybe my brain was trying to redirect me to make Limoncello instead. There’s just enough time to make a batch now for holiday gift giving. Or so I’ve read.
These are the domestic inquiries and experiments in which I engage. Why my kitchen counter is now overflowing and why I can’t keep up with the dishes. I am never bored. To read a book, or an article, or a recipe, is to be inspired. Pre-pandemic, I didn’t have any domestic aspirations other than a clean house. I wouldn’t have had the time to go off on cooking or baking tangents. Also, knowing the previous version of myself and my lack of attention to detail, I would have started the pecan simple syrup without realizing I didn’t have any pecans. I wouldn’t have even been interested in making syrup. But now the larder is full, so to speak, and anything I dream I can make as long as fresh fruit isn’t involved.
Since conquering bread baking and growing a handful of tomatoes, my brain and hands are onto other projects. What I should be doing is applying myself to my writing, perhaps finishing the young adult novel I started seven years ago—or the essay I began back in May. But the thought of sitting down and putting in any work on something that I can’t eat later gives me pause. I remember my dream again, this time only the part about the lace blouse and my hair in a bun. What if I was supposed to live in another time, writing and doing domestic experiments, but I am trapped here in this time? Does time matter at all anymore?
I continue to learn that my ongoing discomfort is tied to understanding my life up until the pandemic. I thought my world was organized, complete and understandable. I operated within the strictures of my work and my relations to others I encountered. And as much as I appreciated this kind of normalcy from the “before time,” I often wished for something abnormal to happen to me. My wishes varied but were frequently tied to time travel. Perhaps my mind has always been a terrible combination of reading too much science fiction and Jane Austen, if there can be such a thing. When I remember my lemon dream and superimpose it onto my life now, it seems there is a convergence about to occur between my life and Lizzie Bennet’s. Now is one long post-season cycle, where winter is coming and there are fewer and fewer visitors and journeys on which to embark. And it would be like any other Regency or Victorian novel setting except that this is a different kind of ‘20s where I am here and now, but unstuck.
What I am realizing though is that I’m not unstuck from time or normalcy, but I’ve become unstuck from the previous version of myself. I never imagined myself finding joy in these domestic projects because I never imagined anything differently. My life before was filled with admonitions about how I spent my time. My thoughts now turn away from “should” and “supposed to,” and toward “maybe” and “perhaps.” Time travel now is confined to what I can do during any given day. It seems that whatever I imagine and have time to do is what the day comprises, rather than constantly worrying about how I should be occupying my time.
I’ve also discovered that the work never goes away: laundry and dishes remain undone and papers still need to be graded. But becoming unstuck from both time and my expectations of myself has been liberating. Old Stacy would have been angry folding laundry. New Stacy is stirring some syrup, making sure it doesn’t burn, while dreaming of how to make lemons into something that will last.
Stacy Murison is a Flagstaff-based writer. Her work has appeared in Assay, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Flash Fiction Magazine, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and The Rumpus among others.
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