Not all of the letters in the Gaelic tree alphabet are trees! Today’s letter, M, stands for Muin, which is often translated from the old Gaelic as ‘vine’. But the grape vine is not native to Scotland and Ireland, so debates go on about which species is intended. Some suggest honeysuckle, but it is much more widely assumed to be the scrambly, berry-bearer that is variously known as blackberry or bramble.
It grows, unofficially, as a weed, mostly in the corners of the Botanics that are allowed to be wild for wildlife, fungi and our native plants (and fairies). It is in bloom just now, and its flowers are rather gorgeous.
Mostly, though, bramble is known for its berries, and there are many wonderful blackberrying poems. Heaney’s haul rots in the shed. Sylvia Plath’s outing takes her down to the sea. Jo Shapcott picks them in the shrubbery. Kevin Crossley-Holland captures every aspect of the hedgerow fight that is involved in a good harvest, and Mike Stocks lampoons those who buy them in the supermarket. There are lots more and we pricked our poetry fingers on them in the shade and in the sun, for much of the afternoon.
This morning, I dwelt under an old apple tree, pondering fruiting, and impediments to it. I have often compared the production of poems with fruiting. Reading feeds roots, scribbling fills leaves with sensory impressions, and sometimes the start of a poem comes, like a blossom, which needs to be pollinated and nourished and nurtured to grow into fruit, which can eventually be shared and eaten.
Each day here I scribble. There are even, among the words, what look like buds of blossoms, but there’s a worrying lack of butterflies. I saw two white ones today, and many, many bumblebees, so after a bit of maturing time, hopefully I’ll have some fruit to share…