Sharp flashes of brightness hide behind branches and foliage. Shining in the sunlight, the fruit lay dark against the green leaves of the hillside vines. Wild blackberry harvest is coming.
Being new to this area, I hadn’t known exactly what would spring from the vines I had been walking by for almost five months. First, I saw the woody clipped vine, then small new green buds, then tangling arms of leafy berry vines. Knowing USA’s Pacific Northwest is famous for its berries, I hoped for the exotic salmon berry. But I also knew that blackberries were better at growing in the wild. Then, as I saw the black globs mounting bigger and more numerous against the vines, I knew I could celebrate the abundant blackberry, tart and sweet.
But I didn’t know the berry-picking etiquette in this neighborhood of hillsides owned by everyone. For several days on my walks, I watched people inspect the vines. A few days later, the first neighbor returned with baskets. A day after that, I counted eight different pickers taking berry bounty from three different areas of hillside vines. On my next walk, I brought along my own small basket.
I knew to be careful. As a child, I had picked wild berries in the hills of the Northern Sierra Range in California. As an adult, I savored the Southern Sierra mountain berries. The vines guard their sweet fruit with hairy stickers that sting with more fury than their size should be able to hold. Did I see my neighbors wearing gloves? I should have remembered that little trick to berry-picking. But my small supply of fresh-picked berries gave me only one sting. I escaped home with a nice supply of shining blackberry harvest. Berry, berry good.
Today, I walk again along the sidewalks that border the berry hillsides. I haven’t brought my basket, thinking that berry harvest is a rapid season and I may have missed my chance for a second pick. I turn onto a slightly different path than my usual and begin a walk around a gravel section of a neighborhood park. There are vines alongside the path here, and I notice the dark berries have been harvested. But as I walk closer, I also see that a second offering of green globs hide behind the leaves, waiting to ripen. Berry goodness will deliver a second offering, just one more welcome to the neighborhood.