With autumn grayness dampening its visual beauty, I use taste to deepen my connection with this mountain meadow. Unlike the bear, wolf, and deer, who need to pack on pounds before winter drives their food underground, I can spend time and energy looking for berries on bushes past their prime that may only yield up a handful of fruit. Aki would rather stay on the trail with its promise of other dog encounters but follows me onto the wet muskeg.
Even though it takes a half an hour to gather twenty blue berries, I pop handfuls of them into my mouth; taste a tart confusion of flavors—a muddy mix of tannic and sour with a lingering sweetness. Another half hour of pick and wander refills my hand. I eat these berries one at a time after feeding a soft one to Aki. She doesn’t ask for another. Some have the sourness of died-back grass. Others produce an explosion of the tannic moisture that gives “muskeg” its name. One berry tastes like sugar in a bowl and I wonder if it grew next to the sweet smelling bog candle orchid that still manages to flash a little beauty on this sea of fading beauty.