It is blackberry season in this dragonfly summer.
As clichéd as it will sound, there is indeed an art to blackberry picking. You learn to spot the ones that are the richest purple. But the true test is in the feel of the berry. You learn to know them by touch. The perfect berry has no firmness; there is a supple feel that with too much pressure would squash the fruit. You gently pull towards you, and at its apex of perfection, a blackberry will simply surrender itself to you, practically falling off the stem. One that hangs on and needs to be plucked off, on closer inspection, will usually have a spot of red still on them. The perfect berry though, you look at and each drupelet is ready to burst with the juice pressing against the skin.
And then there are the thorns, which provide a worthy opponent and a thrill to this hunt. You spy a blackberry in the midst of the bush, out of reach, and there is a constant mental weighing of sweet juiciness vs. injury inflicted to self. Often the sweet juiciness will win out. So you wade into the bush, stepping high, feeling the thorns beginning to press in through your jeans. Then a branch catches on your shirt, but still you press on, you are only inches away from grasping that elusive holy grail of a berry. The sun glints off it, beckoning to you. The thorns press into your side. You reach it! Pleasure spiked with pain.
I realize I am romanticizing all of this. I don’t care. Blackberries are a romance, a grand romantic gesture from God to us. A sensual love letter in green, red, and purple.
I look up and see a little boy running across a shady stretch of the field, bouncing up and down across the grass. I am joined by my son, and kept company by Gus’ running commentary of any and every thought that crosses his mind. We continue our quest, venturing into secret coves, while I often wonder if I’ve actually stepped on this particular patch of earth.
And then I turn around a bend and, across the field, see my wife and son together, engrossed in their search. It is a beautiful sight. My shadow almost stretches all the way to them, though they are 100 meters ahead of me.
The dragonflies perch on leaves, perfectly still with their resplendent wings open to receive your admiration. They stay frozen there, as if they too grow on the branch. Hundreds of red berries are left behind to wait and ripen. The promise of things to come. On our next visit.