I've just returned from foraging berries in the Black Forest.
After spending the morning designing and creating dozens of dessert plates, some of which are a special order for a wedding present going to New York City, I was ready to get into my place of worship - the woods. I had checked out the ripeness of the wild blackberries yesterday while Rocky and I did our favorite route through the forest. I couldn't believe my eyes. This year's crop is one I've never seen the likes of - all of this extremely warm weather combined with a wet spring has created mountains of blackberry brambles that line every walking path. It's such a joy to walk through the Black Forest with its velvet mossy ground and deep black green shade branches breaking up the late afternoon sun. Today, I intentionally didn't bring my camera. I wanted to focus my attention on picking berries, luxuriating in having the whole forest just for myself. My hands took quite a scraping, but it was well worth it.
My thoughts harkened back to a special place in Pennsylvania, where my foraging skills were developed. A few miles in the hills above the borough of Milford, Pennsylvania, there's a beautiful place called Twin Lakes. It's made up of two lakes that aren't exactly twins; one lake is larger than the other. When I was a young girl, our father would take us in late summer to an open area in the woods just before the lakes. It doesn't exist anymore; there's a school there now. But back then it was a wild blueberry field. Dad would cut milk containers, the plastic kind with handle, and cut out a large opening. He'd strap the carton to our waists with belts and we'd pick half-gallon after half-gallon of wild blueberries. The payoff for those blue fingertips and sore arms was that we'd enjoy Mom's blueberry pies all winter long.
I took a drive up to Twin Lakes on my recent trip to the states. It was a short excursion down memory lane, one I felt compelled to take. The beauty of the place hasn't diminished at all, but I do wish those blueberry bushes were still there.
The time by myself in the forest today gave me pause to think about the plates I'm designing. In my mind's eye I imagined creating a plate upon which would be a piece of the lightest sponge cake soaked with wild blackberry syrup. I could see how it should look, and how the bride would open her gift and find the recipe along with the plates. I could picture the entire thing as I collected blackberry after blackberry.
My work as a potter and writer in intrinsically connected to nature. I gather my strength from the forest, from the river, from lakes and streams. Those places give me the creative energy I need to move forward and do my best work.
This is my favorite time of year for so many reasons. Nature is pumping out the best is has to offer, in abundance and in shades of color so beautiful and rich. I love cutting the late-blooming nasturtium blossoms and leaves and mixing them into our salads.
In Italy, gardens are pumping out the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes you can imagine. Here in Germany, my garden is full of kale and fennel, and the plum trees are gracing the ground, with more fruit than we can possibly turn into jam.
In a few weeks, we'll be on our way to Italy to enjoy the last true days of summer in our tiny house there.