I collect my daughter from her preschool and, instead of heading home, turn the opposite direction.
– Where are we going, mommy?
– We are going to pick some berries.
I now live in a country known for its vast green landscapes, for great wild spaces, untouched by the ‘progress’ of civilization. So it is a little funny that one of the things that I sometimes miss about my old life is… untamed nature.
I grew up with parents whose idea of rest was packing a tent and leaving the world for a few days to set up camp on a lakeshore. Or at least treading the woods for a few hours foraging for wild mushrooms. I miss that. I miss the sense of being transported to a different world and being so intimately connected to it. I miss the sense of escape, of shedding the unnecessary and connecting to the simple and the true.
For a good while I have been living with this longing and telling myself that life in Ireland is different – more civilized, more structured – and that wilderness is not that easily tapped into. However, if I am really honest with myself, that is probably not the reason. The woods (even though not as many) are here. The fields and mountains are here. Even the ocean!.. Maybe the truth is that I need to put some things aside and step out my door more often and seek the wilderness that I crave.
And so I take my daughter by the hand and lead her to the little patch of ground overgrown with wild blackberry bushes that I have spotted on one of my morning runs a while ago and have been waiting for the berries to ripen. It is a very short stretch of a footpath between a housing estate and the estuary. As the two of us try to navigate the surrounding nettles as well as the prickly branches grabbing onto our clothes, there is not a person in sight. The only sounds are the chattering birds and the occasional ‘shot’ of a bird scarer in the nearby fields. A spider scurries by, not too happy with the intrusion, I am sure.
Some of the berries hold on to the branches tightly, others fall at the slightest touch and disappear in the tall grass. The little one tries to get the most of this trip by picking berries from the bush as well as the bucket where I put mine. She is working much too fast and the bucket keeps emptying. Eventually, after some negotiations, we reach a deal that everything she picks can end in her mouth, but the berries in the bucket are to be brought home for later. Only then the bucket starts to slowly fill up.
We spend less than an hour and go back home with a few cupfuls of berries. And big smiles on our faces. The little foraging trip is a financial success as berries are ridiculously expensive in Ireland. But, more importantly, my daughter has had fun picking her own food and I get a very welcome recharge of the soul. Win-win. To be repeated.