Harvests

A couple of weeks ago I set off early for a walk and met a couple of friends on their way to hunt wild garlic for making pesto. I wished then luck and carried on my way. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the church bells were calling the faithful to prayer, the air was warming up but still retained a sharpness on my bare arms and the birds seemed to be delirious in their acrobatic antics high in the sky. As I made my way past well-tended gardens I was greeted by the scent of mimosa and vivid colours of magenta, cerise, orange and yellow. Drifts of cherry blossom were disturbed by my passing and hawthorn hedgerows were covered in sweet-scented may blossom.

Towards the river the houses thinned and I passed through the edge of woods where the last of the daffodills nodded and bluebells and forget-me-nots sheltered beneath the trees. I stopped at a small bridge where the river cascades over rocks and has ground out a small cup shape in one of the rocks below, where people throw coins for good luck. The day was magnificent and i let the brown breath of the river wash over me. Further on I passed fields and an old churchyard where huge crumbling Victorian gravestones sit and rooks perch above on branches. This used to be a favourite place when I first moved to the area because I love graveyards and reading headstones to find out about the people wo lived and died there.

I took the path down across the suspension bridge, found a seat and turned my face up to the sun. Relaxing, I let my mind drift as I allowed my other senses to take over from my eyes. After a while my mind returned to the garlic hunt and how many natural harvests we have here in the form of free food. I collect garlic for salads and cooking, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, loganberries and boysenberries for jams and chutneys, apples for cider and apple jelly, and lots of friends collect the sloes for gin but I’ve still to master that one. So much abundance on our doorstep, so much to be grateful for.

But there are other harvests I’m grateful for. That day, with its cornflower-blue skies and golden sunlight, is one of many I harvest in order to commit to memory so I can draw down and use later, like the fruits I turn into jam. On dark days, when depression or rain threatens, I pull them up, spread them over me and remember that all things pass. But all things are also useful, if we know what to do with them.

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