Issue 20 - Samhain 2014
The Pook's berries ...
ONE of the great adventures of the year, when I was a child, was going out to the fields to pick blackberries. We'd bring home bagsfull to cook in a little sugary water, make custard and gobble the lot.
As children, sweets were preferable to any kind of fruit but there was something wild and rebellious about blackberries – a sweet treat that didn't have to be bought but was freely given by nature.
We also knew there was a limit to the bounty. We picked through late August, September and into October, but our elders warned that after Samhain the wild berries were the property of the Pook.
There was practical wisdom in that: by Samhain, the berries are so ripe they are almost fermenting.
And while they might not be great for human consumption, the wild creatures need them to help them face into difficult, hungry Winter.
The fields out past the housing estates provided us city kids with a link to the natural cycle of things – the bushes heavy with the purple-black fruit, the heady smells redolant of hot meadows on endless summer days.
It is, however, a connection easily lost as we shop for asparagus from Israel in November, and tomatoes from Spain in December at a time when our native swedes and parsips are at their most beautiful. That disconnection has lost us a lot. If, as is said, you are what you eat, then what we are is far removed from where we live.
The rythms of the year have much to teach us about how to live. What seems a pity is that we have had to abandon the ease which Samhain once ushered in – the bulk of the year's work done with the crops safely gathered and stored. It was a time for gathering in, sitting by the fire, sharing stories. Taking time.
The industrial revolution put paid to all that. Now most of us live for the nine to five, all year round.
But you, as you hold this magazine in your hands and read this piece, are one of the wild still – one who would not deprive the Pook of his berries.
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