GATH-ER

Definition: bring together and take in from scattered places or sources

 

words + photography KERRY WILKINS-DEMING

Why does the simplicity of red, tart berries make me happy?

Nature gave this harvest to me, no one else. An organic happenstance of joy to take time for myself. To gather berries, gather my thoughts, wade through the mosses... wade through the week’s events, the world’s events... lovingly collecting each berry as though plucking stars from the night sky. It brings me peace.

Wild, red, tart. It would be a compliment to be described as my berries are: WILD, RED, TART and filled with love.

The caring it takes to make my cranberry sauce fills my heart, fills my family’s bellies and gathers us together.

Opening a jar of jellied cranberries in March, April, May brings me back
to the day of solace in the bog on a warm October afternoon... the afternoon sun fading quickly... the songs of the birds and crickets growing different as the winter solstice approaches. This jar that was sealed in October, and can be opened to enjoy whenever I choose to share, is powerful to me. Serving time, and love, from a jar... there is a healing quality to the contents.

The Native Americans called them “Sassamanash,” scientific Latin name Vaccinium macrocarpon or North American Cranberry. I call them East Winthrop Maine Wild Bog Cranberries and they make me happy.

Found quite by accident on a winter walk several years back. My brother spied some bright red berries peeking out of the snow, still clinging to their delicate feathery vines. I snapped one between my teeth. The tartness made me wince and smile at the same time.

I had to be very patient. Spring, summer, then the fall…

Paddling through thick lily pads towards islands of soggy earth, I then crept upon boggy peat mosses. Sinking deeply in yellow green softness kissed with deep hues of red... with every step I sank.

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Most of the berries hide among the mosses. Bright red, hard and crisp, with a white fleshy center, speckled with tiny brown seeds.

Picking them one by one, no flooding of the bog here. Amazing that wisps of vines hold such large plump berries. It takes me hours to gather my treasure.

A satisfying and indulgent time with golden maples whispering of frost soon to come... marsh grasses rustle with song in the still-warm fall breeze.

The peace and calm and delight I drink in with all my senses.

Leaving my mossy islands, I paddle back towards shore. Homemade cranberry sauce nestled next to mashed potato, turkey and gravy dreamily comes to mind.

Family and friends dishing the devilishly tart jubilee of cheery red, alongside their favorite bite of Thanksgiving Day... the warmness of a gathering, a promise in labors of love and the simplicity of a handful of wild bog cranberries foraged with love.

. . .

Wild Bog Cranberry Sauce

3 cups wild bog cranberries
1½ cups well water
¾ to 1 cup wild Maine honey

Boil water and berries until the skins pop. Slowly add honey and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Set at room temperature for an hour. Chill and serve.

A wonderful accompaniment to roasted fowl.

. . .

Kerry Wilkins-Deming is the 50ish mother of four amazing kids ages 11 to 22. She and her husband, Matthew, live on the easternmost corner of East Winthrop Maine. 

. . .

Favorite ...
Comfort food?
Hot Baked potato with real butter,
horseradish and grated cheddar cheese.

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