I wrote this in Scotland a few years back. Since the elderberries are ripening I thought I’d share it now.

The tree lined horizon of rust, amber and gold reflects the unseasonal warmth of October against a canvass of azure dappled white. The air is light, fragrant with leafy musk and as we climb the hill a formation of migrant geese draws our eyes toward the sky.

My daughter stops amidst the fall of a large sycamore to collect leaves, her focus intent on finding the most colourful specimens. “This one is for you, Daddy”.

The path follows over a knoll where succulent feathers of yarrow pierce a matted blanket of browned grass, standing defiant to the sun’s waning arc. We pause to stroke their leaves and my daughter, delighted with their caress, picks one to add to her special collection.

On the other side the old lady stands, as I remember her, cast crooked and twisted in the side of a bank; her stature branched and wizened. Fox holes open between her roots, children sheltered by the Mother. Her pinnate cloak already cast, bare branches black, contrast against the rich umbers of her companions.

I am reminded to be gracious. I do my best to explain to how to greet the Elder Mother with grace and gratitude, and together, both as children, we ask for a share of her season’s bounty. I admire the wistful absence of self consciousness of a 5-year-old.

Laden limbs reach to us, outstretched, proffering dark fruits that hang like gothic chandeliers. We have to stretch to reach to best fruits. Delicate umbels soon fill our basket.

At home the work begins. We tease perfect black orbs from their stalks, filling a large pot with opulent berries. Fingers and clothes are stained merlot. Into the pot measures of ginger, cloves, lemon; rust, amber gold. The cooked mash a sweet syrupy slurry. Flavonoid, saponin, vitamin; plant spirit medicine.

We savour the taste of that warm autumn day and then bottle the rest for when illness gives us cause to seek a mother’s embrace.

Copyright Glen Elliott 2017 

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