Thursday, September 06, 2007

Home is Where the Blackberries Are

A late summer, early fall tradition in our household is to pick blackberries. It started by accident, really-I was 7 months pregnant with Jake and had a craving for home made blackberry jam, so I waddled out to the nearest overgrown empty lot and picked until my feet ached and I was covered in scratches.

I then vowed I'd never do it again. Silly me. I have been picking blackberries every year since.

In Campbell River, we had an empty lot down the road from us and I would wander down there with preschooler Jake toddling behind, who would only eat the berries between visiting with the neighbor's cat. I'd find him sitting on a mound of grass, hands and face stained completely purple, whispering to the cat as it licked the sticky residue off his tiny fingers.

Then we discovered some nice bushes by the beach-and what could be better? Blackberry picking with the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, where the wind discouraged the spiders from taking up residence and the bees stayed away. I was so inspired by this spot, and so sad that we'd be moving from it, that I went home and wrote about it before sending it off to Canadian Living magazine. Jake was seven. I remember him frolicking on the beach, without a care in the world, and it was so beautiful that I wanted to preserve it in my memory for ever.

That very first piece I had ever sent to any magazine, about my love of blackberries, was published the next fall.

We did move, and not to California as we had thought would happen, but to another nearby Vancouver Island town. More blackberries-but this time we were picking at the school across the street. I may not have liked the education that building gave my child, but I loved the berries the grounds provided.

Time went on and Hubs finished university, and again we were struck with uncertainty and were moving to wherever he found work. Would it be Texas? Oregon? Manitoba? Nope.

Again it was a small coastal town, another place next to the ocean, and more blackberries down the street. More blackberries then I ever could have imagined. Here they grow wild; taking over any empty spaces and filling ditches, backyards, and empty lots with their thorny arms. Jake and I have picked many times this week-filling plastic tub after tub with the soft, ripe fruit; our hands stained purple and our limbs scratched from the thorns. Pies, muffins, and jam have filled the kitchen counters and we've carefully stocked the freezer with bag after bag of plump, purple berries for winter.

For me, blackberries aren't just a sign of fall.
They mean that I'm at home.

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