June is a month of sweet pleasures, a time for slowing down and taking in this beautiful place we call home. Songbirds wake me early, their busy chatter heard through open windows. We glide into June on a stretch of benevolent weather. Warm sun and plentiful rains bring a bounty of produce to gardens and markets, an abundance that stirs the spirit to start pickling and preserving. It’s the season of ume and rakkyou and biwa.
This past weekend as I stood in the orchard picking ume, as I perched on the stoop tenderly prying their stems from bellybuttons, as I measured out salt and considered which variations of umeboshi to make, I felt full and grateful and more certain than ever that time is the ultimate luxury. My hours are so often consumed at the computer, writing, editing words, editing photographs, my mind trained on the product. I can forget why I dream this dream. I can forget that the words and images are a secondary love. I can forget that fire that burns at my core when tending, cooking, preserving and learning. I can forget that thrill when I glean new knowledge from a farmer, a cook, or a shopkeeper, and rush off to give something a try.
As we near the solstice a glow stretches deep into evening. Gentle breezes rustle trees thickly leaved and uguisu call to each other. On just a few nights in June we sit down to an eagerly anticipated treat. The table is set with sake and a single dish of shio uni (salted sea urchin). The small serving of crismson umami rich paste with an equally opulent price tag must be savored slowly, each morsel rolled around on the tongue until it melts away. One bite of shio uni, one sip of sake, and so it goes with a bit of conversation in between. Outside the strawberry moon rises.