It’s that time of year again! The hedgerows groan under the weight of the trailing, blackberry laden brambles while higher in the branches you will find both elderberry and sloe.
Poppy and I have a number of preferred locations in the area for such activities and this is the Queen Elizabeth Forest, which along with its ‘over-the-road’ adjunct of Park Wood, are ones that we frequent all year round for pleasantly sun dappled summer afternoons, wet muddy winter ones and the all too infrequent snow filled ones.
Either way it’s a good place to be, to spend a few hours of meandering thoughtfulness amid the madness. To be quite honest it has been a calm refuge of peace, tranquillity and thick black mud for me and several generations of my dogs, of which there have been far too many to many to name here.
But be that as it may! Seamus Heaney’s ‘Blackberry-Picking’ (right) is one of the great twentieth-century poems of disappointment, epitomising that moment when we realise that nothing will ever live up to our expectations.
Heaney uses the act of picking blackberries to explore his theme. First he focuses on the picking of the blackberries, the experience of the picking of them, the eating of them, and the taking of them them home.
It then reflects on the subsequent sense of disappointment when the hoarded blackberries are found to have fermented and there is a fungus growing on the fruit.
It encapsulates the realisation that this would always happen: soon after the berries had been picked, they would go rotten. Growing up is about reconciling ourselves to the realities of the world, and ‘Blackberry Picking’ addresses this theme.
It’s a rite of passage that we all experience akin to the realisation that there is no such thing as the tooth fairy or, even more depressingly, Santa Claus. It pinpoints the precise moment when our clear and sunny skies of hope cloud over with disillusionment.
The taste of the blackberries, juicy, voluptuous and sweet, is a sensual experience, much like a first kiss: a thrill that, after which, there is no other.
Indeed, the fruit-picking calls to mind the biblical story from the Book of Genesis, that loss of paradise brought on when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. In doing so they gained worldly knowledge but lost their innocence.
Ironically, nowhere in the bible is it written that the fruit of the forbidden tree is the apple. So why could it not have been the blackberry?
Apropos of nothing in particular, a further post detailing what to actually do with the harvest of today will follow shortly, well, by Michaelmas at the very least!