Blackberries

Although it has been a cool end to the summer season, the wild blackberry stands have been filled with berries by the thousands.

On a rare day when the sun shines and the trees are dripping dry in the morning light, I go outside at daybreak and don't return until dusk falls.

Without the steady patter of rain, the woods are quiet — the seasonal shift in sound underway. The yellowing canopy, which only weeks ago were alive with dozens of songbirds, have now reduced to a few native birds whose calls I easily recognize. A few miles off, the familiar seasonal encore of Canadian geese practicing for their southbound flight can be heard.

Over the past handful of weeks, fall has been arriving; exquisitely slow as each individual leaf changes hue, the sweet scent of drying maple leaves filling my lungs with each inhale.

The garden is fading, and I pull bean and cucumber plants up by the roots, depositing them in the compost pile for next year’s soil. There are tomatoes by the bucketful and fat green buttercup squash just waiting for the first lick of frost to sweeten them.

The lake has grown cool, but when the temperature creeps over 70 degrees, I dive in anyway. The still water is cold enough to remind me that the season is ending, but my body temperature slowly finds an equilibrium and I drift on my back under a sky so clear it seems it will never cloud over again.

In the evening, I find the last blackberries of the season in a stand of sunlight, so ripe they are dropping from the vine. Their sweetness fills the air and my fingers turn a deep purple from their juice.

I return armed with buckets and dreams of enough jam to sweeten the winter months. I fill each bucket brimming and leave the bushes still laden with fruit and droning insects grown lethargic on sugar.

Late that night, I crush the berries and cook them with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon — their delicate fragrance carried in the steam that fogs the kitchen windows. Later, when jars line the counters, the jam glows a vivid burgundy through the clear glass.

It looks almost too pretty to eat, but come December, my tastebuds will welcome the flavors of summer. Perhaps someday in midwinter, when snow lays heavy on the ground and daylight grows short, I’ll crack open a jar and remember that one breathtakingly beautiful day in September that I tried to capture in a jam jar.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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