My neighbors Hugh and Gary were recently out of town, and gave us permission to pick raspberries from the bushes around their home. They’re called canes, and they actually have thorns, so you have to pick with care.
Or you could just eat them as you plucked them. Save a few for one more serving at home.
The best intentions in the world cannot transform a half-pint of berries (because you ate as many as you saved) into a pie. So you might as well just finish them off.
Maybe you think I have lazy afternoons to stroll around, picking berries. Hah. Three of us ventured among the raspberry canes, plucking and slurping, on a late weekend afternoon, between chores and errands, because the enticement was too great not to go. And we didn’t want the offer to go to waste.
And yes, we each wanted an excuse to linger in the golden light and green boughs for a brief part of the day. To escape from the dirty, messy, sweaty tasks that had driven all of us earlier in the day … to remember that it’s summer, that life is bursting to be discovered and savored, and this was our chance.
Berries like this have a short time in the sun and the summer. Weeks, maybe. Birds and mammals will feast on them. We must compete for their juicy burst on our tongues.
The best ones hide, tucked beneath the dappled shade of overlapping leaves, among the thorns and daggers, so that you have to bend, cock you head to one side, and maybe even double over to peer from another angle, then reach thoughtfully through the gauntlet of “prickers” (as we used to call them when we were kids) before you discover the best cluster of ripe ones.
There’s a specific sensory memory I have, brought to “living color” with the scent of the ripe berries, and the sensation of the summer sun hot on my shoulders as I reach among the branches and leaves, into the purple-blue shadows, to find the sun-kissed promise of berries awaiting my tentative fingertips. I did this as a child.
And my mother always promised to make a pie, if I picked enough. But I never did. I nibbled. I sampled. I slurped and snacked. I brought home enough for a small bowl with a little milk … because that’s how we ate them, back then. Never enough for a pie.
Now? I’d eat them with oatmeal, or topping some of Meryl’s homemade ice cream. And I would taste my own long-outgrown childhood, and realize that some of life’s pleasures continue even into our later adult decades.
This week, my friend Meryl hiked up the hill while I kept her daughter company. She returned with enough blackberries to make a bursting-at-the-lattice-crust-seams pie. You can see some of the remains here …because it didn’t last too long, once it came out of the oven.
Childhood. Adulthood. Berry-picking. Some parts of summer, fleeting as they are, give us back the magic of life.