Blackberry season, and I return to the ‘primitive’ task of gathering. It’s the best way of relating to a landscape. Firstly knowing where the bushes are: along the track to the creek, around the pond, along the creek bank, along the museum fence, along the road to Roa, Blaketown beach… (I’m giving away secrets here). Then keeping an eye on these places through winter and spring, watching the flowers blossom, then the berries form, hard nuts of green slowly expanding, beginning to ripen, hoping for sufficient sun and rain. Then the searching begins, for they don’t ripen all at once. Maturation is dependent on the relationship to the sun’s trajectory.
I taste the first ripe berry, experience that burst of oral pleasure, before harvesting a few and stewing them for breakfast. The numbers increase. There’s the threat of other gatherers getting in first so I take a container down to the creek. It’s time consuming work. There are some covered by grass, others just out of reach. On the creek bed the vines spread across the boulders, the plant seeming to be almost a different species. It’s necessary to resist the temptation to eat as I pick.
I carry home the container with a feeling of plenitude and a pie to look forward to when we host a nephew and his family who are passing through (a sort of ceremony). Above all, I glimpse for a moment the world as it once was for people reliant on hunting and gathering. This could be about survival of the clan. How busy they must have been. How aware of the natural world they must have been, with this act of gathering blackberries multiplied a thousand fold. Add to it the necessary knowledge of insect and animal life and invest this patch of land with gods and spirits… Hard yakker, a short life and occasional starvation, yet a people in touch with the specific. And in touch with the gods.
A world so far from agribusiness and supermarkets that the distance could lead to madness, which of course it does for so called ‘primitives’ when they encounter ‘civilisation’. The ‘primitives’ did some harm to the environment when they acquired fire, but generally they were one species among many and as a species they were as sustainable as a blackberry bush, or a lizard. No more, no less. Except they had consciousness, could detect patterns past the patterning of evolution. Language followed, then the written word and the ability to write this down.
For what it’s worth.
Meanwhile the apple tree which provides enough fruit to last through the year is almost ready for harvesting. But for the apples to last I need the use of a freezer, making for contradiction and the judgement that much of the above could be viewed as sentimentality.
Ahakoa he iti kete, he iti nā te aroha
It is the thought that counts