It’s amazing how a simple act such as taking cranberries out of the freezer and transforming them into a relish can take one back in time, but so it did today.
My family knows best that I’m not a foodie, and cook only because we can’t survive on popcorn alone (drats), but one of my favorite flavors brings a burst of tartness to any meal. And as I concocted the simple cranberry orange relish we so enjoy, moments spent picking them kept popping up.
On several occasions last fall, I bushwhacked toward the fen, stopping first to explore the kettle holes that dot the landscape.
And though I love tracking all winter, it’s those unexpected moments in other seasons when I recognize the critters with whom I share the Earth that make my heart quicken.
Especially when I realize that one of my favorites has also passed this way, stomping through the water . . .
and then onto the drier land. Yes, Ursus americanus had been on the hunt as well.
He wasn’t the only one fishing for a meal, though of a much smaller spidery-style scale.
And then there were my winged friends, the meadowhawks.
I remember the mating frenzy occurring as that most ancient of rituals was performed both on the leaf and in the air.
Other winged friends, showing off a tad of teal, dabbled nearby.
Eventually, I tore myself away from the kettle holes and tramped through winterberry shrubs filled with fruits and cinnamon ferns ablaze in their fall fashion.
After all, my destination was the cranberry fen.
And last year was a mighty fine year for those little balls of wonder that hid below their green leaves. I filled my satchel to overflowing before taking my leave, knowing that in the coming months I’d share the foraged fruits with family and friends and remember time well spent.
Not only did the abundant fruit make it so special, but on my way out I stumbled upon another kettle hole and much to my delight spotted two Sandhill Cranes, part of a flock that returns to this area of western Maine on a yearly basis.
While the cranes foraged on the ground, a Great Blue Heron watched them approach.
And then in flew a Bald Eagle who eventually settled in a pine tree beside a crow.
With that, the cranes flew off and a few minutes later so did the heron. And then I left, trying to find my way out, but I’d gotten a bit twisted and turned and ended up cutting through someone’s yard to get back to the road. Because I was a wee bit confused, I couldn’t find my truck right away, and in the process of looking I dropped a few cranberries. It was all worth it! And still is as we’ll enjoy that relish in our chicken salad sandwiches tonight.
Ah, cranberries. And bears. And spiders. And dragonflies. And birds. Ah, cranberry memories.
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