I spent my first summer in college doing Environmental Restoration in the Cascades. I can’t remember now what I thought the work would be, but I remember being excited about the job, so I’m sure I didn’t imagine it was ten hour days spent clearing Himalayan blackberries. That’s what we did: every day we went out to battle the thorny monsters, armed with long loppers and polaskis. It seemed an impossible task—it was an impossible task!—but we fought on, unquestioning. All summer, my arms were a lacework of scratches. The scabs itched. Still, I gorged myself on berries.
When I was young, the eroded hillside across from our house in Seattle was a wall of Himalayan blackberries. The canes were always reaching out over the sidewalk, trying to gain a little more ground. We picked blackberries for breakfast, for pies, for eating where we stood, the fruit still warm from the sun. This is the memory that holds fast. Even now, with the hillside long cleared and the summer of Restoration still clear in my mind, the smell of blackberries is a sweet sense memory. Biking home last night from the bakery, the sun-hot scent reached out from the roadside and wrapped around me, and for a moment, I was a child again, picking blackberries in flipflops and shorts through the long, late evening, arms scratched, feet dirty, mouth sticky purple, heart full of sunshine.
See you soon.
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