A golden and fragrant glow - Madonna Magazine

A golden and fragrant glow

Margaret-Mary Flynn 10 March 2017

Every year at this time, a case of clingstone peaches would arrive at the back door of my grandma’s house. She would set up a table and a couple of wooden kitchen chairs in the shade of the willow tree, furnished with bowls and paring knives, and rows of the tall cylindrical glass preserving jars that she used in her Fowler’s Vacola Preserving outfit, her pride and joy.

The peaches were at the perfect moment of ripeness for preserving, and there was no time to lose. They lay in the box, a dull gold-green, their fuzzy skins and crunchy texture a far cry from the delicately blushed white peaches of midsummer.

Anyone who dropped by was pressed into service on the makeshift garden production line. The peaches had to be peeled, and the glowing golden flesh sliced from the stone, and dropped into a bowl. They needed to be packed quickly into the jars before they browned, and the sugar syrup was poured in, up to the jar’s rim. Then the seals and lids were clipped in place, and the jars were carefully stacked into the big lidded preserving pan, waiting on her green and white Kooka gas stove in the kitchen overlooking her garden.

As we worked, we talked companionably with Grandma, mostly of the small doings of family near and far, friends, and neighbours. The warm air filled with the scent of peaches, as batch after batch was processed in its watery bath; temperatures and times were checked patiently; and knobs and handles on the front of the stove were carefully adjusted. Grandma presided over her little kingdom, in her pinny and glasses, her square capable hands tireless and skilful, gathering in her harvest.

As the sun moved across the dark blue autumn sky, and the garden shadows lengthened, rows of shining jars filled with golden-pink peaches stood proudly on the kitchen table, waiting until tomorrow to be stored away.

Then, in the dark cold days of winter, the peaches would be served in desserts, their sweetness, colour and unmatchable flavour a blessed reminder of the sunny days to come.
Autumn is the time for gathering and collecting, for settling, for tidying up, and clearing out. In the southern hemisphere, Easter is not a spring festival, but a harvesting time, and Lent begins for us not in the hard and meagre days of late winter, but in the glorious plenty of the end of summer, when day after golden day beckons, and long, mild evenings make us almost believe that it will go on forever.

But the lengthening shadows, and the crispness of the morning air tell us that the Earth is shifting away from the Sun, and that the nights are drawing in. Time does not wait for us, and life does not wait either, for time to be more propitious. In every enterprise, as Saint Paul reminds us, there is a ‘now’ which is the favourable moment . And we need to be alert to our cue.

On Ash Wednesday, Jesus reminds us that ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Lent is a time of grace and blessing. A time to take an inventory of our lives, and what we are holding onto. When we open the doors of our own granaries, what crops have we sown and harvested? Dealt with generously, how generously have we shared?

In our Lenten times, we can consider whether our heart might be found treasuring gratitude; or whether perhaps a little too often, it rests with selfishness and greed. Could our heart be found in loving service of others, or is it shut up tight with suspicion and unkindness?

We are gifted with so much—talents and opportunity, a whole life-time, however long or short, in which to dream our deepest dreams and bring them, at God’s gracious invitation, into being. Into our lives, blessings pour daily. So much so that if we took the time to count them we would be overwhelmed by abundance. Yet, for myself, I am not above airing my First World Problems, not the least in my self-important complaining about my lack of time—to pray, to serve, to be understanding and forgiving. On Ash Wednesday, the ash cross blessing our foreheads reminds us to pay attention to what really matters.

Thoughtfully considering what we have gathered and collected, stored in our granaries, what could we give up for Lent? Perhaps it’s not chocolates or wine that need to go, as much as habits and values that tether and trap us.

Called to fast, we could give up dining on self-discouragement, and on speaking ill of others. As John O’Donaghue writes:

‘We have no idea of the effect we actually have on one another. This is where blessing can achieve so much … blessing corresponds with the deepest desire of reality for creativity, healing and wholesomeness.’

Let us bless and pray for each other as an alms-giving, and be generous to those who need our help.

And on Easter Sunday, let the harvest we have gathered for the Lord speak of timeliness, and generosity of heart and hand, and glow golden and fragrant, like Grandma’s peaches


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