Making Preserves


I took one look at the afternoon–bright sunshine, blue sky– and threw obligation to the wind. Today was a day for preserving. Now preserves are not a whole lot different then JAM, but the term is certainly more descriptive. To preserve something is “to prepare it, as by canning, for future use.” And I could see just looking out my window that this was a day to preserve for some future rainy afternoon when the memory of summer has long grown dim and the sun is just a hazy memory.

So how does one preserve a day? Fruit is preserved by picking at its peak, adding sugar and cooking a bit before tucking in a sparkling clean jam jar. But a sunny afternoon? Well, I suppose everyone has their own recipe. Here’s how I preserved today’s offering:

[“Calypso” with John Denver would be the perfect audio touch to this segment]

2:10 I left the house with dog and backpack. In the backpack was a gummy fruit snack– for energy, a notebook–for notes of course, and a book-book, along with a little N.T., and a little water bottle. For ready access I also attached a little ‘fanny pack’ for my wee homemade sketchbook and my brand-new camera (thanks Jim!!). A bear whistle and a cougar knife completed my kit. And off we went by mountain bike in pursuit of the most important ingredient in my recipe– uninterrupted stillness.

We headed North which is where the wilderness commences when the pavement runs out. Within minutes we are on a short leg of dirt road leading to the forest, and then an ancient logging road. Rutted, rocky and rooted it dwindles away into the dark woods that have grown up over the years since this area was logged. A steady uphill grind takes us to the trailhead where we ditch the bike to keep an old rotting log company.

On foot we head up the needle blanketed spongy trail. Louie loves a good trail and reminds me of Fred Flintstone trying to take off running. His paws send all that’s underfoot flying as he warms up for take off! Giant maple leaves brighten the path as we wend our way over interlaced roots gradually upward through the dark fir and cedar wood. Bright shafts of October sun glint through the trees at intervals. Bits of blue sky are hinted at.
We’re underway. Our preserve making has begun…


For today I have my camera along to snap pictures of interest but the real preservation of the day comes with just taking it all in with as many senses as possible, being present and undistracted. No music, no talking–except with God (and Louie where absolutely necessary). My destination is Little Sliammon Lake–now christened “Shangri-la” by a little wooden signpost. But the process of getting there is half the delight…the mushrooms (toadstools?) along the way…the mystery of never knowing what you will find today…

And what did we find to preserve?
Stillness, silence, the gentle hush of trees ever so gently swaying in the light breeze… Ravens calling, a hawk’s piercing cries, a squirrel’s excited trilling in the distance… and more silence, stillness.

Never mind the helicopter passing overhead, the dog rambling about in the underbrush, the buzzing of a fly, the exotic hornet that lands on my notebook and takes off again…

The sunshine is soft and warm. Drowsiness overtakes me. Nice to have a dog standing sentinel. I give in to a cat nap in the sun tucked up against an old tree trunk, while my senses absorb the day and preserve it in my soul for safe-keeping, “for future use” when supplies of such things have run low.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

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