Zen and the Art of Berry Harvesting
by Amanda Silvers
I am very warm; it is one of those days where your hair clings to your neck and the sweat beads above your lip. I want something sweet, but not too sweet, and juicy.
Hmmmmmm, I think, about the blackberry bower by the driveway. I think that the berries might be perfect to quench my hunger.
The bush has been very prolific this year, and it is so heavy with ripe berries that they hang down to the ground in places. I think about the berries bowing the branches under their weight, their shiny plump blackness oozing sweetness, and my mouth waters as I walk outside into the sun. I am blinded momentarily by the brightness, and I think about the fact that I left my sunglasses in the house. I am also wearing only shorts and a tank top, not the best attire for blackberry picking! I remember seeing a friend a few days earlier; she was covered with angry red scratches and cuts, from picking blackberries, she said. Oh well, I think to myself, I’ll be careful and just take a few of the more accessible berries.
I approach the bush and the thorns loom, shining sharply; they are all I can see. The thought of the berries is now eclipsed by the terrible threat of injury from the thick branches rimmed with thorns. Not to mention the fact that the berries, so many I can see dozens as I park my car every day, are nowhere to be found now as I stand there next to the bush squinting into the sun.
I stop for a moment as I feel the bush diva pull back its branches and threaten me telepathically with sharp scratches if I so much as try to pick a berry. Then I remember: I have to ask the bush for the berries, and ask it with respect and a small amount of fear for the sharp thorns.
I smile to myself and the berry bush diva as I think to the bush, “Hello there, Mama Berry Bush! How are you doing today? Did you get enough water when I watered you last night?” The bush relaxes a bit, but not completely, as I stand before her with a bowl, smiling at her like a lunatic. I again address the bush psychically, “I was wondering, oh great Berry, you have produced much beautiful fruit this year, would you share it with us humble humans? You know we are unlike you, and unable to produce such sweet and luscious fruit, and we would be honored by your gift.” The berry bramble is practically beaming at me now, and all of a sudden the branches seem to open up, and there is the fruit! Hundreds of beautiful plump shiny blackberries, hanging in hefty clumps of six or ten, along with gorgeous green fuzzy leaves, all on stalks with little, teeny-tiny thorns.
Where did those huge thorns go? I ask the bush as I begin to pick a berry here and one there, and she answers “Oh, those were in your imagination. I just helped you to see the ones I have as several times as big as usual.” I laugh to myself and continue picking and telling the bush diva how lovely the fruit is.
I pop a berry into my mouth, and it bursts in an explosion of pungent tart sweetness. These are the best blackberries I have ever tasted, I tell the bush. Just then, she reveals even more berries, bigger and more lush that the ones before, and all in easy reach as I stand inside the shelter of the branches and continue to pick.
I picked and chatted merrily to the berry diva as I gathered the remarkable fruit. Toward the end, I made sure to thank her for the fine gift. I promised her that I would only prune her lovely branches and not cut her down, as so many people do. She was delighted and promised me more berries whenever I wanted, at least during the next few weeks.
I finally picked all of the ripe berries I could find that day, and I only ended up with one tiny scratch on my arm. It was near the end of my harvest; I was getting a bit greedy, and she had to remind me to not take any berries that were not yet ripe. I wound up with a huge bowl of luscious fruit to share, and with no pain. See, all you have to do is ask nicely!