A few weeks ago while weeding the
garden that Dixie Wagner and I have been attending this summer,
I peered out over an open field of grass to see the bank of the dam of
her lake oddly changing colors. Instead of the usual greens and
tans of summer grasses, the rise in the property appeared a bright red.
As the two of us walked toward
this area, it occurred to us just what it was -- the entire dam of the
lake was literally covered with blackberry briars! Dixie claimed
this was highly unusual, in the last year, part of the dam caught fire,
and later, much of it was weed-whacked down to grade level, obliterating
all the vegetation on the dam.
I found an old metal pan in a
nearby garage and, armed with the Wagner's weed eater, proceeded to cut
a path through the tall grasses so that I could get to this enormous,
Picking blackberries is an
acquired pastime -- one which came to me many years ago when we used to
visit my Aunt Lois and Uncle Don Duren on their farm near Elberfeld,
Ind. It requires some care and provisions -- long-sleeved shirts
and pants are usually called for to fend off the painfully abundant
thorns, and insect repellent may also be used.
Once in the briars, one can get
lost in a solitary world of natural splendor. Amid the blue skies and
puffy, white clouds, one could hear the beautiful arpeggios of songbirds
perched in nearby trees -- chasing one another through the towering
branches of the nearby woods.
The chirps and croaks of frogs and
crickets around the perimeter of the lake provided a pleasing
counterpoint to the sporadic cacophony of the songbirds above them.
Covered with duckweed, a pair of
fishermen come to take a few panfish in the afternoon sun.
Picking on the perimeter of the
briars is quite simple and pain-free -- the small black morsels pop out
at you amid literally thousands of red ones which are not yet ripe.
Proceeding further into the patch,
however, it is difficult to emerge without at least a few scratches on
your arms if you really want to get to the big berries that are
undisturbed by nearby wildlife.
The berries appear in several ways
-- sometimes one or two on a branch and other times in clusters of eight
or nine on a small twig you can pull off as a group. As time
passes, the pan becomes full and one ponders the work to come in
cleaning and placing the berries in plastic freezer bags.
In the warm, afternoon sun, I
noticed that my arms began to perspire.
As the sun's rays were temporarily
blocked by some passing clouds, a soft breeze felt cool against the skin
for a few fleeting seconds. I was reminded of a woman at a
strawberry U-pick stand -- "This ain't Super Wal-Mart!" and indeed it is
Dixie told me of a touching
experience recently. After a busy day fraught with apprehension,
she witnessed a deer that peered out of the woods to watch her for a
minute as she looked over the lakeside.
She sensed the calming, spiritual
presence of a loved one and for a moment pondered fond memories of her
mother and father who owned the property many years ago.
In a day and time of drive-through
restaurants and mega-grocery store complexes, we, for the most part,
have become a culture very detached from where and how our food sources
become a reality.
But there remains a small number
of us who perpetuate the annual rituals of planting, weeding and tending
to our gardens -- centuries-old riturals of basic survival that coincide
with the seasonal rhythms of the natural creation upon which we reside.
Now, if I can just coax somebody
into making some homemade ice cream to go along with the cobbler, we
will be all set!