Chasing the Wild Berry

Last week I took off in the middle of the day on my scooter, flying down long straight country roads, the insects hitting my face like high velocity spit balls.  I like to go very fast.  I had with me a pair of rubber boots, long parrot cutters, a grimy reusable grocery bag I hesitate to call “cloth”, sunglasses, sunscreen, and my camera.  I was headed to Meadow Lake Road where I had seen two big elderberry trees on my way back from shooting.  Being on the hunt for something wild is exhilarating.  An excuse to ride alone on those back roads never fails to fill me with a sense of being cut loose.

I may or may not have found the trees I actually saw.  I did find two elderberries but they were much smaller than what I remembered and their spot was more dubious than I thought, growing on a steep bank at the side of the road covered in russet poison oak.  There were workmen on that road not too far from where I stopped which impaired my comfort as I prefer to do my foraging in private, just me and nature.  I put on my wellies, and strode across the road with my dangerous long handled cutters in hand and gently coaxed the trees to bend to my will and give up their fat umbels.  I left plenty for the birds.

I got a modest bag and that was prize enough.  Collecting food and medicine does something marvelous for my nervous system.  It acts as a tranquilizer to my otherwise constantly fretting mind.  I think the busy-work preparing food in great quantity requires is soothing to my OCD.  Plucking tiny elderberries from their spidery stems is such a peaceful activity I fantasized about doing that every single day for the rest of my life.  I could be a one woman elderberry processing facility for the county.

Problem is, they only ripen once a year.  Right now.  I have six pounds in the freezer and about four pounds (maybe six) getting drunk in hundred proof in the cupboard.  I want more.  I have foraging greed.

Philip took a bicycle ride on Sunday and almost never made it home because he literally got lost.  That kind of thing happens more often than you’d think in Oregon.  As full of people as the Northwest is, there are so many tiny roads that don’t lead back home, or to anywhere, though maybe some lead to freakish one-tooth whiskey parlors in the woods… he was lucky to run into hunters who could tell him he was headed for nowhere and a long way from home.  Max and I were a little freaked when he finally showed up, ready to throw books at him for taking so long and throwing our routine off.  However, he came with the excited report that he spotted several huge elderberries on his way back.  His excitement couldn’t have been less than mine and even Max was pleased at the thought of another foraging adventure. I couldn’t help but wonder if his trees were really as big as he thinks they are.

Philip wants to make wine.  The rest is for medicine and “medicine”, if you know what I mean.  Hundred proof is great for coughs.

Tonight I have dragged out a box of walnuts from the freezer a friend gave me last year that have to be shelled.  I need room as my squirrely habits have caused my somewhat bare freezer to become uncomfortably squeezed.  This is the highlight of my night: cracking walnuts.  I love doing it.  Repetitive work with a food prize.

Next week we all get our purple belts in Kung Fu.  At our school that’s half way to a black belt.  Not in time, because each belt takes longer to achieve than the last one, but in rank.  I have to say I’m pretty pleased and proud to have made it even this far.

I have so many things jetting through the rooms in my head.  The fact that I loath the recently made up expression “bomb-diggity” is fresh and alive in my head.  Can’t get it out. Having read and become enraged by the word “golly” in a post somewhere last week is something I need to address in some way.  “Golly” is a horrible word.  It lingers in my mouth long enough to grow tendrils.

Yesterday I worked all day long on my hub site.  The site I want all of you to send to agents and publishers you know who will want to publish my work.  I needed a site with my own name on it from which all of my projects and blogs might be accessed.  I needed to write a bio for myself to explain who I am.  I worked all day on it while I really wanted to work on the book.  This is important though.  If I tell someone who I am or send out five hundred query letters there needs to be one place to access everything I’m into.  Want to see it?

visit the angelina williamson siteAngelina Williamson Hub Site

Go ahead- check it out.  Wait!  Please notice that I learned how to name my photos so that when you hover over the picture it makes sense.  I don’t usually give my pictures names that make sense, for example; I might name a self portrait of myself “fuck you!”.  Wouldn’t it be surprising to hover your mouse over a picture on a blog and see “fuck you!” shouting back at your mouse?  But wait!  There’s more… I also learned to link photos to other places.  Go ahead and click on the picture.  Please?  I worked ALL day on this project.  Let’s call it the office work of a writer.  I don’t have a team of publicists and slaves to write my bio for me or build me websites.

I actually think that might be a benefit to me rather than a sad fact because in order to find out how other writers present themselves I visited several of my favorite author’s websites and I have to say that most of them were ugly.  There is no excuse for that when you have a team of publicists and slaves.  The bios were really boring except for Laurie Notaro‘s.  I wrote my bio in third person because all of the other authors’ bios were in third person.  So I figured that’s the professional approach.  Then after I was done I remembered to check out Notaro’s and wished I’d read hers first.  Third person bios are really poncy.

