Bean Snapping


It’s that bean-snapping time of year again — preparing them fresh-picked for blanching and freezing, with visions of winter-time green bean casserole dancing in my head.

Bean snapping is a quintessential front porch American Gothic kind of activity.  Old black and white Saturday matinee movies would somehow work in a bean snapping scene with an old maid aunt sitting on her ranch house porch.  She’d be rocking back and forth in her rocking chair, her apron wrinkled and well-worn, her graying hair in a bun at the nape of her neck and wearily pushing back tendrils of hair from her face. As the sole guardian, she’d be counseling some lonely orphaned niece or nephew about life’s rough roads and why their dog or pony had just died and then pausing for a moment holding a bean in her hand, she’d talk about how to cope when things are tough. She was the rock for this child’s life.  Then she’d rather gruffly shove a bowl of unsnapped beans into the child’s lap, and tell them to get back to work– life goes on –start snapping. Then she’d look at that precious child out of the corner of her eye, betraying the love and compassion that dwells in her heart but was not in her nature to speak of.  If only that grieving child understood they sat upon a rock of strength and hope.

Just as I sat with my mother snapping beans some 50+ years ago and talked about some difficult things that were unique to the 60′s,  I too have sat snapping beans together with our children, talking about  hopes and disappointments and fears, listening to them grumble that I was making them do something so utterly trivial when from their perspective, there were far more important things to be doing. My response has been a loving and gruff “keep snapping”.  Of course we really don’t have to snap the beans, as they could be frozen whole, but they pack tighter snapped, and it is simply tradition to do so.  We enjoy that crisp satisfying crack of a perfectly bisected bean broken by hand–no need for knife to cut off the top and tail.    We prepare for a coming winter by putting away the vegetables we have sowed and weeded and watered and cared for, because life will go on and eating the harvest of our own soil and toil is sweet.

We must do this. Indeed it is all we can do when the world is tumbling down around us.

Truthfully, though no one wants to eat a rubbery bean, there are times I wish I would be more rubbery like a bean that won’t break automatically and is more resilient.  I have a psychiatrist colleague who I’ve worked with for years who counsels “be like a willow — learn to bend under pressure.”

There is an old Shaker Hymn that I learned long ago and sing to myself when I need to be reminded where I too must end up when I’m at the breaking point.

I will bow and be simple,
I will bow and be free,
I will bow and be humble,
Yea, bow like the willow tree.

I will bow, this is the token,
I will wear the easy yoke,
I will bow and will be broken,
Yea, I'll fall upon the rock.

As people of resilient faith we seek to wear the yoke we’ve been given to pull, bow in humility under its burden and know the freedom that comes with service to others.  Even in the midst of the most horrific brokenness, we fall upon the rock bearing us up with love and compassion.

It is there under us and we’ve done nothing whatsoever to earn it.

Time for us to get back to work and resume snapping–life does go on.

(a Barnstorming reblog)

2 thoughts on “Bean Snapping

  1. More poignant memories. Yes, there were problems and human tragedies in those times too, but the
    family togetherness and comparatively simpler lifestyle were something that we most likely did not treasure until years later when our life zipped by too quickly, the nuclear family became a disjointed reality and we lost something intangible and very precious, never to be recreated in quite the same way again.


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