miin giizis: what berries teach
by waaseyaa'sin christine sy
the best thing about miin giizis is you can be naked outside. and, if climate change has not been particularly active, the lake water will be warm. those manidoo ikawewag of the freshwater will work their magic and let all the good things happen during miin giizis. keep our embers going through to the hard work of fall harvest—gardens, ricing, and hunting. keep the embers of our life force going through long winters wrapped in deep snow, deep freeze, warm blankets and bodies. fresh water women make even gichi gaming, the most cage-y and mesmerizing of all our lakes, tolerable for a night time dip beneath moon-glow. the best thing about miin giizis in anishinaabewaki—our universe—is sultry afternoons and tepid nights. bright stars and the milky way, perfume-y air, aggressive unexpected thunderstorms, calm showers, and lapping waves of life. all wet and rhythmic.
there are few blackflies and zagimeg to contend with.
flickering flames and sparks from fires built from driftwood along sandy shores. or, a modern day bonfire with friends and frenemies who may or may not end up as lovers.
the best miin giizis happens in the future: our cheeks burning from summer sun and sweat lingers on our skin from working hard all day in the woods picking berries. the best miin giizis happens in the future and involves a fire outside, boiled fish and raw veggies from a garden. mine. yours. ours. one of our ex’s. it involves a fresh cold glass of spring water offered:
eyes glinting in firelight, i get up and sit closer to you, “here. your lips are so chapped i can see the hurting from over there. take a sip.” you drink mokajiwaniibiish–water that springs up from the earth. spring water. tikeb. we are so far away from each other yet so close, so close we can smell the heat of the day between us. the longing. the fresh water lake. river water. fresh water dew falling from stars, from odjig anang making its way closer to us, helping us get ready for dagwaagi. i catch some water from your chin with a finger, drink the moisture from it. pour some of that nibi in the cup of my hand to take another drink, letting it spill over and run the remains of it along the side of your sun-kissed face, your neck, shoulder.
“i’m going in.”
“mmmm. come with me” i say as i get up and make my way around the fire. miin giizis, blueberry moon. so mature and giving. so hearty and sure. so slow and tasty. you think about the freshwater swirling between my thighs and what that might be like; my body buoyant, especially your favourite parts. us laughting. floating on the water watching the sparkling sky. splashing. growling. sighing.
“no, thanks. i’ll keep the fire going so it’ll be warm when you get out. i’ll go get you a towel, too.”
the best miin giizis will be the one when you watched me undress in the shade of trees and walk toward the lake until the fire glow could no longer cling to the most round parts of my body. when you watched me walk into moonlight and lapping lips of water. you looked away, added more wood to ishkode, looked up to see circling ripples on the lake and my toes goes under, wondered what the water felt like against all of my skin and through all of my hair. look back into the fire, smirked and thought,
berries are always a tease. they are the good kind though. the kind that leads up, grows into overwhelming swelling and deepening colour, then gives. ready berries hang there, ready. but you have to wait, you have to put your tobacco down, you have to know it’s not all about you and your want—that creation has so much more of a say if you are going to be able to harvest that amazing fruit or not. there needs to be enough sun and water; healthy soil. the bears and birds, insects need their part, too. they’re first in a feast, always. it’s just the anishinaabe way. you sing a song because you know you must. the spirits have to be acknowledged and honoured. you also have to know how to make a thing to harvest miinan in—a basket. a loving basket lined with sweet fern. makes a good cup of hot tea, too. the smell rubbed between palms. the smell. you have to want to make that basket with love and go over there and harvest those berries for you and the people. you have to want to. you have to be willing to put your tobacco down and speak your words: who are you? where are you from? what is your intent? are you grateful? you have to be willing to get down on your knees, crouch down real humble to see all the possibilities—or as many as possible. standing and only getting a few from where the easiest berries are to pick will not suffice. you need to be willing to take your time, get down, stretch your back and arms, look closely and carefully, lift up a branch or two to see, to get some perspective.
that’s what berries teach. to duck down, crouch, get close to the ground, be willing to work because the surprising ones are there, beneath the leaves, growing beautifully and healthy, away from everyone’s view. this is not a marriage proposal, a life-long thing. this is a moment of integrity between you and the berry: do you want it? who are you? where are you from? what is your intent? are you grateful, humble? do you see the life-force in that other person? are you good with creation?
these are all the things you think about as you make your way to get a towel from the clothesline and bring it back to the waterfront. blueberries. these are all the things you think about as you walk towards that fire that is raging now because you put some nice dry hardwood on there. picking berries. as you walk towards warm eyes emerging from the water. tasting them. fresh water ikawe. there. the air is warm but you want to have that towel ready anyway and you do have it ready as you meet me there just beyond the reach of firelight, right there in the cool light of Nokomis’s crescent, dark night, rippling water, and cool grass. i take the towel and seeing your eyes, wrap it around my shoulders, holding it open. you walk in, with everything berries teach.