Here in the Pacific Northwest, wild blackberries grow like weeds. In fact, they are weeds. Just try getting rid of a patch and you’ll find that it’s no easy feat. The plants line roadways and forest paths. In August, the berries grow large and deep purple, and it’s common to see people out with their buckets in parks and along the roadside picking berries.
I flatter myself, but I feel that I am a blackberry picker of considerable skill. And make no mistake, there is skill involved. The bushes have large, barbed thorns. If you aren’t careful, you can get badly scratched up. As a child, I got my finger caught on a thorn that I couldn’t get out. Not. Fun. There is an art to blackberry picking. As I perfected it, I have learned some life lessons.
Blackberries on the roadside in Birch Bay, Washington
Blackberry picking has taught me never to pay grocery store prices for something that grows wild, free and abundant. Why would I pay for flavourless, days-old berries, when I can pick and eat them fresh not 2 blocks from my door? And yet, blackberry picking has also taught me that you can’t get something for nothing. While I don’t have to pay to pick, I do have to invest effort and risk danger.
Blackberries on the vine
Blackberry picking has honed my eye, until I have become very adept at spotting the best berries in a tangle of thorns and leaves. It has taught me to look where other people don’t – down low and up high and in hard-to-reach places. And it has taught me to think ahead by dressing for the task and planning my approach. While a few scratches are par for the course in berry-picking, there’s no need to deliberately court them.
The reward – a bucket of berries
At least once on every outing I find myself snagged on some vines and stuck. And when that happens, I’ve learned how to get myself out with minimal damage. Blackberries have taught me to be slow and deliberate. They have taught me, above all, not to panic. And they have taught me that a little bit of risk is worth the reward.
A jar of homemade jam, so that I can enjoy blackberries all year long
Blackberries reinforce life’s transience. Blackberry season lasts a few weeks at most, and then it’s over. There’s no dilly-dallying if you want to enjoy your share. And when you have a bucket full of berries, you need to act fast because they won’t be that good for long. Make hay while the sun shines, and all that jazz, or your harvest will spoil before you can enjoy it.
Me being me, of course I had to make blackberry ice cream
I love picking wild berries. It feels like a part of my heritage, a piece of my childhood. I feel confident and at ease in a way that I don’t feel when I’m inside working on a computer. I love it. I hope that one day my children, too, will feel that way. That they will learn their own lessons from the blackberries.
Do you ever pick your own berries? What sorts of things have you learned in the process?