Friday, September 23, 2011


The summer season of making jam is pretty much over - although I'm still knee-deep in pickles and tomatoes. The more batches of jam I made in the past few months, the more times the word "jamming" (oh, let's be properly ΓΌber-cool and call it "jammin'") popped into my consciousness. So when a word or idea won't go away, it's telling me to write about it. FINE. I'LL DO IT. NEVER MIND THAT I NEED TO MAKE MORE PICKLES.

You know what jammin' means in music: A bunch of people who don't necessarily play together on a regular basis bring their chosen instruments and their knowledge of/experience with music to an improv session. They use the tools of their trade to turn the unknown and unexpected into something beautiful that brings joy and wonder to their listeners and to themselves. Sometimes the results are transcendent, and nobody quite knows what happened - they're just glad it did.

Not so very different jammin' in the kitchen. You need some essential equipment and basic knowledge, along with the commitment to practice your skills and the willingness to make mistakes. Then you take off on a riff that builds on what's already been done. Not enough blueberries for this batch? What about adding the white peaches you bought this morning? Wait, you harvested the last of the early summer strawberries - those go great with blueberries. Would a touch of cinnamon make the combination sparkle? What the heck; try something new and add a little lavender instead!

Sometimes everything comes together like magic; other times, not so much. The more you do it, the better your instinct gets for what works, what you need to do by the book, what you can go wild with.

So here's the thing my brain was trying to tell me: Jammin' is living. Jammin' is relationships. Be a student of life. Study the theory and put it into practice. Gather your tools, skills, experience, passion for living, and take off on a riff that builds on what your companions have done. Take chances but don't make the mistake of thinking you can do this all alone. You make beauty by listening and responding to the music of the other players. Don't fear the new, and don't throw away the old. It all has value. Stop trying to predict and plan exactly what will happen next. Let the music tell you where you need to go. And - play, play, PLAY.

Time to get back to those pickles.