Some years ago I wrote a series for the ABC I called ‘My Bush Hideaway.’ They were intended to record life in a coastal village These 21 stories were later recorded by Kim Dodsworth for a CD.
This is one episode:
Frankly, I’m ambivalent to blackberry. It’s an opportunist plant that seeds and grows in any nook and cranny it can find. At the same time I have to admire its ability to thrive in poor soil, drought and heat. Some of my most unpleasant moments are when I’m trying to dig it out or cut it away. As if this plant is the plaintive in an unwinnable lawsuit, or an Indian beggar desperate for help, it latches onto my clothes to dig its thorns into my hands, arms, sometimes even my face.
Bull-ants, those smart insects, find it expedient to nest beside blackberry roots where the soil is looser. They stay cunningly hidden until one false move on my part threatens them, and then their soldiers scuttle up my legs and into my boots. Oh, the indescribable agony of a bull-ant bite and the unbearable swelling and itching that always follows.
But there is also happiness standing in front of a blackberry patch in late summer when the boughs are illuminated by dark red berries ready for plucking, and our fingers and mouths are scarlet stained with sweet fruit. A good season means blackberry pies, blackberry jam, frozen packets of blackberry, and even blackberry cordial liberally laced with brandy.
Birds love blackberry even more than us humans and we end up in a tussle as to who gets to them first. Of course the birds have the upper hand as they fly above the bushes to spy out the best berries while we find it hard to reach the innermost branches.
When this village was almost unknown, when most houses were fibro and only inhabited in summer, blackberry was allowed to grow unheeded on surrounding horse paddocks. Droppings those horses left behind nourished the ground, and thus when birds evacuated their seeds and these seeds took root, the result was the most succulent fruit I have ever eaten. Maybe this proves that even out of droppings, good things can result. Maybe when things are low, when we’re feel truly despondent, or ‘in the shits’ maybe we can hope for some serendipitous happening.