Tag Archives: blackberries

This Moment…

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Yesterday afternoon, I took the dogs down to my Grandpa’s wood lot, so that I could gather blackberries. It’s the end of the season, and the bushes are pretty bare. Many of the berries are hard, dry and seedy, or show signs of having been nibbled on. I walked a mile to gather a meager half cup of fruit where a month ago I could have filled my bucket standing in one place. That’s okay; I don’t mind working for the last fresh berries of the year.

A month ago, yesterday’s weather would have been frowned on, too. It was damp and cool; the sun didn’t show itself until mid-afternoon, and even then it was hazy. Not good, compared to the beautiful warm days of summer. Compared to the weather that’s coming in the next few months, it was a treasure of a day.

I am making an effort to be more appreciative.

It’s easy to get caught up in the past. Not only this summer, now gone, but other summers and other years. The older I get, the more “past” there is to dwell on. I tend to be sentimental, leaning toward maudlin.  Memories and cherished moments of when I was young…or of when my daughters were babies…or when my grandchildren were babies…can fill whole days, if I let them. A simple act of pulling out an old address book or decorating for an upcoming holiday can send me into a tailspin of reminiscences. Sadly, loved ones that have died seem to occupy my thoughts more now than when they were alive. We engage in frequent conversations, in my mind.

The future is always looming, too, in my mind and on my schedule. I run through what I have to do in the next few minutes and in the next hour. I have lists of what I want to accomplish in this day, this week, this month…this life. There are places to go and books to read, subjects to write about, things to make and things to do. The plans are never-ending. If I get a week’s vacation…when I get caught up on this project…if I win a million dollars…one thing always leads to another.

I could be out on a sunny day for a nice walk with my big dog, beauty all around me, and my thoughts will be on what I need to do as soon as I get home…or on something that happened twenty-five years ago. I’m working on it. I have started a [tiny] meditation practice. I give myself five minutes, first thing in the morning. No plans, no memories, just be present. When a thought arises, I just send it on its way. It’s amazing how long five minutes can be! If I could live more in the moment, would all time seem to expand in that way?

I don’t know. I know that yesterday, in the chill fall air, gathering blackberries in the woods while the dogs rolled in the grass, that present moment was all that I wanted.

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Riding on Cardboard

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It starts with one thing. One bit of neglect. It balloons from there.

Last weekend, I took the dogs for a nice ride down to Fox Lake so they could have a swim, and then to the woods so I could pick blackberries. When we ride in the car, I put the windows down. Darla gets the passenger seat; Rosa sits on my lap. We notice squirrels and chipmunks. Sometimes I sing. We had a good day.

Last weekend, for some unknown reason, I neglected to close the car windows when we got home. I don’t understand it; that’s not like me at all. I close the windows to keep out rain or snow or ice, but also flies, mosquitoes, chipmunks, snakes, raccoons…with a house in the woods, an open window is not a good idea.

So, that was the first thing.

Then, I forgot I hadn’t closed the windows. Maybe I never even realized I had left them open. In any case, when the rain started, I did not go running out to close them. It rained all night…and for a good portion of the next day.

In the afternoon of the following day, I had to run to town to do an interview. I had endured the accusatory looks and sad eyes of my dogs. I had given them each their treat, a scratch behind the ears, a pat on the head and the instructions, “Take good care of things!” I grabbed my bag, my notebook and camera, and skittered out the door.

There was my car, windows down. The door were wet; the grooved handles were filled with water. The seats were soaked. I couldn’t go back inside for towels or plastic. That would involve – after a joyous tail-wagging greeting – going through the entire sad eyes, treat, scratch, pat and “Take good care of things,” again. I didn’t have time!

In the back seat I had a cardboard box filled with canning jars that I’d been forgetting to bring to Aunt Katie. I took the jars out, flattened the box, and used it to cover my seat. On to the appointment, no problem. Since then, when the sun was out, I would deliberately leave the windows down to help dry things out. Honestly, the upholstery is soaked through!

Yesterday morning, without a thought, I loaded the trash and recyclables into the car, in hopes that I’d have time on my lunch hour to deliver them to the transfer station. I didn’t. When I got in the car to go home, I had about two hundred houseflies sharing the front seat with me! They had easily wandered in through the open windows, lured by the scent of my garbage. Ugh!

So, windows down…back seat full of trash…canning jars rolling around on the floor…my arms waving to shoo the insects outside…while sliding around on a flattened cardboard box…that was my only protection from the wet seat…I wrenched my back. I had to practically crawl from my damp, bug-infested car when I got home!

