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'Saints preserve us'

Remembering the smell of mother's kitchen — and that it's how we live that truly matters

By Carolyn Pogue

Green tomato pickle. Corn relish. Raspberry jam. In memory, I smell my mother’s kitchen in the fall. Many of us are in the throes of it, ourselves. “Putting up preserves,” my aunt called it. She had another expression I recall: “Saints preserve us!”

I’ve got preservation on my mind, too. Recently, I met my friends, Melinda and Sharon, to catch up on their lives — and their plans for the fall. We also shared our concerns about the seeming increase in horror and stupidity dished out daily as “news." It can feel overwhelming. “How do we maintain calm and optimism?” Sharon asked. Maybe, I thought, we do need the saints to preserve us. Alice Walker is one of them.

I first came to love Alice Walker while reading, The Colour Purple. Her writing has continued to inspire. After that conversation, I dug out We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness to read all over again. It’s a call to be our best selves in these bewildering times. As another friend Marion said, “People seem more discouraged these days — angry, sad and rude.” But Walker reminds us of the need to balance the fast-paced business of the world with the slower business of nurturing our spirits.

In addition to the berries in the freezer, I’m putting by books and plans, seeking examples of people who stay calm during the storms. I worked for Fr. Rene Fumoleau in Yellowknife long ago. Rene is a priest, photographer, writer and storyteller. We were researching the book, Denendeh, a richly illustrated history of the Dene. Everywhere I looked in his cabin there were yellow stickies on walls, cupboards and book shelves. On each was a quote of hope from the likes of Jesus, Gandhi, Joan Baez, Black Elk and Thich Nhat Hanh. They were tiny little reminders that life is good, kind and valuable, and that how we live actually matters.

I received a tiny reminder, myself, recently — this one was about United Church people fasting for the climate on the first day of every month. The United Church website has information and links to others joining this movement from around the world. Imagine how Earth will sigh with relief when she doesn’t have to provide energy for that one day.

Another tiny reminder arrived in the form of the magazine, Yes!, which was a gift from my ever-ready husband. (He’s been watching me prepare for a conference on child poverty.) The feature story in Yes! is “The End of Poverty: We’ve Got the Money, Do We Have the Will?”

Now that I’ve remembered how the saints actually can preserve us, preparing for autumn feels intentionally good this year.


Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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