Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fancy Picking

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you already know that there are many things that spell “summer” to me. Just like there are many others that spell winter, and fall and spring, too. But this note won’t be about tomatoes. Again. No. Not yet. It’ll be about raspberries, with apologies to my husband who hates them. I know! I don’t get it, either!

My sister and I spent every summer of our childhood in the mountains. We spent it picking mushrooms, wild strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and making hay. We lived on a family farm, and we worked hard, pricked our fingers in all sorts of thistles, fell off of picket fences, got picked on (literally) by sharp chicken beaks, fell in the cold mountain stream more than once, drank fresh spring water every day and at the end of every day, we collapsed in the hay stack, almost too tired to move, and definitely too tired to worry about the rats and the snakes we were sharing the bed with! It was amazing!

I wish for every summer second that her kids will grow to know at least one of the many miracles of life, the rewards of hard work and the beauty of nature that we savored as kids!

When I moved to the mountains myself, and I got a yard big enough to have a legitimate garden in, I had to have berry bushes in it, for the ol’ times’ sake! In our childhood summers, I remember how it was an adventure to pick the raspberries, mostly. For some reason, they were more treacherous to pick than anything else. They didn’t grow on the mountain, in the pastures, like all the other berries. They grew in the valley, along the train tracks. We had to climb on the train tracks, listen really closely, beyond the noise of the traffic close by, and of the mooing cows, for trains that might come by, and move out of the way in the bushes, if we heard them, and then start picking.

Raspberries always had one or two snakes hidden in them, for some reason, and unlike strawberries and mushrooms, they pricked us! So many hazards! Although I remember very vividly all of these hardships, the one memory that sticks out the most is the heavenly sweetness of our mountain fruits, the juiciness, and the little beads popping in our mouth. We were supposed to bring some of the harvest home, and we did. Some of it. Very little of it. But we ate so much of what we picked that our tummies hurt! And then we would lie to our hosts that some kid chased us and we fell and spilled the goods, therefore what we brought home was very puny.

My favorite memory is when my sister and I compared tongues, lips and hands! Whose were the reddest (when on raspberry picking) and whose were the bluest/ purplest (when picking blueberries). For some reason, she always won.

Nowadays, I have a raspberry bush in my yard, and two blueberry ones. I have cages around them, so they’ll grow tall and not drag on the ground or be broken by crazy desert winds. And I have nets over the raspberries, so that my crazy magpies won’t eat the fruit! I squat down on mulch when I pick them. I come home from work sometimes, and before I start watering the yard, I have a couple of handfuls of raspberries. I choke on them, I eat so many at a time. No hazard here: no snakes, no trains to dodge. The prickles are still there, poking at memories. I close my eyes, and I can feel her close to me. And I am transposed.

The fruit will never be as sweet as it’s not shared. The tongue is reddest now, but who cares?! Wish she were closer and I would gladly let her win! 

 Summer is here, for sure: my fancy, backyard garden, caged raspberries. Can you see the prickles?! And yes, I have eaten a couple!

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