Fruit of the Strawberry Tree

Strawberry Fruit TreeArbutus unedo, from the Latin Arbutus: struggle. Unedo: I eat only one.

Pliny the Elder (50 AD) said either:

“I struggle to eat only one,” or “if I eat more than one, I struggle.”

I wonder which it is…

Having sampled sparingly of its delicious ripe fruit from my garden yesterday, I believe there’s some truth to the folk wisdom that fortified wines made from the fruit of the Strawberry Tree may have hallucinogenic properties – although I’m told they do make wonderful preserves.  Certainly there’s a danger of toxicity when ingesting more than one or two of the bright red berries directly from the tree.

The answer to Pliny’s riddle may be: both.

Aristotle wisely advised moderation in all things.

My love’s an arbutus

My love’s an arbutus

By the borders of Lene,

So slender and shapely

In her girdle of green.

And I measure the pleasure

Of her eye’s sapphire sheen

By the blue skies that sparkle

Through the soft branching screen.


But though ruddy the berry

And snowy the flower

That brighten together

The arbutus bower,

Perfuming and blooming

Through sunshine and shower,

Give me her bright lips

And her laugh’s pearly dower.


Alas! fruit and blossom

Shall scatter the lea,

And Time’s jealous fingers

Dim your young charms, Machree.

But unranging, unchanging,

You’ll still cling to me,

Like the evergreen leaf

To the arbutus tree.

Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931), “My love’s an arbutus”

from Father O’Flynn and other Irish Lyrics, published 1880.


A Writer’s Morning Ritual

Firstly, I forgive myself for not writing during the fullness of Christmas festivities.

Guilt is wasted energy.

Let’s begin again…


Early Morning Chores

  • Make strong black tea with honey.
  • Feed the cat, family, guests.
  • Water the summer vegetable garden, wave to neighbours, and harvest lunch.
  • Register the day’s energies: Full Moon /Heat Wave – a great day for fiery writing!
  • Make notes of ideas that have already arisen for the novel.
  • Set up books to be read or referenced for the day ahead.
  • Respond warmly to Email from an Editor writing from the frozen north.

At the Writing Desk

Books and other items within reach, which I may put my hands on throughout the day:

  • Cloudstreet, Tim Winton
  • Rhythms of the Kimberley, Russell Guéhom, Tim Winton
  • New Legend, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre
  • The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (for the maps)
  • Lots of other maps, old and new
  • Old calendars
  • Mountains of research notes
  • New heart-shaped green pencil sharpener (from one of the Christmas crackers pictured here)
  • Pencils ready to be sharpened
  • Notebooks, both empty and full
  • A hobbled-together computer station
  • Cat asleep under foot on a sheep skin rug


Whether to keep Researching, Outlining or …

Forge ahead on that chapter that can’t wait to be written? (Today I will do all three.)


Need to see a Middle Eastern Recipe book. (This will never make it into the book, but I need to know the right spices.)


I already have a complete outline of the plot, but there’s much more work to do on characters and scenes.  I’ll forge ahead on this as the day allows.


A particular character from Chapter One, whose actions have been wordless until now, wants me to focus on the story from her Point of View.  Although I’ve already made a decision about POV, once this Chapter is written, I’ll know much more about whose POV is strongest for the telling of this story. It doesn’t hurt to remain open and flexible at this early stage of the draft. And holding this openness makes it easier for this character to forget her shyness, step forward and speak.

And so we begin…