I pull up the rusty gate-latch and step into a soaked garden. I am careful not to rip out the thin threads of morning glory which weave through the gate and a large part of the six food fence. Some of the purple blossoms have already closed in anticipation of the heat. For now, a cool breeze pushes empty clouds across the morning sky. Everything looks as if dipped in a fresh coat of dark green paint. Weeds will come out easily. Picking berries will be effortless.
The black currant shrub invites me to check the fruit which hangs inside. As I pull back the wet, large-leafed branches, I discover a crop of dark fruit. I step in, don’t mind getting wet, getting touched by nature.
“Nature knows bitter,” I think, as I look at the berries, which are even too bitter for the birds.
Last night, when I walked around the house with Scott, I had a similar sense. Two does stood at the edge of the property and watched us closely, eyed the hydrangeas and lilies (which must have been on the menu the previous night).
“Why do they always have to go for the good stuff. It seems even the deer know what is sweet and precious, and what is bitter. I wish they get a taste for the milkweed and crabgrass,” I said.
I grab a bucket from the shed and gather the fruit from the currant branches. Countless berry clusters hang from strong growth. I pinch the tiny stems, allowing the fruit to gently fall into the bucket. It fills quickly with what looks like delicious berries. As if never having tasted black currants, I do what I do every year, I pop a handful of the most plump berries into my mouth. My face contorts. Why would I think the taste has changed? My tastebuds are overwhelmed with bitter. My mouth dries out. I want to spit out the fruit, but, as if the berries would produce grit, I swallow hard.
Taking the bitterness out of black currants takes time and effort. After washing the fruit, I place the lot in a three-tear steam juicer. Water boils in the lowest part and pushes steam into the top tear where the fruit is pressed by the heat. The berry juice escapes into the middle part of the pot and eventually makes its way out through a small rubber hose. I collect the dark-red juice in a bowl. It’s clear and perfect for jelly. After adding sugar and pectin, the concoction must boil one more time to remove all bitter taste.
While I am writing this, I am about to pop some bitter berries. I have been offended. I am upset. No. I am angry. This bitterness feels natural, grows without any attention. I want nothing more than to feed the million reasons why I am livid. I trip over the snares in my mind and feel myself get stuck in bitter.
“My nature knows bitter, Lord. I need your help.”
Deep inside, somewhere in the corner where this bitterness hasn’t been able to rage, I hear the Spirit.
I hear a gentler, sweeter voice asking me to consider a different path. I find myself stubborn, reluctant to let the heat boil away my bitter. I don’t want him to consume me right now. I want tit-for-tat, justice, this offense made right.
He is faithful and patient. He is kind and compassionate as He waits for me. Then, as I calm my breaths and listen even deeper, I notice them. The blood-red stains all over my hands, from this process of turning bitterness into sweetness.