Growing up, as I did, in the countryside, I knew that nothing came easy. The "local" shop was a mile or so down a busy road, friends were a car-ride away, every winter storm brought the very real possibility of a power cut, but I'd not have changed it for the world. Even now, as I live in an apartment in a Dublin suburb it actually annoys me that the shop is just outside our gate (too convenient!), and that I don't have to jump into ditches to avoid getting run over when I go for a stroll (my wits will dull!).
But right now, I find myself once more in the depths of farmland Ireland with two dogs and two cats. And, joy of joys! It's harvest time! I'm surrounded on all sides by blackberry bushes and elder trees. Fantastic!
I ventured out today and yesterday to pick berries, something I have done since I was old enough to own my own pair of wellies. Out I went, jeans tucked inside green Hunter wellies, sleeves rolled up, hair in a scarf and with a small and big plastic bucket in hand.
Picking blackberries is not easy. In fact, sometimes, it's downright dangerous, so, yep, you have to have your wits about you which, I think is why I prize it so much. It's as close to being a hunter/gatherer as I will ever likely get. I twist and pull; twist and pull; twist and pull; each berry unwilling to give up too easily, making it all the more precious. The thorns tangle in my jeans as I lean forward, pulling me in; hands get scratched; arms suffer the occasional splinter which has to be removed by hand despite the juice staining everything. Wind might whip up suddenly, causing a thorny truss to swing at my head; lean in too far and I could end up in the bush; cold fingers will fumble the odd berry, losing it forever in the undergrowth.
But, despite the discomfort and danger, I find it so relaxing and rewarding. I works the same for me as crochet. A lot of effort for a small thing, but boy is it worth it! You have to concentrate but at the same time it's just monotonous enough to let your mind wander. Perfectly cathartic.
And I have learnt three important lessons:
1. A blackberry with eight legs is not a blackberry.
2. Keep your mouth closed or you'll end up swallowing flies.
3. If you insist on jumping in surprise, do it slowly!
And in the end, all I have to do is wash the 2 kilos I collected, remove the spiders and bugs gently, and hand them over, clean, fresh and delicious, to my Dad who will proceed to preserve them for winter as jam.