In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gathering rosehips

The forager learns that an awkward path can lead toward gladness. To find wild raspberries you will clamber over fallen spruce trunks while their sharp spiky branches ward you away and the bees await to mount a final defense. To collect chanterelles you will squat or kneel along the roadside, or lie upon the earth in some forest glade, crawling on your belly beneath low spruce branches. To harvest cranberries you will creep through the bog, your rubber boots squishing as you pull each foot out of the mire, carefully, so as not to end up leaving your boot behind.

On the other hand, to gather rosehips you can just jump on the ATV and travel far and wide to reach the biggest of the wild rose bushes you have noticed from time to time. The bushes themselves are not hard to get to. Beginning this adventure is easy.
But once you are standing in front of a rosebush, you will need to consider. There are thorns. You will be able to avoid the obvious thorns, the big ones. But there are also tiny thorns too small to notice. Those you learn about more directly, by feeling them. You will pay a miniscule amount for your rosehips, only a drop or two of blood.
The best rosehips will always be beyond your reach -- way up high, or nestled deep within a crisscrossing of branches. Those are there only for you to look at and admire. The birds -- more adept at these kinds of things -- will gather them, not you. Later, the memory of collecting rosehips will remain with you, in your fingers, at the places where tiny thorns are embedded.

Each adventure in foraging has its own joy, its own brief intimacy with the island's secret places. But always there is the joy of colour. Raspberries glow like jewels -- amethysts, or rubies. The chanterelles are apricot gold that gleams fitfully among dark spruce needles and green moss and earth. Cranberries are pink mottled with pale yellow, then damson or grape and slowly emerging crimson. Rosehips do not gleam or glow. Instead they shine as bright as autumn fire.

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