I believe in picking blackberries and no, I’m not referring to the small handheld device that has invaded the working professional’s life, myself included. I’m talking about the kind of blackberry that grows on a vine. It may sound trivial, but it is a connection I have with my family and it is how I was taught perseverance in an era of instant gratification by picking blackberries. Everybody should pick wild berries at least once in their life. This I believe.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, our summers were relatively brief, but they were glorious. Around Seattle, it stays light out until nearly 10:00 at night. This makes up somewhat for never seeing the sun, or more appropriately, the light of day, during rainy working hours the rest of the year. It is this unique Pacific Norwest weather that helps the blackberry grows so well.
As I reached my teen years and my taste buds began to mature, my grandmother, Helen Barry, the daughter of Norwegian parents who immigrated to Poulsbo, Washington taught me the secrets of the wild blackberry. The wild blackberry is packed with flavor and a wild blackberry pie was one of the best things on earth she said. Grandma explained that the true wild blackberry has tiny vines, often smaller in diameter than a drinking straw. They were hard to find, but we would spend hours together talking and scouring grass and vine covered ditches by the side of the road in our quest for the tiny berry. The delicate berries we were hunting were usually smaller than marbles. Because they were small and scarce, it would often take us most of the summer to find the vines and pick the several cups required to make a single wild blackberry pie.
We could easily have picked enough of the bigger blackberries in a day to make a pie, but searching down the country lane by the family summer house for the true wild blackberry took work; and patience; and perseverance. These are traits that not every teenage boy has in abundant quantities. I equate the care and selection of wild blackberry to the Pinot Noir grape monologue spoken by Paul Giamatti in the movie “Sideways”. The wild blackberry was difficult to locate.
Grandma taught me that the anticipation of waiting all summer to gather enough berries to make a hot, fresh wild blackberry pie made it taste so much better than one we could have bought at the store. It really taught me that the journey is often just as worthwhile as the destination. When I think of my grandmother who has since passed away, I’ll always remember our special time searching for and picking enough wild blackberries to make our triumphant end-of-summer pie. Spending time with a special grandparent is one of the best memories a child can have. Picking blackberries brought my family closer together. Everyone should pick wild berries at least once in their life. This I believe.
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