Gratitude for a Dill Pickle

Written by: Laurie Dohertyimg_0554

I never would’ve guessed the simple gratitude I could have for a dill pickle.  Although, upon reflection, the writing was on the wall.  A framed quote hangs in my mudroom, a gift from my oldest son, peacefully stating “Keep Calm and Eat a Pickle”.   

Pickles are my passion. In addition to their yummy taste, they tell a story about who I am and where I come from.  I am a pickler. I come from a family of picklers. My mom grew up on a farm and my dad’s garden was the center of my childhood yard. My dad didn’t approach things casually, he always had a systematic process for every quirky hobby.  

Together, my mom and dad created a family tradition. I learned the process, quite possibly through osmosis from years spent watching my dad pickle with glorious precision. The secret recipe was passed down to me not on a fancy index card, but verbally while we neatly arranged the pickles in a gallon jar, adding the ingredients and placing the jar in the summer sun.  

Pickling is so much more than gardening and a recipe. I enjoy every step – sowing my special-order, tiny, pink cucumbers seeds, reaping a bounty of perfectly sized and shaped cukes, mixing them up with the secret concoction and turning them into zesty, spicy dills. Then, the best part, driving around town delivering gallons to my pickle-loving friends. Seeing the smiles and hearing the enthusiasm for “Z Best Pickle” (the initial of my maiden name) warms my heart. Giving away what you love brings the most joy.

This gardening season was shaping up a little differently. After a spring and early summer of ER visits, hospital stays, and ultimately surgery, my pickling process was at serious risk. I was too sick and weak to even think about planting of my garden, and a year without the pickles would be worse than a year without a Santa Claus for me and my family.

So, perish the thought of a year without pickles, I had to do something very different and difficult this gardening season… I had to let go and ask for help.  My friends and family became my “pickle brigade”!  My brigade planted the seeds, nurtured and watered the sprouts, picked the cucumbers and created the final product.  

For the novices, I showed them how to be “one with the garden” in order to ensure no cucumber was left behind.  The pickle brigade was free to dig in, feel the earth in their hands and experience the fullness that comes from gardening.  I let them in, both literally and figuratively.  I gave away all my secrets.  I let go of control!  And, it was a wonderful thing.  It brought me a joy, peace and calm that I never could have imagined, not to mention a record-breaking year of gallons produced. 

 Giving up control of my pickling was a roadmap for the recovery to my illness and surgery and guided my recovery. Although I’ve always been very aware of stressors that cause my health issues, I hadn’t quite figured out how to get out of the terrible cycle. 

As Brene Brown says, “Your body keeps score, and it always wins”. My worrying ways had gotten the best of me, and I was down for the count. It was a very daunting and challenging place to be. I was very sick, and I missed some very important events in my life. My physical body had finally had enough. It kept score and won. I lost. 

Just as with the pickles, it was time for a new approach. I needed help with all the things I always do by myself and for others – laundry, cooking, shopping, driving. I had the most wonderful network of angels around me giving me all that I needed.  And, I received their help graciously. I even began to ask for more help. 

I asked my friend, the fabulous baker and cook, to send over mashed potatoes and banana muffins.  Not only did she deliver the wonderful nutritious food, she also shared a wonderful flower bouquet from her garden. I asked my sister-in-law to drive me downtown for doctor’s appointments. I asked my husband to cancel his golf trip, to help with the laundry and a list of “honey do” tasks. I asked my walking friend to stroll instead of power walk. 

Letting go and opening yourself up to the wonderful generosity of others is real food for the soul, so to speak.  Leaning on my network of angels was key to my recovery.  My body has been telling me to let go of controlling every dimension of my life, and I finally began to listen.

My recovery has been amazing because I let myself “be”.  I rested and healed and stopped trying so hard. There is calm in doing so.  The icing on the cake came a few short weeks ago when I finally got clearance from my doctor to expand my diet. I can’t explain the simple joy I felt taking a coin-sized juicy, spicy bite of my famous dill pickles (thanks to my Pickle Brigade).  My new and improved mantra is now ~ Let Go, Receive Help, and Eat a Pickle!

Laurie is forever grateful to her good friend Neen, for making pickling possible. Before cutting down a tree in her back yard in order to establish her current and glorious garden, Neen invited Laurie and her Dad to set up a cucumber garden in her yard!  She called it the “cucumber condo.” That is where it all began…

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