I spent last night alternating between hot compresses and ice packs. This morning I’m moving slowly, but thankful to be moving at all, and thinking about the importance of every little decision I make.

 

Another Day

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Another Monday, another week beginning.

Yesterday, I wouldn’t have counted on it. Disaster seemed to be waiting around every corner. Life seemed dangerous.

In the morning, as Darla and I walked down the Fox Lake Road, the cars (two) that we encountered seemed especially large and powerful as I walked in their path to retrieve my big dog from the middle of the road where she stubbornly insists on walking. The drivers appeared less forgiving than usual. Even little Rosa Parks – having forgotten, by the time we got back, that it was her own decision to stay home – took on a grumpy attitude about not being included in the walk.

At the hardware store, I continued my work in the paint aisle. I was climbing up and down ladders with heavy gallons of paint for five hours. Between stepping too high on a short ladder, leaning too far from the heights of the tall ladder or stepping down before I reached the bottom rung, an accident seemed imminent. After my helper left for the day, I courted catastrophe with every misstep. After running through several possible scenarios in my mind – all of which ended with my broken body not being discovered until the store opened Monday morning – I decided to call it a day.

Home, the dogs and I made the rounds to pick blackberries. After recent rains, the bushes are loaded. I especially like the canes that grow tall in the middle of wild juniper bushes…even if getting them is a guarantee of scrapes and scratches, and a risk of a turned ankle, or worse. The juniper branches grow horizontally and form an impenetrable snarl at ground level. To get to the berries, it’s necessary to walk on the springy branches, with nothing much to hold on to for balance or support. I was thinking of how a broken leg would alter my day-to-day existence as I pushed on to scale the rickety slab wood fence, to get to the bushes behind it. I gathered four cups of berries, safe and sound.

Later, as I was trying to go to sleep, I was plagued, as usual, with thoughts of unfinished tasks, and all the things I have to do. My worries were interrupted by other concerns. I became overly aware of my breathing (too slow? too shallow? is that a rattle in my chest?), my heartbeat (too quick?), every single ache (thrombosis? aneurysm? cancer?), and a sudden piercing pain in my head (am I having a stroke?). I filled my time until sleep came by plotting my funeral.

At five AM, I got up to take the little dog outside. Coming back in, I slid the door closed with – somehow – two of my fingers in the way. Ouch!! It was really painful! It still is! Both fingers are bruised; I may lose a nail. Was that the disaster that seemed to be waiting for me all day yesterday? If so, I’m glad to have it out of the way!

And here is Monday, another day.

Time to Write; Time to Pause

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I write just about every single day. Letters, often, though brief Emails outweigh traditional correspondence these days. Sometimes it’s editorial content or news items. Often it is editing and minor “re-writes.” None of it is as satisfying as the totally self-indulgent writing I do here. I can tell when it’s time to sit down and write something. As I go through my daily activities, if I am hankering to write, I find myself composing sentences in my head. Rather than just experiencing, I convert it to the written word.

“Two spotted fawns, with their mother, raised their heads to greet me as I drove past them on the Fox Lake Road.”

“Are the squirrels exhibiting bravery when they – at the last possible moment – dash in front of my car…or is it something darker?”

“A planned day off, filled to capacity with things I needed to accomplish, turned into another day at work, and my long list had to be saved for another day.”

This morning, as I sliced, with my fork, into a piece of french toast, I noticed the pat of melting butter looked like a large eye, and the cut I had made was a mouth.

“A mottled gnome snarled up at me from my breakfast plate this morning…”

I knew it was time to write.

Yesterday, plans had to be put on hold to attend to my paying job. Our summer help is gone. Though business has slacked off, as usual, after Labor Day, we are still short-handed on many days. I went in to work because it was necessary, not because I had nothing better to do.

I was feeling the pressure by the time I got home. With all of my long list of jobs being delayed (which means they are all now crowded in to this one day), and a dinner engagement last evening, my first inclination was to dive in head first, and try to make some progress. I had about an hour before I had to leave.

For the Beacon, I could pull up that one article and begin editing, or send off those obituaries; I could return a couple phone calls and respond to some Emails; I could begin my piece for the next issue, plot out the questions for an interview or write up the article on advertising; I could work on billing for the classified ads or the vendors; I could begin filling out subscription reminders. Too much!

I could rush out to Aunt Katie’s, to try to get her floors vacuumed, swept and mopped before dinnertime. Not enough time.

