I spent five hours in my kayak yesterday, paddling down Northeast Creek in the gorgeous fall sunlight. It was high tide and calm, and the water was smooth and glassy. I was out to forage. Having been away so much of the growing season, my neglected garden did it’s best to provide for the winter, but there was need to call in reinforcements. The blueberries, my sweetheart and I picked this summer, were safely tucked into the freezer for future culinary color and sustenance, but the cranberries were calling.
I ponder this urge to forage. My siblings have it, too. I’m convinced it’s from our Micmac ancestry and I embrace it. I love seeing it in my children. True, there were required hours of picking and preserving when they were growing up, and despite the grumbling at the time, I’d like to think those are happy memories for them. Matt says, “Whatever helps you sleep at night, mum.” But hey! It was hard to raise kids with an appreciation of what our nourishing earth provides amidst the gluttony and excess! We had to have enforced harvests! How else were we to dominate?! But this week he called to proudly tell me he was making a meal consisting of everything he had grown, so I know he really appreciates those Sunday morning blueberry outings. It’s in there somewhere.
There are a few theories floating around out there about the upcoming winter. No one has ever seen this many berries or fruits on trees. My apple tree even produced this year! That’s a first. Supposedly the squirrels are putting away record amounts of nuts and the weather predictions are dire. Well, if the cranberry crop is any prediction, we’d better be ready to get buried.
So yesterday morning, with bright sun, nothing on the calendar, and three big containers tucked into corners of the kayak, I set off down the creek. I’d done a scouting mission the week before and found some good spots. The high tide was perfect and the floating berries were yelling “Over here! Come get me!” Big red dots bobbing and floating near the tall grass that hides the sprawling plants beneath the water. A swipe with the paddle and hundreds more came to the surface. The water was cold and my shirt sleeves got wet but I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t leave until the buckets were full. I had a lot of time to think. I didn’t want to stop, so didn’t. I thought about not having to explain to anyone, negotiate, or cut short my activity because I’ve got some obligation to attend to. I’ve daydreamed about days like that. Doing exactly what I want without explanation. I thought a lot about the future. I wonder how it will be to incorporate someone else into my life? Will that freedom get consumed? Divided? Explained away? Have I been single too long? I thought how he would have loved being there. I recalled with glee his excitement about the blueberries. He never complained about how hard they are to pick. We simply talked and picked and marveled at the abundance. Smiling. Happy.
I thought about satisfying careers and what that might be in the years to come. I’ve never not known the next step. It’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I thought about teaching nutrition and how often I was asked the question about how much of this or that to eat. How to lose weight and keep it off? As I picked I thought, if everyone had to spend this much time collecting their food for the winter, no one would be overweight. I’ve told women to imagine they had to collect maple sap and boil it down into syrup themselves, and then imagine it’s the only syrup or sweet substance they had for the whole year. Then hold that image in your mind when considering how much to pour on your pancakes. That answer doesn’t satisfy everyone. Neither does a cupful of syrup. Maybe I should consider a different career.
I’m overwhelmed with frustration and grief at how far we’ve strayed from our food source. And then I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I live where I can kayak to a wild setting, with a blue heron looking on (do they eat these berries?) and Canadian geese stopping to rest on their way south. I was startled by what, an otter? Something smooth and sleek poked it’s head up and did a graceful dive, showing off it’s slick butt as it disappeared beneath the surface, evoking another sweet memory. Mole and Rat and their escapades fill my mind and I was back to the cozy days of cuddles with kids reading aloud for hours on end.
Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?
I thought of our young family listening to that story, ready for bed, piled up on the couch together. I don’t know how to assimilate all the places my mind wandered yesterday. I let it flow, grateful again for the time and space, trying not to corral the thoughts, just let them bob and float.
I heard a TED talk about happiness. Someone analyzed what happens in the brain when someone is experiencing happiness. He said that people are most happy when they are completely absorbed in an activity. Those cranberries made me happy. Cleaning and cooking them made me happy. Scraping the bits from the kettle and savoring the flavor made me happy.
Just a thought.