In some parts of the world it’s already cold and damp – and ‘the nights are fair drawin’ in’, as the old folk used to say. That simply means the days have less daylight hours than they used to, and that it’s getting dark earlier each evening even before the clock gets shifted. Soon the hatches will be getting battened down, not for the three days of darkness but simply for another Winter north of Hadrian’s old wall. Already, the wind has been trying to rip the roof off the house. The swallows left for Africa a few weeks back without evening saying, “Goodbye”. Who can blame them?
Why did some people decide to settle in inhospitable places, or is it just the panzie-moderns like myself who can’t put up with months of rain, cold, wind, and darkness? Maybe living where a summer was a real summer for so many ears has spoiled me. Any takers from the Pacific Island – maybe Fiji or Samoa – who’d like to do an exchange? You come here for good and I’ll shift the family down there, so that we can enjoy your fantastic diet, and your rugby skills! (Well, no harm in asking).
Still, there are some things that the South Pacific Islands couldn’t give – like blackberry picking even this late in the year. What’s more, they even made me think about Our Lord’s Passion (if I was lying around on a beach in Fiji, or Samoa, I’d probably not think much of the Holy Sacrifice). The berries were simply there, a short walk from the door. The food was there, waiting to be picked either by a passer-bye, the fox, or the birds. No fox came, and the birds were not insight. The berries just seemed to call out, “Food for free!” Yes, seriously, free food. Provided by the Provider of all that is Good. Or maybe old Mother-Evolution, wherever she by-chance comes from, was working away for millions and billions of thingy-bobs so as to grab this unsuspecting humanoid into her great web, to make me think I was actually freely picking something. Bunkum! The food seemed to be crying out, “I am all thine! I am gift for you, dear Passer-bye.” And so it was. A gift. With the added gift of watching the children pinch a berry here, and a berry there, and sneak one into their mouths to taste the wonder of sweetness and bitterness. All gift for those with eyes to see.
Children and berries. They soon discover that the best ones – the big, juicie, fat ones – come at a price. Learning to suffer for the best is a lesson for life as the thorns try to stop one from achieving ones goal. How sweet the big ones are, and sweeter still when a thorn is removed from a little hand. The blood from little scratches (or even big scratches) being hardly noticeable due to the deep blood like stains from the juice itself. One’s fingers are as blood-black as the berries before too long – another little reminder of the price paid for the little children by the One Who welcomed them into His arms and promised them all that is His.
By the time the picking is done there are more thorns to pull, and there is a fool with a bucket full of what strangers often pass bye. A bucket full that will be sweetened and turned into wonders by a mother’s old cooking skills. Skills still handed on, and not yet lost to the mass producers. How did something so simple call out and draw us in? Maybe the food was put their for the traveller to have something on his way? Maybe the berries were placed there to entice one out before the darkness descends – out to have one more good look around and remember the plenty there is even in suffering? Maybe, just maybe, the sweetness promised was place there by the One who does not chuck (throw) away the berries or the little ones away, but changes them it something quite sublime? Enjoy – and don’t chuck the berries!!!