What are your Mason jar moments?


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Several years ago, my kid sister Terri told me about a writing class she was taking in Cincinnati. One of their class projects was to think about some special moments in their lives that they would never want to forget; memories that each of them wanted to preserve forever.

The instructor appropriately called them “Mason jar moments.” The students were instructed to write about these Mason jar moments — each moment was to be preserved in a few paragraphs or on a few pages and submitted for the classes review.

I thought it was a great idea. At the time, Terri and I talked about some of our personal Mason jar moments. It was fun talking about some of our special memories. Some were very simple — a quiet sunset or a gentle snowfall. Some were moments of grand adventure — looking down a black-diamond ski slope for the first time or a lightning storm in Monument Valley.

When I started to make a list of my personal Mason jar moments, the thought of one moment lead to thoughts of several more. Every one of us have been blessed to have moments that we want to cherish and preserve forever.

I think it’s a good idea to keep a list of those moments.

This year, in honor of my sister, I’m going to try to remember and preserve some of those moments that have meant a lot to me. I’ll begin with a special request my sister made of me.

In 2003, I agreed to go with Dr. Keith Holten and a team of healthcare professionals from the University of Cincinnati on a medical mission trip deep into the Amazon rain forest.

Just a few days before the team flew out of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, Terri called and asked me to keep a journal. She specifically asked me preserve some of my favorite Amazon memories to share with her when I got home.

For me, it became a challenge. Now, I’ll share a few Mason jar moments from that Amazon trip.

Before heading up the Amazon from the jungle-surrounded city of Manaus, we spent a few hectic days getting ready for the trip. Finally, with a good crew and ample supplies stowed away, we boarded the boat that was to be our home for the next few weeks.

We headed west. As we sailed into the setting sun, I sat on the bow of the boat enjoying an astonishing view of the largest rain forest in the world. From nowhere, a large snake (I have no idea what kind it was.) started swimming beside our boat. I watched as it caught up with us and started swimming in the bow-wave of the boat.

When the sun sets near the equator, it gets dark very quickly. One moment I could see the snake. The next moment it was gone, swallowed by the darkness of the jungle.

That was a Mason jar moment.

Each night, we slept on the upper deck of the boat. Our hammocks were strung side-by-side. We slept hip-to-hip. Privacy? There is no so such thing on a boat in the middle of the Amazon.

It took a while to adjust to the shape and sway of a jungle hammock, but after a few exhausting days and long hours working in the jungle clinics, sleep would come shortly after the sun went down.

Sunrise was our wake-up call.

One evening after a full, tiring day of working clinics along the Rio Purus, we anchored not far from the village of Paricatuba. The next morning, as the sun peeked over the canopy of the jungle, I heard the crew stirring below deck. I could smell the faint aroma of coffee.

As I peeked over the edge of my hammock, I saw an amazing sight. A pink, fresh-water dolphin had just started performing a tail-dance. She was skipping across the green-brown water of the river like a ballet dancer on a stage. It was beautiful. It was a rare sight.

It was a Mason jar moment.

Each of us have moments that we need to save and savor. They may not be South American adventures, but sometimes the simplest moments are the best; the birth of a grandchild, a baby’s first step, or the beauty of a Christmas Eve snowfall as seen from your own front porch.

Mason jar moments need to be preserved. This coming year, think about your own special moments. Make a few notes about them.

Preserve them in a recording or on paper.

You’ll never regret it.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and a resident of the city for more than 40 years.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist