I welcomed with a happy smile the crate of oranges the woodcutter gave Tom, when he went to pay him for our latest load of firewood. I could see many jars of marmalade, maybe some candied orange peel, and certainly an orange cake or two ... it is such a treat to receive crates of fruit in the midst of winter, and my mind browsed eagerly among all the delicious possibilities that these precious oranges represented (pernambucos, the local orange variety, aren't too suitable for eating fresh).
Crates of fruit haven't always been so welcome here in the middle of nowhere rural Italy. I remember shortly after we moved in, when I had a two-year-old and a six-month-old baby and my new life felt a tad overwhelming, our neighbor gave me two huge crates of very ripe peaches for jam making. There were no happy smiles back then. For years I only canned and made jams because that's what you're supposed to do in the countryside, where fresh produce lands on you in abundance, all at once: in order not to waste it, you somehow make time, ignore the hot weather, and start boiling produce to preserve it. There is always a sense of gratitude while you put up produce, but for years, my gratitude was overpowered by a sense of duty.
Nowadays, my gratefulness is enhanced by joy. I've really come to love the job of canning and making preserves from heaps of good fresh fruit! In the middle of winter, when food is often pale and of limited choice, a crate of oranges the color of sunshine made me smile with real happiness.