“We have our day cut out for us, don’t we?”
Mabel and Annie tiptoed through the dew-drenched yard to the thicket of rhubarb in the garden. The sun was peeking through the leaves of the cottonwood trees, and birds were trilling their morning greetings.
“We certainly do,” replied Annie.
Mabel twisted long stalks of ruby-red rhubarb from their roots while Annie removed the gigantic leaves. Before long, they had a huge stack, which they divided between them and carried to the white clapboard house.
They began to cut up the juicy fruit, and in no time, a pot was simmering on the range, and a stoneware bowl of rhubarb, oranges, lemons, and sugar was sitting on the counter.
“How much do you reckon we have?” asked Mabel.
“Enough to make our usual jam, marmalade, conserve, and chutney. And still plenty to give away. We could bottle some juice for punch.”
“As we usually do.” Mabel scooped a handful of rhubarb into another bowl while Annie measured sugar and ginger. “One thing about rhubarb. It always grows in abundance.”
“It sure does,” replied Annie as she moved to the range and gave the steaming mass of jam another stir.
In the way of old friends, with a felt cadence, the two women worked side by side. One sliced, the other stirred, one measured, the other scooped.
There were more trips to the leafy rhubarb forest in the corner of the garden, and in turn, the rows of glowing jars on the counter grew longer. Pink jam, rosy conserve with suspended flakes of almond, and golden marmalade with just a hint of a blush.
Mabel brought up another wooden box of jars from the cellar and filled the sink with hot, sudsy water. A batch of chutney was simmering under Annie’s careful eye, the air redolent with the fragrant spices.
“Why do you suppose God made rhubarb?” pondered Annie as she stirred.
“Just because it’s so lovely, dear, don’t you think?
“Yes, I know, but it has no real beauty, no flower, no scent. And it’s so tart.”
“Yet, somehow, it makes delicious pies and crumbles. And chutney. Do mind the chutney, dear. You know how easily it burns.”
Annie gave the aromatic mixture a turn. “And it grows so profusely.”
“It’s a mystery, to be sure, why God should have created such a homely fruit,” reflected Mabel. “But, maybe its very abundance is the mystery.”
“What do you mean?”
“We simply take it for granted.”
“Hmmm,” mulled Annie.
They ladled the hot chutney into clean jars, occasionally stopping to wipe the sweat from their brows. Finally, the last lid was twisted on, and both women heaved a sigh of weary and contented relief. It didn’t take long to wash up the chutney kettle and wipe down the counters. Annie set their spattered aprons to soak in a basin of cool water, and Mabel made a light supper.
They took their chicken sandwiches and glasses of tea to the front porch where a cool breeze was winding through the lengthening shadows. After easing themselves into comfortable wicker chairs, they ate in silence, enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done.
“You know,” Mabel finally said, “I’ve been thinking about the rhubarb. We welcome the little knobs pushing up through the soil as one of the first signs of spring. Before we know it, we are inundated with it, and we can’t keep up. We make all these preserves and try to give away as much of the stuff as we can.”
“Yet, by mid-winter, our mouths water at the very thought of a lovely rhubarb strawberry pie,” added Annie.
“Precisely!” exclaimed Mabel.
“You’re saying that we don’t appreciate God’s blessings as we ought. We breathe, the sun shines, and He gives us dear friends.” Annie paused to look into Mabel’s eyes. “Not a day passes that God doesn’t bless us in abundance with His goodness.”
“Right, and we so easily become discombobulated when something goes wrong, or it seems something is missing.” Mabel shook her head. “We long for the very thing that we took for granted or didn’t know we had.”
“We are such fickle people. God must surely laugh. No wonder He gives us such things as rhubarb to teach us about Himself.”
Both women laughed and settled into companionable silence. The glory of the rose-tinted sunset shone on their faces as they contemplated a God who was exceedingly generous, even with rhubarb.
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