When I was a child my dad was on the road all week, so during late summer holiday weekdays mum and I would often take our bikes into the nearby countryside to pick wild blackberries.
Blackberries were everywhere and so were pickers, so we often had to search awhile away from town to find unpicked bushes, but when we did it didn’t take long to fill our bags, even though we also filled our dyed mouths with the mellifluous, ripe fruit. Then covered in sunburn, scratches and blackberry juice we cycled home, sore and weary, but triumphant.
The weight of our berry bags and our tired legs occasionally resulted in spills, as in one afternoon, both unbalanced and a little dizzy from a glass of cider at the village pub, I cycled too close to mum’s bike and we both went over in a tangled mess of squashed and spilled berries and flailing limbs. Sitting askew on the roadside after the initial shock, we looked at each other and at our new but innocuous wounds and burst into juicy laughter that rose up through the branches of ancient oaks and dispersed amongst the patches of blue sky above us.
The berries from these outings ended up in blackberry pies eaten with clotted cream at weekends, when dad was home, and in homemade jam that lasted us for many months– the jars and fruit radiating summer sun during the bleak, damp, grey days of our English winter.
August by Mary Oliver
When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend
all day among the high
my ripped arms, thinking of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
Image Credits: All from Google Images. Final image: Blackberries in Basket painting by August Laux.
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