Yesterday I went on a major cleaning binge.
I suspect that this is one of the MANY ways that I am broken, but I have never in my life been able to clean sensibly, on a schedule, as part of a routine. I know that Ma Ingalls did, but I just. cannot. Instead, I clean in compulsive spurts that snowball from “doing the dishes” to “cleaning the whole kitchen on hands-and-knees, including scrubbing leftover sticker residue off the fridge and wiping the grime behind the stove knobs away.”
You know, because as long as you have the vinegar out, why the hell wouldn’t you just wipe that door frame off really quick? And as long as you have a rag in your hand already, you’d be crazy NOT to use up its last clean surface wiping tomato sauce off the stove top, right?
This is the way it goes for me, especially when I’m nesting, and then suddenly I look up and realize that it’s been two hours and I really wanted to work on the mittens I’m knitting for the baby today.
I had one of these cleaning binges yesterday.
And, as part of it, I started boiling down the salt water we brought home from the beach on my birthday weekend.
As I poured what looked like regular, slightly sandy water into my biggest pot and started it cooking, it suddenly occurred to me what an act of faith it is to make salt.
Think about this.
To make salt, we take water, pretty much indistinguishable from the everyday stuff that we are blessed to have running in our taps courtesy of the city infrastructure, and treat it with deep reverence, and we are rewarded with a magical transformation.
Robert wades chest-deep into the freezing northern Pacific to collect our seawater. We haul it home in the trunk of our car, carefully sealed up in food-safe buckets. We schlep those heavy buckets up the stairs to our house. We hoist them onto the kitchen counter, inevitably covering it with sand. We gingerly transfer just the right volume to the pot– just enough to completely cover the rivets securing the handles– and then?
Then we crank the gas up all the way and set it to a rolling boil, filling the house with steam and warmth (not a bad thing on a chilly October morning, but torture in July), and we wait.
For hours, over the course of days.
Boiling and boiling away.
And we have faith that we’re not just wasting our time. Because contrary to all appearances, we know that somewhere in that normal-looking water is enough dissolved salt to run our household– preserving pickles and accenting crackers and getting used at every meal by the pinch and the spoonful– for several months.
Now, I have studied chemistry at the advanced college level, folks. I am perfectly well aware that the salt is in there and that boiling will separate it from the water.
But I also know that the concentration of seawater varies greatly based on several factors totally or somewhat out of my control and observance, like how recently it’s rained, the tide, the temperature of the air, the humidity, and the proximity of freshwater deltas.
So I can’t say that I’m not always a little relieved– even a little amazed– when the time comes for the finishing pans to come out of the oven and they are positively encrusted with those sparkling white pyramidal crystals.
And just a little bit miraculous.