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, fruit-laden thicket.

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 not.

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!

David Coker is an Evansville free-lance writer.  His email address is oldcars55@aol.com