It is a seasonal thing. It comes and goes with the changing of shop window decorations. Now ’tis the season of skimpy costumes and parties celebrating the dead and not quite gone: the last harvest.
Pulling the last apples from the tree, hoping the figs ripen before the rains come. Praying for the rain…this is my life in the garden lately. And after the trees have been stripped, comes the prepping of the fruit, the boiling vats and canning jars. Everything washed and boiled clean, red, dry hands, a giant metal funnel and rubber-tipped clampy-tongs to fill the super hot jars – keep the top edge clean!- and seal with a fresh new metal disk with the rubber built-in. This invention changed the world in 1858. My personal world changed when I discovered a magnetic-tipped wand to extract the gasket-coated disks from boiling water.
Wash the fruit and cook it with pectin to set the jell, and enough sugar or honey to keep it from spoiling. That is for jam. Pickles use salt or vinegar to preserve the precious harvest – the work of our little family for all the sunny months that must be saved for winter meals.
The sterilizing baths, the hot clean jars and rubber gaskets are part of keeping bacteria, those invisible agents of decay, out of the mix. It isn’t really hard, or complicated. But it is exacting. As with most of the truly Natural Laws, there is no room for error and the consequences are severe. But maybe you’ve never had a hungry winter.
Perhaps the cycles of the harvest mean little to many except as metaphor- an analogy to the cycles of life in general. If you are lucky and comfortable enough for self-reflection, that uncomfortable habit of human anthropomorphizing can be projected onto the seasonal turnings of our Mother, Earth. Spring time becomes a picture of our own youth and beauty. Summer projects images of our mature and lusty fruitfulness. Autumn comes the harvest, our golden years of gathered bounty. We shudder at the coming of Winter, and if we are wise, prepare at the hope of a new Spring to follow.
My friends are old enough now to consider our life’s workings with an eye to this harvest and winter to come. Through trial of pain and sweat, adjustment and perseverance despite errors and failings hangs an acquired accumulation of knowledge and skills from our figuratively well-hung branches.
A beloved mentor of mine died before I could meet her. She died, too, before writing some of the books she had planned. Before finishing books she had begun writing. Her work and life were inspirational to me and many others, but alas she sings her song no more and the remaining words are unwritten. What knowledge was discovered from the treasure trove of time, enjoyed and lost with her beautiful life?
A harvest unpreserved, like my mother’s unwritten memoirs, haunt me at my keyboard. So much unwritten still… so many stories yet to tell. And when the fruit of family trees begins to fall, we gather in the harvest and prepare for winter once again. For as assuredly as spring turns to summer, winter comes.
If we project this analogy farther, cultural knowledge too has cycles of inspirational growth, bounty, harvest and dearth. Perhaps now, in this internet age, we are in a bountiful phase. My soul calls toward preservation and echoes tears for Alexandria’s Great Library. I suppose it is possible my bones remember remnants of this Library secreted to Ireland some 1,600 years ago.
I always figured on being the old lady in the woods who knew stuff, just the right stuff, when folks needed to learn it again. Spent a lifetime studying these too, the stuff of civilization, like how to store food, make clothes against the cold and take healing from herbs. After all, if we don’t remember this while the information is bountiful – how may we find it when we depend upon it again?
So, of course I jumped at the chance to help open the Academy of Arcana. Spanning the same educational landscape of ancient science & mystery schools that inspired great minds of old. Hidden knowledge unattached to religion, with a compendium of cryptic knowledge hiding in the corners. Wyrd things. Useful thinks.
As we move collections, stock the library shelves, prepare the rooms and exhibits of the museum and book our calendar of classes and events, it seems we preserve this bountiful harvest of knowledge for the community. If there are only a few lessons we are destined to learn from the past, then perhaps our Academy of Arcana will provide the seeds for the next Renaissance of thought and discovery.
It is grand to have shelves full of freshly canned harvest, ready against the winter. Part of this joy is in the community effort required to save this sustenance for later, the generations of young harvesters, children and grandmothers in the kitchen, working together and looking forward to those times of feasting ahead.
For more information on the Academy of Arcana — a museum of magick and mysteries – please visit www.academyofarcana.com.