The ground under the tree was splattered with bright purple stains, the remains of juicy round mirabelles now rotting in the late summer sun as the wasps gorged on the spilled sugar.
“I brought Mormor past here a few days ago,” my mother-in-law told me. “Even with her bad eye sight, she saw all these fruit lying here and got very upset. All that wasted fruit!”
I sighed and nodded in agreement. It’s a different world now. Even on this little island, full of fishing villages and fields of corn and cows, the fruit trees go unpicked, the birds feed in the hedgerows with little competition. What changed? I remember going blackberry picking every summer as a child. We’d take our empty ice cream cartons and pull on long-sleeved t-shirts and spend long afternoons plucking the soft ripe fruit from the heavy branches, getting tangled up in the briars in our efforts to reach the juiciest ones, always just out of reach.
Mormor grew up a fisherman’s daughter with eleven younger siblings to care for in between gutting fish. She married a farmer, had six children of her own. Nothing was wasted. Everything was saved, cared for, repaired, canned, shared and swapped.
This past Sunday, we walked home from church through a suburb of new houses, alike in their grey walls and large square windows. A vacant plot had overgrown with shrubs and bushes, and in the middle an enormous glut of big fat blackberries.
We hurried home, collected bags and gloves, pulled on long sleeved coats, and Rasmus even grabbed his ladder. On the way back at the plot, we bumped into a sweet Russian friend with her toddler son. When we explained our plans, she joined us with enthusiasm, picking and plucking the fruit with practised speed. Her son followed us around, his mouth and hands soon smeared a deep purple.
I remembered passing this plot last summer, thinking I need to come back and pick these. But I didn’t. Maybe this is what changed. I don’t make time for an hour of fruit picking, my sleeves pricked with thorns and my fingers covered in sticky juice. I talk about these things as being important, but I don’t stop to find the time to actually do them.
As Gandhi is credited with saying, “Action expresses priorities”.
It’s not an easy thing to do I think, to shed the list of shoulds and the long to-do list that seems to keep me from actually living some days. It’s a challenge to find that balance, to find time for the things that bring life and give life, as well as the things which just need to get done.
But I’d like to be more like Mormor, savouring the fruit and abundance of the seasons rather than missing them in a month of busy.
This Sunday I prioritised picking blackberries from a vacant plot in the suburbs. Tomorrow I’ll make jam and it will taste like joy. And I’ll remember as I eat it in the weeks to come, that simple enjoyment of chatting with a friend and my husband with my trousers catching on briars and my hands slowly turning bright violet.