Writing bios is an ugly business altogether.  It’s easy writing one for a personal blog because you figure you’re talking to people like yourself who want the real version: the personal, wild, crusty, honest version of who you are.  I’m not sure agents and publishers are looking for the same thing.

I have been listening to the Coldplay* song “Clocks” nonstop for twenty four hours now and I’m just now beginning to feel a new music mood come over me.

I have just been reminded about something that’s been bothering me for several years now that I have kept silent about.  I have a contraction issue, I think.  I keep wondering if it’s some bizarre neurological glitch?  I have a colloquial, casual, and fairly modern writing style yet I don’t contract words that most people do.  I write “can not” constantly where a “can’t” would be cleaner.  Speech with few contractions is more formal.  I don’t understand it and I constantly try to fix it and I have to admit that it feels like a glitch rather than a choice.  I am annoyed.  I’m annoyed.  Jesus!

Has anyone else noticed this and wanted to suggest a little more consistency with my contractions?  I am forced to wonder if this is my “style” and acceptable as a personal quirk of speech or if it’s something I’m going to fight editors over when I have editors to fight with?  If I’m the only one to notice it then it must me another example of my genius madness.  It feels like a constant little itch I can’t get at. Which is how most things in my brain feel.

Cadfael and walnuts await my pleasure.  There are a lot of truly bad coifs in Cadfael, but I am in a medieval mood.  Perhaps because of all the elderberries.  And no, my father doesn’t smell of them.  Derek Jacobi is incredible and though the production value in this series is fairly low, I find it completely enjoyable.  Perfectly suitable for watching while shelling walnuts for winter eating.  I’ll want to run off and make some simples at midnight.

One more thing before I go- I have decided it’s good luck to see the same beautiful Mennonite woman twice in one day completely randomly.  I feel a conversion coming on: those caps are so fucking cute!!  Truly.  God must have good taste.

Oh wait, he apparently created everything which means he’s also responsible for spandex biking shorts, baseball jerseys, and sleeveless fur vests.  Never mind.

There’s nothing like a crisp white mesh bonnet for your bun.

*The Coldplay website was so ugly I linked to Wikipedia instead.  What’s up with so many ugly websites?  These people have money to pay good designers to make  them a pretty site.  They have obviously not heeded my advice about black back grounds.  I know that the last Dustpan Alley header was black with yellow type, technically a no-no.  However, I defend it because a black header with color print may, in some circumstances, be good design, but an entire blog in black with color text is impossible to look at with any ease or enjoyment.


  1. Grace says:

    I can’t call it anything more than personal preference, but I love the way you right, lack of contradictions and all.

    Aren’t bios the worst? I mostly try not to ever write them, but I’m not sure that’s really a long-term solution.

  2. Ann says:

    I have foraging greed, too. I will drop everything, mid sentence, if I spot mushrooms, berrys or whatever is wild and free.

  3. Karmyn R says:

    I have never noticed you didn’t contract. My computer has been acting funny lately – every once in a while, when I try and use the apostrophe for a contraction, it brings up this search box instead. So, I am forced to write without contractions. (but then it goes away). weird.

    I have never picked elderberries – and I wouldn’t even know one if I was standing right by the plant. How horrible of me!!!1

  4. Jay says:

    Personally, I appreciate the lack of contrractions, and consider it a more cultured way of writing, as well as speaking. Though I never noticed it before you mentioned it, I like to think its a small part of your writing style.

    Ain’t it?

  5. Kathy says:

    I’ve never noticed the contraction issue. Love the elderberry hunt you went on and the 100proof “medicine.” I need to get my order made out for some herbs to stock for the winter for the elixirs and such. He’s over on Hawthorne and I’ve been wanting to visit one of the consignment shops over there that carries my size so I think I’m going to make it a morning of puttering about on Hawthorne…..maybe tomorrow.

  6. angelina says:

    Thank you Grace! Yeah, I have tried to avoid the bios for a long time and it was really painful writing it. It probably sucks too but I couldn’t look at it any more.

    Ann- I want to put mushrooms on my foraging list this year too!

    Karmyn- if you decide you want to go foraging for them I have a good post on IDing them on Stitch and Boots.

    Jay- I like what you say, I think I’ll go with the whole non-contraction thing being part of my personal writing style rather than a neurological disorder. I don’t have health-care so I can’t afford to have any new disorders. I actually used to be much more formal in general which is why I think I still often use cannot instead of can’t. So much of writing is intentional that I think what weirds me out is that the inconsistent use of contractions isn’t intentional on my part.

    Kathy- I think I know the place you’re talking about and I love it! I want to go back sometime soon. Just to hang out in there is a pleasure.

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