I could tackle a few jobs that are on my list here, but that list is long, too. Laundry, clean the bathroom, shake the rugs and sweep the floors, clean windows and scour sinks. Outside, the raspberries need to be pruned and the back yard needs mowing…and that is just the bare necessities.

The little dog reminded me that she’d been neglected for another long day, and would like to go outside.

What I needed was a pause.

We headed out to the fields that surround my yard.

My only goal was to pick one hundred blackberries. Of course I would count…I count dishes when I wash them and towels as I fold them…but I had no other plans. I did not bring the bucket, to collect them for pie or for the freezer. I didn’t even bring the small bowl, to save them for a midnight treat with milk and sugar. It was only later that I brought the camera out to photograph them. Pick them; eat them: that was my plan.

It developed into something a little more, in that hour I gave myself. I noticed the sunshine, and the play of the shadows. I breathed in the fresh air, and noted a hint of autumn in the breeze. I tasted every berry as I ate them, one by one: some fully ripe with winy sweetness, others bright and tangy on my tongue. Now and then, one for the little dog, who wagged along beside me.

When I got to twenty berries, it seemed their season was almost done, and I’d never find one-hundred. I crossed the yard to the north side, where wild blueberries and blackberries enjoy the shelter of the old maple trees. At fifty-one, I climbed the fence into the old horse enclosure, to get the big berries in there. At seventy-four, back into my own yard. At eight-five, I thought I was done, until I turned and saw what the bright sun had hidden from view. At one hundred and six berries, I decided I was not dressed to force my way into the center of the wild junipers, to get to the vines that grow there.

I spent the last five minutes just sitting…in the grass…with my dog…and felt that it was a perfect conclusion to one of the best hours I’ve had in a long time!

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Dancing on the Lawn of What’s Left of Summer

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That title is not my own.

It’s a line – I think from a poem – by a writer whose name I should know but don’t.

I think I have an idea where I could find that information, but I don’t dare go looking for it.

If one more single thing distracts me from the task at hand, I may as well throw in the towel.

Trust me…it’s not my line.

I came home from my short day of work today with the very best of intentions.  With the next three days to get caught up on everything, I was determined to give it a good go.

I brought a wall clock home from the hardware store, to fill the blank space on the kitchen wall where a clock used to be, and that I look at a dozen times every day, expecting to still see a clock there. It wasn’t as nice as the one I’d had or the one I wanted as a replacement, but it would serve the purpose.

It turns out, it takes almost an act of Congress to get through the packaging on that ten dollar clock!

First the hard plastic, impenetrable clam shell…and where did I put the scissors? Then two Phillips-head screws had to be removed to detach the clock from the display box.

I spent a half-hour looking for a Phillips head screwdriver before digging my electric drill out of the closet – which needed to be charged before it would work – and finally used a table knife to loosen the screws and release my new clock.

By that time, neither I nor the dogs wanted to be in the house any longer, so we headed down the road.

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We’ve had several days of wind and rain, with an autumn-like chill in the air…but when did the season change?

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By the time we got home, I was sure we were facing frost.

Tonight!

I grabbed a bucket, and picked whatever blackberries were ready for picking. I gathered every green bean,  pepper and summer squash that was out there. I picked all the red tomatoes, then all the nearly-red tomatoes, then any that – if I get terribly lucky – just might ripen on a window sill.

With the day’s vegetable harvest, I started a pasta sauce.

I also began writing the first of four reports I have to complete over the next couple days.

Because I’m crazy, I also started rearranging the living room furniture.

And a few other incidentals.

So, with the dogs attentive to all the goings-on, coffee brewing, laundry in the washing machine, compost to the bin, sauce simmering, paperwork in progress and – no kidding – the sofa halfway into the dining room, I happened to look outside and notice the marigolds.

Four nice marigold plants, blooming exactly where I’d planted them, on the corners of the beds near the beans, pumpkins and tomatoes. There they stood, ready to repel whatever pests their scent is supposed to repel, or suppress whatever blight in the soil they are supposed to suppress.

Working.

Not knowing that – if we get frost tonight – this is the last day of their lives.

I grabbed the scissors from where I’d used them to wrestle the clock’s packaging into submission, and headed out the door.

Sensing excitement, the big dog came, too.

Detecting a hint of Italian sausage in my mostly vegetable sauce, the little dog opted to stay in and guard the stove.

I cut every bloom.

I snipped all the buds. They may open, yet, inside.

A bit past your prime? Don’t worry! Come hang out with the young ones!

A little raggedy or crooked? No problem! Come and join the party; there are no rejects here!

We’re having end-of-the-summer spaghetti and sauce, and my marigold friends are the stars of the show!

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