Thursday, July 21, 2011
Berry Bramble Blessings
The berries of summer have always played a role in my life. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of our Grandpa and Grandma Wells taking my brother and sister and I out into the woods and pastures to gather the wild black raspberries that grew around their Morgan County home. I cherished the time with my Grandparents and the sound of the berries as they dinged and pinged, hitting the inside of the metal pails that we carried. There would be a certain change of mood in me when the berries stopped pinging and began thudding, landing on top of each other and filling up the inside of the pails. It made me feel very, very rich.
One of the tiny, little seeds that these berries are full of, and which keep some people from enjoying the fruits, must have lodged in my heart because I have been stalking the berry brambles ever since. There was a time when I could not resist gathering berries from every wild patch I could hunt down but now our own yard has become wild enough and full enough of berry bushes to keep me busy. On our little plot we tend domestic varieties of black, red and gold raspberries and also allow the wild, black raspberries room to roam.
One day in honor of the ones who started it all I took some berries to my Grandfather. He reminisced that in his day he couldn’t stop picking berries until his pails were full. This made me smile and I told him that I have always been the same way and perhaps the urge to forage the bramble is something I inherited from Grandma and him. We laughed together and complimented each other that we have good old-fashioned bramble-blood coursing through our veins. I was beginning to think that this was a dying trait and I was the last one to carry the bramble gene. My brother and sister do not uphold the tradition and my own daughters do not share my interest in gathering berries. Oh, they enjoy eating them in pancakes and with shortcake and in the jams, jellies, cobblers, tarts and pies we make from them but getting my daughters to help pick has always been worse than trying to get a cat to take a bath.
Now though, I am very happy to report there is hope; a seed has been planted in yet another heart. Perhaps it will sprout and bramble blood will live on. When his Mom drove into our driveway and saw our berry sign the other day she commented, “the berries are on” and Grandson got all excited. He clamored out of the car and exclaimed to me, “Lets go on a hike and pick berries!” I cannot tell you how much joy my heart felt at the animated look on his face and those words tumbling from his four-year-old mouth. We put on our boots and long pants, grabbed the pails and off we went!
Grandson comes up with a lot questions while we are out there harvesting berries. One time when a thorn scratched his arm he asked, “Why do berries have thorns?” I told him it is because some of the best things in life come with a price. Last winter we walked by the berry bushes and he wanted to pick berries. I explained to him that there is only fruit to pick in the summer and that the berry plants need their time to rest, just like we need to sleep at night. Then he asked me, “So, what do you do when there are not any berries?” I told him that we wait. We pick and can and freeze berries all summer so that we will have enough berries to last though the winter. Quite often I tell my Grandson that if he wants to grow big and strong he cannot live on junk food and sweets alone and one day while out in the berries he said “Berries are sweet, are they good for you, or no?” My reply to him was berries are very sweet and also very good for you and that is part of the magic of them.
I Give Him This
Soon enough, they will send him to sit within four walls,
to learn his alphabet, numbers and manners.
For today he is happy with me where the hillside looks down over the meadow and we see cows as they lazily graze on green grass and watch butterflies as they flutter here and there, on flowers.
Soon enough, the men will take him hunting, but for today, we follow our bliss and stalk only berries, him and I. We go into the bramble and stuff ourselves with red-ripe fruit, then laugh together at each other’s juice smeared faces.
Soon enough, the world will call him away and I will have to let him go. Still, I feel certain some part of him will always remember, a simple life of flowers, honeybees and berries, where a hillside overlooked a meadow.