Saturday, 19 August 2017

Blackberries and manna

It's a fabulous late summer afternoon. The sun is warm and the clouds are dramatic, so I race out to practise my landscape photography and see if there are enough blackberries ripe to be worth gathering.

Ballymorran Road, near Killinchy, is always a good place for both these endeavours, and it's certainly on form today. I stop everywhere that I can fit the Micra (triumphant from its recent MOT success) onto a verge. It's nice to have a car that won't look noticeably different after it's been scratched up in a hedge (a couple of years ago the police came to my door, having been alerted by neighbours to the likelihood that my car had been damaged by passing vandals, but the officers and myself circled the car carefully and I didn't see anything particularly different from usual...).

I compose my landscapes carefully, trying to find foreground interest, shooting with more sky and then more sea to work out which is best, looking for good reflections. I'm reasonably pleased with what I'm doing. But I'm half aware the whole time that I need plenty of good images for my Instagram feed - I'm nearly at the end of my current series and I'm under pressure to plan the next one. 

The pressure is entirely of my own creation. Nobody else cares at all. But I have my self-imposed schedule of one new shot a day. I alternate landscape and portrait formats. They're properly edited. That's quite a lot, when for most of the year I can only shoot on fine weekends.

Then I catch a grip. Even if I never stray far from home, Northern Ireland has more than enough beautiful places and things to keep me going on this plan for ever. There'll always be something lovely or poignant to show. It's not going to run out.

Thus philosophising, I head for the blackberry hedges. I find a fantastic bank of them, where the top few berries on each stem are perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. I gather enough for the next three days - they'll be superb for breakfast with Greek yoghurt and toasted flaked almonds. 

But I don't want to stop at three days - I want go gather enough for a week. For two weeks! Which is ridiculous. They wouldn't be fresh. And there are thousands more right here, and there will be some more ripe in three days. And the three days after that. I'll return, and they'll be ready for me.

Clearly, I have an attitude problem. It makes me think of the Israelites in the wilderness, scooping up their lovely fresh manna, but determined to gather more than they need for today. But manna doesn't keep - it's mouldy by the morning. I would have fit right in with them.

I catch another, firmer grip and feel happy with my current blackberries. The words "sufficient unto the day" float into my head. It's a totally inappropriate motto, because it actually continues "is the evil thereof", but perhaps, taken out of context, it's the way to go.

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