Talk to me
There has been a spectacular crop of fruit this year due to our highly unusual warm, dry summer. The blackberries are very early as a result so instead of October they are ready now, large, ripe, juicy and everywhere. If you know where to look near the woods, blackberry brambles are heaving with fruit and it is very easy to help oneself as the bushes grow quite low to the ground.
Wild fruit foraging is a great way to build up one's immunity and to make friends. Fruit ripened in the sun is sweet and full of vitamins, plus when eaten as soon as it is picked, is full of vitality.
The English can be very reserved but in fact are quite shy. Nothing brings people out of their shells more than inviting them to talk about themselves. Foragers are usually in love with nature and are solitary types who enjoy their own company but ask them if they're picking those berries to make jam and out will come their great grandma's recipe. If you've got half an hour and are happy to listen, you will have instantly made a friend.
Everyone wants to talk and stave off loneliness. It is poignant to see men and women of all ages taking a daily stroll in the woods and who seem distant and trapped by their memories but given the chance want to shake off those faraway thoughts and embrace the present moment. And there are those who prefer to avoid reality. One such gentleman who I had never met before, struck up a conversation recently as we crossed paths with our hounds. He immediately launched into the crux of the matter by saying he was about to have radiotherapy for his cancer and he had begun to hate his wife, old age (he described himself as being in his 80s) and everything in between, even his dog! But there are blackberries aplenty, the sun is shining and ...
Photo copyright S. van Dalen
The summer is coming to a close and in the natural world the signs of decay accelerate with each day. We are reminded constantly of the passage of time. We measure it with a watch or even in the woods as the rain lands on tree leaves, the sound being reminiscent of a ticking clock. Try listening the next time you get caught in the rain in the woods without a brolly.
Elizabeth I as she lay dying, cried out: "All my possessions for one moment in time!" What use are material things in the next realm, she must have wondered.
Like nature, we are decaying: the greying hair, the creaking knees, the crinkled skin but worst of all, the detachment that an ageing soul encounters, a disinterest, a bitterness that runs through veins like vinegar. Time is measured not just by the reflection in the mirror but inside one's heart.
Photo and oil painting, "Mother", copyright S. van Dalen
What really matters (part 2)
I asked two successful people, Hollywood director/producer, Harry Winer and his sister, Susan Winer, to answer that elusive question, from the heart:
Harry Winer, President
Smash Media, Inc.
"What matters most to me is family.
My sisters and I were raised in a family partially forged by tragedy and part by love.
1. We learned family was merely the cauldron within which we learned to care for others.
2. Family extended beyond blood ties to the whole community. If we didn't act to care for those in need, who would?
3. I chose a career in film as my means of serving others. Films brought people together. I came to see motion pictures as the international language that connected people across diverse cultures through the commonality of the human experience in each story we told.
4. My appreciation of family enabled me to value the challenge and wonders of creating my own family with the miracle of my daughter's birth and growth into a strong, independent soul prepared to forge her own path.
5. And I have come to respect the Family of Man, as divergent and contentious as me, my parents, and my sisters sometimes but each a unique expression of One Creator struggling to find their way to bring the best of themselves forward. "
"Jews around the world are celebrating the New Year this week which begins the practice of making amends for any transgressions and celebrating a renewal of mind, spirit and commitment to a better life during the coming year. In that spirit, here are my personal ruminations:
1. Whose responsibility is it to take care of the ills in society; the hunger, the homelessness, the prejudices and other societal problems that have been piling up for generations?
2. In Judaism there is a phrase: Tikkun Olam. This translates as repairing the world. I believe that we all have the responsibility to contribute to repairing the world. Each of us, in our own ways, is responsible for eradicating poverty, insuring food security, assuring that everyone, no matter their religion, race or sexual orientation, has an equal right to a healthy and safe life and world.
3. Who I am today is, in large measure, what my parents and a few special teachers taught directly and through their actions: to "think outside the box", to take risks and to always remember that I am one of the luckier ones and have a responsibility to give back because I can.
4. Speaking of lucky. I wake up every morning knowing that I will be making a difference in the world...with other people's money and seeing the sheer pleasure donors derive from the impact of their giving.
5. And when the next generations pick up the mantle, following their own personal passions and perspectives, but still carrying on the tradition of giving...that truly makes my day."