I naturally think of the world in terms of metaphors, and blackberry season is a thread that’s wound all through my adult life. Twenty years ago, we moved into our house – essentially a hunting camp then – on a clay-soil Vermont hillside with little else of human life around. On a woods road behind the house, I discovered a blackberry thicket. I see my younger self, picking alone in those brambles, wearing an old red t-shirt and darted at by hummingbirds, afraid of the bears who had clearly enjoyed their share of the wild harvest.
My daughters and I easily picked a quart last evening of exceptionally sweet and juicy berries. Some years, the berries are seedy and hard; some years, the vines are nearly absent of fruit; others, like this one, go on and on for weeks, delicious, wild, there for the gathering.
One year, I pulled a long thorn from my young daughter’s sandal. Her tiny heel released a single drop of crimson blood. Through all these seasons, here’s been the berries, various as our own family dynamics – generous or bitter, depending on the season – but invariably returning. Isn’t that metaphor enough?
Here’s a Galway Kinnell one-liner:
I love to go out in late September among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries to eat blackberries for breakfast, the stalks very prickly, a penalty they earn for knowing the black art of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries fall almost unbidden to my tongue, as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words like strengths or squinched, many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps, which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well in the silent, startled, icy, black language of blackberry – eating in late September.