Saturday, September 02, 2006

Lessons from the Blackberry Patch

The first time I picked blackberries, I was 8 months pregnant with my son. I'm not quite sure whatever possessed me to drive out to some remote location and gather berries-maybe it was nesting instinct, maybe I was bored. No matter-whatever it was, even though at the end I was tired, aching, and covered in scratches...I've gone every year since.

I have picked blackberries in four different communities in the span of 10 years. At first, when Kevin was little he'd come along. We had a huge empty lot just down the road, and he would sit and eat berries while I picked. Occasionally a large orange cat would pay us a visit, and Kevin would entice him to play. For 7 years, we picked berries in that community. It was home-until eventually John was laid off and we were forced to uproot.

At the time, we planned to move to the USA. One late summer day, after going to the beach with Kevin to pick berries, I wrote how I felt about leaving my home country. At the time I was sad, uncertain of what the future held, and scared. I didn't intend to do anything with it, I just wanted to capture that moment in time. I knew nothing about blogging, I didn't consider myself a writer, and planned to do...what? Maybe file it away and forget about it. The urge to describe what I was feeling was so strong that I just had to let it out lest I explode. So I wrote-and eventually, with the encouragement of a friend, I sent it to Canadian Living magazine. They liked it so much that the story was published in their August 2003 issue. That year we moved to a town 50 km away from our home, and I found blackberry bushes lining the school playing field across the street. I didn't mind the tiny townhouse and the unfamiliar faces. I had blackberries.

Today, three years later, I am still picking blackberries in the last weeks of August in yet another community. The roads here are lined with the bushes-sweet smelling and so heavy with fruit that you can literally hear the soft thump of a berry falling off every now and then. Bees, birds, and bears gorge themselves. Even my neighbor's dog picks the ripe berries off the branches that he can reach when his owner takes him for a walk. So much has changed since that first story-we didn't have to leave Canada after all, and Kevin is grown. He no longer likes to pick with me, but instead happily munches toast smeared with the rich jam that is the result of my labor. All the things that I wished for so desperately three years ago-new jobs, a home near the ocean, friends, good schools, and staying in Canada.... have come to pass. It's funny how through all the rough times, in the end things work out after all.

Not to mention that once again, there is an empty lot down the road-just brimming with blackberries.

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