The Mason jar is as much a symbol of West Virginia as the dulcimer, a jar of apple butter, or a fog-draped August morning. There’s nothing fancy about them, but in these mountains, the Mason jar never outlives its usefulness.
Mason jars are still used for canning beans, beets, sauerkraut, and for preserving jams, jellies, and fruit. They once served as drinking glasses and they probably still do, and before refrigeration, Mason jars were used for storing cooked meat. They were well suited as storage containers for “white lightning” or as most folks know it, moonshine. The “shine” can’t eat this glass.
For a young naturalist, the Mason jar ranked beside binoculars and field guides as an essential tool for uncovering nature’s mysteries. What better device to capture fireflies in the backyard during a warm June night, or collect butterflies in a meadow on a balmy summer day, or scoop a water sample from the shallows of a pond?
What I would not know until much later in life, however, are the magical qualities of the Mason jar. I remember my mother saying Mason jars could capture moments and store them as memories. All one had to do was open the jar, let the moment seep inside, and seal the lid. The moment would become a memory, which could be taken out anytime. She strongly advised I only open the Mason jar when I needed the memory to help me get through life’s most difficult challenges or to bring me back to what is really important in life.
Difficult as it was for a youngster to fully understand this magical quality, as the years went by I began to understand what she meant: The Mason jar is our heart. She was telling me to safeguard those special moments that would enrich my life. She knew as we grow older, memories become precious and we tend to rely on them more. Memories provide us an escape from today’s hectic-paced world. Memories refresh us and reignite a spark back into our hearts – reminding us the simple joys in life are more precious than anything of silver or gold. What’s in your Mason jar?