It’s been a wonderful autumn for fruit, here in the UK. Marianne and I have just returned from our third session of blackberry picking, murderer’s hands carrying fruit destined for the freezer. They’ve been on the go for almost six weeks now and while some are starting to look past their best, others are still green, awaiting their chance to ripen before the weather deteriorates. Few people seem to bother to collect free fruit these days – after all, why go plodding down lanes and risk getting scratched when you can buy blackberries in a plastic container from the supermarket? But I love doing it. Four reasons: 1) it’s a gentle, quiet activity, good in itself and good in its results (especially combined with stewed apples with a dollop of ice cream on the side!) 2) It’s great to be out there in nature, accepting that some things come for free. 3) There’s an interesting discipline about picking blackberries – don’t try to hog them all, leave some to ripen further, others to drop, others for fellow pickers. Picking requires restrained hedonism. 4) It marks the change in the seasons. I’m reminded of picking blackberries on Sunday afternoons with my parents and grandparents, the turning of the year, not yet harvest festival or time to gather conkers beneath the Horse-Chestnut.
Zen and the art of blackberry picking? I think a good case can be made for picking blackberries as a spiritual discipline – quiet attention, restraint, acceptance, appreciation; it’s got it all.
I don’t care that some supermarkets are already starting to clear space for their Christmas offerings; I want to enjoy autumn!