Where have I been for the last few weeks?
Preparing a harvest of squatchberries.
Most people in my neck of the woods know what squatchberries are. To some people they are a mythical berry, a figment of an author’s imagination after quaffing a cask or two of fermented squatchberry juice.
To some others, they are a jolly good excuse to have some good old-fashioned fun in the manner we are wont to have it in this neck of the woods. And one of the ways we have it is to put on a squatchberry festival (more to come on that very fun thing).
And to many others, squatchberries are what this neck of the woods is all about – real people, doing real things, thinking real thoughts, feeling real emotions, and wondering . . . . wondering why the rest of the woods can stand to live anywhere but in this neck of the woods.
That delightful and mysterious fruit, the squatchberry, sprang to light in 1975 with the publication of the first (and still the only, as far as I can tell) little magazine devoted to all things squatchberry. Here’s how the founder and the publisher and the editor put it in the maiden edition, Brew No. 1: “The squatchberry is a hybrid fruit of the region. It looks like a blueberry, feels like a raspberry, and tastes like a strawberry . . .”
After a further attempt to define this elusive yet quite common berry, the founder, the publisher, and the editor (all, coincidentally, using my name) conclude: “The ambiguity of this native berry is symbolic of the people and places of Squatchberry Country.” S.C., for short. Sometimes written as N.W.O. (Northwestern Ontario, for long).
The Squatchberry Journal grew and flourished for sixteen editions over ten years until, much like the berry, it faded from public attention. The cause of its demise (the berry, I mean) will be the subject of scholarly investigation for centuries yet unborn.
Now, for the nice surprise.
The squatchberry has not demised. It has been re-discovered. Growing underground. Well, not under the ground . . . rather, under the radar. No, not radar . . . radar is so technological. It has been re-discovered in the understory . . . in the bushes . . . far below the tall trees. The trees everybody notices.
The Squatchberry Journal was devoted to the art, literature, and history of Northwestern Ontario. And now there has been, my friends, a re-awakening, a revival of interest in the artists and authors and historians of this region, Squatchberry Country. These squatchpeople are aching to celebrate their successes and to sprinkle a little joy juice.
They are keen to prune some of the dead wood that has grown in the minds and hearts of their audience, other squatchpeople, who, when left alone, are prone to believe you have to leave Squatchberry Country to find success and happiness.
And a bushel of these squatchpeople, lips red and blue and green (from quaffing that very joy juice), are descending on Geraldton on Canada Day weekend.
For a festival.
Squatchberry Literary Festival.