Old Crane Woman is fishing. See her there, down by the river? She’s fishing for salmon, her favourite food; she’s gathering her strength for the hatching to come.
She’s been hunting in that river for a long time. Upstream and down; around all the bends. In all the pools, and under the waterfall. Old Crane Woman loves to fish. See the necklace of three fish around her neck? But Old Crane Woman takes only what she needs.
At this time of year, food seems to be foremost in everyone’s thoughts. Everywhere you go, people are talking about it. Every supermarket is full to bursting with it. People with trolleys full to the brim of things that normally they wouldn’t consider they need. And it is true, that the tradition of feasting is a great tradition … but it is easily overdone; it is easily made distasteful. It is also easy to overdo it when talking about what you think people should eat, and so I will try not to focus on the millions of birds slaughtered at this time of year, and the millions of people starving while the world gorges itself on overly rich, overly packaged, overly processed excess, so much of which is wasted.
Because of our long and complicated move to Ireland, this year, for the first year in many years, we have not been able to grow our own food. Our tradition has been to fill our Solstice table with food that we have provided for ourselves. Our own lamb or pork, which we home-slaughtered and butchered, and which came from animals we cared for and knew; potatoes and fresh kale and carrots from the polytunnel. This year, since we no longer produce it ourselves, we have eaten little meat; we have relied more on eggs from our hens, and the blessing of a fine local community organic vegetable-growing business which has filled the polytunnel gap for much of the year. But as Solstice comes around again, we look to what we can eat for our celebratory meal that also celebrates the gifts of the land on which we live. And in spite of everything, and even if we cannot make an entire meal from our own endeavours, we find something. So our Solstice meal will include trout caught by David, and a crumble made from blackberries and apples which grew down by the river. In this way we remind ourselves that even in the months of the long dark, we can fend in some small way for ourselves; and that at this time of excess, even with a seasonal treat or two, we do not have to take more than we need.
Old Crane Woman is fishing. Usually, she takes a small trout. Sometimes, when she’s very hungry, or on a feast-day, she’ll take a baby rabbit. Old Crane Woman takes only what she needs.