It was spur-of-the-moment for me, but it had been in my daughter Christine’s mind for a week: berry picking.
On my walk one morning last week, I had seen wild blackberries by the side of the road. They weren’t the “normal” small, uncared-for wild berries. These looked as beautiful as the ones sold in grocery stores, although their bushes were clearly in a wild pattern. The berries’ large size was only surpassed by their taste – yum! – a great treat on my walk. I told Christine I would bring her there, and we would bake a pie.
I should know better than to tell a ten-year-old my thoughts without a plan in my calendar for the picking. She begged me daily to go.
We have been blessed with incessant guests at our lakehouse this summer, and I finally realized that I would need to take her even if the guests were present, or we would miss the ripe season altogether.
GG and Pop Pop (my parents) were the chosen participants, and we drove the car to the location, knowing the air conditioning for the 2-mile ride home would be priceless!
I am no stranger to wild blackberry picking. We had hundreds of bushes on our Michigan acreage a few years ago. There, I had dreamed of an invention of bee-keeper type gloves to repel the long, sharp thorns of blackberries, while being dainty enough to pick the soft, sweet berries without damage.
We arrived at the patch bare-handed and began picking with vigor. The bottom of the bowl was covered, and the berries made a different sound when they landed on berries instead of plastic. I could practically taste the pie.
As I tried to reach deeper into the patch, I accidentally slid down the slope, not sure how far it actually was going to take me through the tangled vines. I hoped I wouldn’t land on a snake as I fell! I stopped my fall by sitting on the ground, and thorns pierced my jeans. Oh well, I thought, while I am stopped, I can reach these berries underneath.
Every time I would reach for a berry, it seemed thorns came to life, grabbing my arm more forcefully the further I went into the bush.
I leaned in a little more, and they grabbed my exposed shins under my denim capris.
My dad came down the slope a little behind me, and I reached back to try to catch his fall, but the thorns seemed to notice my movement and make their crown on my head.
“You have a new hair piece!” my dad jested, as I tried to get what felt like an entire bush out of my hair. I looked into the bush and saw hundreds more berries…just a little out of reach from where I sat.
“Almost one inch of berries!” she enthusiastically reported.
Less than an inch!
It would take about four inches in the bowl to make a pie.
And the big berries seemed to be already gone. Why did I come!? I don’t have the right clothing for this! This is not worth the effort! A $4 basket of blueberries at the Farmers’ Market sounds better right now, or I could hit the freezer section of the grocery store for an already-made pie!
The worst part is, my thoughts continued, most of these thorn cuts don’t really show up until tomorrow in the shower – when they burn like the dickens! And itch all day!
I looked at my dad, and his four-score-old skin wasn’t handling the thorns either, as blood from his wrist trickled onto his white t-shirt, and wicked in the wetness of his sweat. He continued picking, presumably unaware.
Christine proudly carried the bowl from where she had been working, into our neck of the woods, swiftly sliding down the path, disconnecting the thorns as she said with excitement, “What a great idea! God gave us shade here!”
It wasn’t until that moment that I even noticed that I was no longer in the scorching, North Carolina July sun.
Thank You, God.
Thank You, God for the shade, and thank You for the reminder that in the midst of thorns, there is always something for which to say thank You.
And of course, I thanked Him for my daughter’s bright spirit and ability to bring light (and shade!) onto subjects every day.
We made the pie, and enjoyed the making of it. It tasted better than any store-bought berries, or freezer pie could have tasted, because it had the three-generations’ touches for ingredients. Memories matter. (I suppose the light (or shade) in which we view the memories matters as much as the memories themselves!)
May you discipline yourself to notice the shade more than thorns in life.
Matthew 13:7-9: [Jesus said] “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Isaiah 4:6: “And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.”