Dear fellow travellers
It is again that time of year when I find my hands peppered by thorn pricks. A Donegal thorn feels much the same as a thorn on Poland's Baltic coast, believe me! But the blackberries make it all worthwhile. "Don't be afraid," I say to my friend, reminding her that all the riches of summer are gathered in the knotty fruits that lie tucked away in the thorny bushes.
I've worked my way through bushes on wild Inishowen headlands, retiring later in the day with stained hands to the pub in Moville. There an elderly woman once told me that brambles healed all manner of afflictions. I've harvested the ripe black fruits in bushes by a disused railway line in Norfolk, later going to the Saturday evening Vigil Mass with palms so streaked and blotchy that I hardly dared go forward for Communion.
Blackberries mark the month. Wondrous little taste bombs protected by thorns, treasure for scavengers. There's nothing common about the common blackberry: rubus fructicosis. They are the very essence of summer distilled in a single fruit.
"Please don't pick them," said a girl yesterday, as she saw me eyeing ripe fruit in bushes by a footpath on the edge of Berlin. "If we can all agree to leave them on the bushes, then summer will stay for ever."
So I picked no blackberries yesterday. Not one. Let's see if the girl's idea might be true. No more blackberries this year. Can you promise me?
In truth, the blackberries have not tasted as good this year. I put it all down to Seamus Heaney. Sweet flesh turns sour with sadness at the thought that Seamus has gone. He wrote of Ireland like no other. He wrote of blackberries like no other.
I've heard tell that the best blackberries are gone by the equinox. Not this year. Let them stay, rich black bramble blobs that plot the passage of time. Our experiment, this little trick that you and I will play on the seasons. Will it work? Can we hold back autumn, can we keep the sunny days for ever?
I fear it will not work. The mists are already here in the mornings. The gales and snow will come. Another summer, another season, another year. Time flies. Does that scare you? Noli timere.
(editor, hidden europe magazine)