When I was young, one of the treats of our lives was Blackberry Jam, & Blackberry Pies. Our Grandmother would make the most delicious blackberry jam, which tasted so lovely in the winter months when it was cold & nary a berry could be found. It was like a little sliver of the Summer's heat & fullness, when the country was still, & bare, & cold. And berryless!
That rich, luscious, full flavour, somehow seemed to embody the full richness of bountiful summer days, with plenteous warmth, humidity, & languid, lazy days to be filled with pleasure. Such as can only be experienced, or perhaps enjoyed, as a child, without care or responsibilities.
We had several varieties of Berries we could plunder at will, with no ownership or 'private' rights to deter us. They grew wild & free, & were there for the taking, if we could only be bothered to gather them.
Blackberry was a weed in New Zealand. It was reviled by the diligent farmer, & cleared from his land.
Luckily for us, there were pockets of land where the owners of the land had neither the time nor the inclination to kill off the Brambles. Nor did they care who chose to avail themselves of the wondrous crops. And our mother would load us into the car, with buckets, & pans, & off she would drive, up winding, dusty, country gravel roads, in search of thick patches of the blackberries. Growing in thick tangles among the patches of Bracken ferns.
And we would climb the ricketty old fence, always at a post, as we had been taught, & proceed to pick the beautiful ripe, full, berries. And they always seemed so fat, & juicy, & just wonderful!
And there were often the slightly, larger & redder-hued, berries growing among all the blackberries, & these we took to be Boysenberries, but whether or not they were true Boysenberries, to this day, I am not sure. But they were equally delicious & we gathered as many as we could, before fatigue, or our mother's pleas for respite, would call a halt to the day's gatherings.
And of course there were extremely hot, humid days, when we would whine & complain, & yelp in terror, at the stabs of the thorns, bloody & painful, & wish to be home again. And our mother would grimly return to the car, vowing never to take us out again!
But of course, once our Grandmother had made the jam, pies, & Blackberry or Boysenberry jelly or jam, we would beg to be taken again, & promise, in the hollow way of children, to be 'good this time' & not 'whine or complain'.
And our Aunt & Uncle lived on the side of a valley, carved over many years by the river, which wound sluggishly down in the very bottom of the valley. On the banks below the boundary fence, of our Uncle & Aunt's property, there grew a wonderful light red berry we called a Wineberry. And the thorns, or prickles, on these vines were very mild, & hardly scratched at all. And very rarely drew blood.
So when the crop was ripe, we would eagerly climb the fence, & clinging to the steep sides of the bank, spend an afternoon, gather the lovely delicate red berries, to be made into Wineberry Jelly, or Apple & Wineberry Jam. And sometimes into pies.
Or, when the crop was large, they could be rinsed, & sprinkled lightly with sugar, & just enjoyed 'au naturale', with a little fresh cream added. The bliss of those memories! And the wonderful colours of the berries. And that lovely memory of Summer, when the jams or pies were tasted in the Winter months.
We forgot the whining, of heat, & bramble's sharp stabs, & just savoured those wonderful rich Summer tastes, fillled with memories.
Chris Isaak, Sweet Leilani.