There they were – two old quart size canning jars lying in the carpet of winter leaves where anyone could see them, one an Atlas, the other a Ball. We had just stumbled upon the ruins of an old home site while on a weekend hike in the forest that lay between our house and a river.
The ruins were contained in a canopy of overgrown Privet hedges, now having formed into small trees shading the place with their dark green glossy leaves place even in the winter. The entrance to the little grove was marked by clump of daffodils not blooming yet, but sturdily pushing their way through the winter accumulation of leaves. Perhaps they had been lovingly planted by the same hand that held the jars.
Two great stone fireplaces long ago collapsed lay to the north and south with various rocks and sections of mortared bricks and mantel perched about like a crumbled cake. My builder husband surmised the house was probably put up in the late 1800s and must have had a dog trot in the middle created by adding another room or two later. Nothing at all was left of any logs or boards that would have provided the walls. Yet a sturdy though rusted frame from an iron bed emerged from the rubble, a testament to metal’s endurance. We spied a piece of a square brick chimney with a thimble in it – surely evidence of a real cook stove procured at a later date probably, as suggested by my spouse, the pride of the lady of the house. I pictured a warn-faced figure standing over a boiling kettle on the stove containing Mason jars filled with tomatoes, preserving them for the winter ahead. What winter I wondered? Had there been a tiny pantry for these jars or had they lined high shelf around one of the rooms?
The two jars themselves were remarkable. Other than the milky film that forms on glass left out in the weather from oxidation, they were in perfect condition. A little research when we returned home revealed the Atlas jar had to be at least 50 years old since they weren’t made after 1964. The Ball, an earlier style, was even older. Assuming they belonged to the house they had to be at least 80 or 90 years old, if not more. How had they lain in the ruins for so long undamaged? My husband estimated the place had been abandoned in the 1930s. There was no evidence of electricity; indeed, the place was too remote to have it even now. What happened to the other jars that must have been there? What crops did they grow that were put up in the Mason jars to help the family get through the winter? Why did these people leave?
Behind the ruins on an old pile of rocks we found what must of been another treasure, bought after getting the stove – a large aluminum teakettle. Seeming far too modern, the only defects were a missing top and a dented spout. Like the jars, some previous hiker poking around must have found it under debris and placed it in a prominent spot as though to acknowledge the toil and pleasures the place was bound to have contained from its decades of human occupation.
The teapot seemed a sacrament – how many others passing by on a hike had felt the same way and left it on its rock altar as we did? The jars, on the other hand, went with us. We reasoned the miracle of their pristine condition could not last forever, so better have a new life with us then ending up in shards. This summer when our new tomato crop grows I shall think of those sturdy jars and in the fall we will can our prettiest fruits in them. So purpose and continuity continues along the thread of time weaving wonder. As we walked home, a half mile later, a hawk feather laid in our path- the perfect confirmation of endurance.