Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. —Robert Frost
Nothing Gold Can Stay?
Really? Sorry Mr. Frost. I do love your work. But given my long-held affection for your poetry, I must offer a different perspective on this notion: nothing gold can stay. Off course it can stay. Not all is fleeting. Nature’s bounty, her gold, can be preserved. Bring on the Mason Jars!
Life in the time of COVID has turned our lives inside out and upside down. Normalcy feels like a faraway dream. For most of 2020, we have experienced intermittent stages of lockdown, quarantine, and distancing. We wear masks in public places. Shops and restaurants, once closed, have opened with restrictions. Normalcy is piecemealed, arriving is short snippets of our former lives, if at all.
But we humans are resilient. Social media is overflowing with our creativity. Prolific gardens, homecooked meals, canning and home projects are proudly posted for us to “like“. The canning surprised me. It has become so popular, there is currently a shortage of Mason Jars. Robert Frost does not have the last word on preserving nature’s gold.
Many of us grew up watching our parents in the centuries old practice of growing, harvesting and preserving earth’s bounty for the winter. As a child, I watched these cycles of life and participated when prodded. Under duress, I was the designated Mason-Jar-washer. I disliked it then, but now I remember it kindly with a sense of pride. I wonder, does yesterday have a limited shelf-life or do we preserve the best of who we were? As Frost puts it: Leaf subsides to leaf, so dawn goes down to day. That was the time of our youth—-was it only an hour or so? But like Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear, we can bring up the memories.
Preserving the Memories: The Way We Were . . .
The aromatic blends of basil, oregano, and onion folded into slow cooked tomatoes stewing over an open fire held an hypnotic spell over us. My mother, my aunts and I would sit around the fire, each of us with the task of separating tomato skins from the pulp and then tossing them into the pot. The ripe tomatoes would first be floated a bath of hot water. This allowed the skins to peel off with no resistance. After the skins were removed, we would slice open the red plum-like flesh to squeeze out the seeds into a bucket. Later, the seeds would be dried and saved for the next year’s garden. My grandmother would stir this rich sauce with a huge wooden spoon. We would talk and laugh, preserving more than the harvest.
Canning season seemed to be never-ending. After tomatoes and peppers were peaches, pickles, peppers, then apples and pears. Before long, our basement held stores of preserves, sustenance for the long winter. We prepared so well with rows and rows of shelves that were stocked with preserves, stored away for future use.
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)
Having All That We Need, And Then Some . . .
Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. I certainly understand the gathering part. Like many of us, I have gathered too much stuff and dwindling space. And like the shelves of preserves, I needed some order.
My linen closet held much more than linens. Stuffed between the towels and sheets were random things like boxes of Band Aids, unused candles, and light household hardware. The day came when I said enough! I purchased sets of storage boxes and corralled all the loose items into their properly labeled box. Before long, I had neat rows of labels of boxes labeled ribbons, dental items, tape, glue, and first aid. I stacked them neatly, but there were a few boxes that remained without labels. They seemed to be begging for a purpose. I wondered, what else needs to be stored for future use? Then a whimsical thought skipped across my mind. And then . . . . I knew.
If you can expand this photo and look closely you will see a box for Joy, a box for Love and a box for Courage. Then I added Faith/Doubt as box-mates. (They did not want to be separated) A Gratitude box is next. And do you know what these boxes taught me? Divine harvest is without end and replenished with use: our divine bounty.
Rooted in the Vine
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
After all the musing about canning and storage boxes, I ruminated from the practical to the ethereal. My fundamental question is this: how do I preserve what is truly essential in my life? I have this divine bounty of goodness preserved in the life of Christ. His life . . . His example of love and compassion for the “least of us” is the gold that stays. When I remember to turn away from hate, filter out angry noise, and replenish my soul with gratitude, trust, joy, compassion and goodness, my branches will bear the best fruit of the vine, the fruit worth preserving.
What About These?
What will you preserve from the vine? Kindly share your thoughts.
See related posts:
Faith and Doubt, can be retrieved with this link:
Capacity Can Open, One More Time, can be retrieved with this link:
And God will bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV