My love/hate affair with blackberries.
Six Ways of Looking at a Blackberry
It was August, and we were tired of Los Angeles. On a whim, we drove to Oregon to check out jobs and real estate. He was hired, I found our house, but what really clinched the move were the blackberries. Oregon seemed a land of milk and blackberry juice. We stopped along the roadside and picked blackberries for free. We ate blackberries until our chins were purple. We thought they were magnificent! We loved them! Oh, how we laughed at ourselves in years to come.
After I’d lived in Oregon for a few years, I knew the true story of Sleeping Beauty. Really, she lived in Oregon. In Oregon it was easy to believe that someone could go to sleep for 100 years, and the thorny vines would grow up around the castle. Who needs 100 years? It could happen in twenty years here. It could happen in ten.
The air in the kitchen wraps itself around me in a steamy, sticky blanket. Spilled sugar on the floor makes the bottoms of my shoes squeak as I walk from stove to table, cradling the hot jars of blackberry jam. The pot on the stove bubbles like some weird mud pot. The ding! of the timer. The hiss of the steam. The fragrant blackberries, cooking themselves into jam.
Here’s a ten-dollar word for you: ubiquitous. Look it up. It means “found everywhere.” It is a blackberry’s middle name. Without warning, they spring up in lawns, flower beds, along fences and foundations. They will climb trees and smother hedges. They especially love to grow intertwined with roses, their not-so-distant cousins. Acting like they’re married. There oughta be a law. I asked an older lady, a gardener, how do they do that, and she said bird poop. Really. The birds eat the blackberries, and then poop as they fly. The berry seeds are too tough, and they don’t get digested. Bird poop is the reason for the ubiquitous blackberry.
When I moved to Oregon, I learned that I had to be careful about telling people where I was from. I, who had moved from an overpriced little house in Los Angeles, to a house twice the size for the same price, was being blamed for the high cost of housing in Oregon. It wasn’t my fault. I just wanted a nicer place to raise my family. Besides, I would say, don’t you know about blackberries? They’re not natives, either. Hard to believe, because they’re everywhere, but they’re really the European blackberry. Moved in and took over. Who knows when, but I’ll bet that first blackberry just wanted a little elbow room, too.
In the moonlight, they hang like Eve’s fruit, tempting me to taste. I eat them as the stars wheel above. I drink their juice until my hands are stained, as if some strange deed has marked me. They pull me in, taking me to themselves, pulling me through their thorns until my toes dig deep into the earth to stay, green tendrils emerge from my ankles and shoulders, knees, elbows. Arms and legs are vines. My hair grows leaves and thorns. I will stay here forever in the moonlight. I will grow new fruit. I am blackberry. Blackberry. Black. Berry.