I've been thinking about blackberry canes today because they were mentioned in a book I'm reading, because friends are spending the summer in Seattle and sharing pictures, because I'm an empty-nester and sometimes memories take me by surprise and spend the whole day hanging out.
Blackberries grow wild along the road and at the edges of the woods in Washington State. Raspberries too, but blackberries are more pervasive. They start in late spring, long, spiny shoots, poking up from the ground and sprouting up taller than people. They lived along the wild edges of our apartment complex in Renton, where we lived when my daughter Madison was small. They spring up like miracles every season, and after I realized that, about two years in, I was obligated to take my daughter Madison out each summer, to pick them. I picked them for pies mostly, but we ate a lot too. We'd stand out there along the entryway to the complex, back in the grasses and bees and mosquitoes, at the edge of the wood where the canes grew the best, and we'd pick berries. Madison would wear here overalls, where she liked to stick rocks and apple slices and in this case, blackberries, in her pockets. I would take a bucket and she would take a little bowl. It was a little tupper wear bowl like my mom used to have for us when we were little, which I'm not sure how I came to have. I probably got it from my mom on a trip down to see her. She was always putting leftovers into little bowls to send home with us when we left her house in Mississippi. So Madison carried her little bowl and wore her overalls, and I carried a bucket, and together we walked the rows of blackberry canes along the edges of the apartment property.
I would try and gather enough blackberries for a pie, and she would gather enough to fill her bowl and then she'd eat them all and borrow some of mine for inspiration to begin filling her bowl again. And that was how it went, that tiny person and her little bowl with her curly hair turning bright copper around the edges in the summer.
It was such a little thing, a mom and a daughter out picking blackberries, such an inconsequential thing, and yet every time I eat blackberries now at 48 even, with my daughter grown up and moved off to explore the world, I think about those summers where we walked together among the spiny blackberry canes looking for just the right shade of black/purple, waiting for just the right time for picking them.
There's no way to even say it and make it come out right, except that this one perfect (those many perfect) blackberry moments move so quickly and are gone in a hurry–like Madison's harvested blackberries, picked and eaten. They don't come round again.
I think of those early moments I most remember. Taking the long trek up to the park on the hillside, picking blackberries, taking the bus to the art museum in Seattle, and all the art on the long ride into town, the walls of murals, the countless fountain stops (Madison loved water fountains more than anything). Those things we take for granted because it seems to take so long going through it. They don't come again. They come once and are precious.
I've been thinking on this today, every since I read the line about the blackberry canes, about the impermanence of everything, except for love. That is permanent. The seasons pass, each year's blackberry canes overgrow and eventually end with a good frost. We're born, we live, we die. But we have these years in between with the most lovely moments. Please don't fail to live them well.