I went to Northern California recently on a business trip. I got too much done. Meetings, work sessions, proposals, emails, conference calls, and a few very memorable dinners. Four cities in just as many days. Before returning to San Francisco, I stayed with a friend in a small town up north. One sunny morning I decided to explore the area, so I asked her what there is to do. Knowing me, she told me there’s a nice walking trail. I could walk there or drive. Well that was a no-brainer, of course I’d walk.
But I got thrown totally off track. What I expected to be a calm, relaxing, reflective stroll beneath California oaks, turned into a passionate, ecstatic, breathless plunge into excesses the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in years. It took my breath away, melted all self-control, and spun my world halfway round.
Oh, shame on you for thinking naughty thoughts. It wasn’t the Adonis of the Litoral I encountered on the path (sorry gals… !) It was an unassuming blackberry sprig. Peeking out from the dried grasses along the edge of the path. Winking at me in the sun. I winked back, then looked around. Is it legal to pick a blackberry here? I walked past it, choosing planetary well-being over my own base desires. That’s probably the only blackberry sprig on this trail, and how awful would it be if I picked it rather than leave it for the birds or animals trying to earn an honest local living.
But then I saw another sprig. And another. All of them full of heady, ripe, juicy berries. There was no end to them. They surrounded me, enveloped me in their fragrant temptation. They climbed up and up and over my head, each one juicier and heavier than the one before. I held fast, determined to leave this bounty for someone else. I walked up the path, thinking I’d outrun them. But they teased. They wouldn’t give up. The entire trail as far as I could see was lined with blackberry bushes. The branches hung low and heavy with fruit, sparkling in the brilliant California light.
That’s when I cracked. I pulled a berry off its stem and ate it. One! No, five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred. Mathematicians have no idea what they’re talking about when they say “exponential increase.” Within minutes my hands were black and purple, running with the juices of the sweet bounty that grew so naturally, so humbly, so simply, in the middle of this California town. There was no more trail, no more proposals, no more meditative reflection on the meaning of running a sustainable company. I surrendered instantaneously to the pleasures of the flesh. I maintained sanity long enough to think of my friend who at that moment was in her office, probably on a conference call. I’ve got to bring her some of these, I thought. I gathered up two handfuls of berries, then stood there looking around hopelessly. I only had my Kenneth Cole handbag. No berry basket, no plastic bag, no container anywhere. No lemonade stands I could beg a cup from. I glanced down at my stylish handbag. Hmm. It’s got an inner pocket…
You know where this is going don’t you. I am only human. Kenneth Cole had to be sacrificed.
Without a second’s hesitation the berries poured into the small, tight inner pocket. I walked gingerly on, trying to mitigate the effects of the motion of my gait on the precious cargo. I consumed several more handfuls of the sweet things. And then, as if in divine response to my guilty passions, I saw a plastic bag dispenser along the trail. Its intended purpose was slightly different from that which I was about to assign to it—the post had a doggie sign on it—but the bags were clean. Oh, and I was in heaven. I could not only rescue the berries in my handbag from certain death by crushing, I could pick more!
There was one small problem. Some of the berries had already been pressed. And the cash receipts I had stashed there, that I intended to submit to our bookkeeper after my business trip, were completely, I mean completely, disintegrated. Wow, I thought. Blackberry juice is potent stuff. Would the IRS understand? The fact is, that didn’t matter. The impact of not being able to report one or two cash transactions had dissolved right along with the receipts.
When my friend pulled up to pick me up, she laughed out loud. I was black and violet from head to toe, but the smile of contentment on my face was apparently priceless. And she got her several pounds of blackberries.
And the Kenneth Cole bag? I never washed it. I want the memories of that day forever embedded in the fabric of its soul.
p.s. For all you eagle-eyed readers: why did I capitalize the word “Blackberries” in the title of this blog posting?
Because more likely than not you will have confused the technology with its far more natural, ancient and enjoyable namesake.
—Birgitte Rasine is an incorrigible blackberry fanatic.
Image credit: Jef Poskanser at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
I must profess my own desires of the flesh run deep. I have been foraging through out St. Louis Missouri and happened upon several Blackberry brambles. Carefully timed trips to these patches and several quarts of blood later I managed to get 8 pounds of berries. Half of which I have turned into Jam. I’ve already given several jars away and hope to can the rest and share that bounty with my friends and neighbors as well. Kenneth Cole– A sacrifice well made in my opinion, but hey what do I know I’m a guy.
I am the pirate of blackberries in my town. They are everywhere, and many pounds are now in jam jars in my basement. It’s a yearly bounty and so much fun.
Justin Van Kleeck
Well, once again it seems that Birgitte and I are on the same wavelengths…the green ones, that is. Check out my post on The Fine Art of Foraging: https://sustainablog.org/2008/07/05/the-fine-art-of-foraging/
i wish you a cavalcade of blackberries for years to come!