The smell of river summer doesn’t fully ripen until late June. It rises mildly on a morning, simmering until late afternoon as the banks absorb the sun’s warmth and then, finally, release the ultimate river smell: a fishy blend spiked with decomposing cottonwood fibers and soon-to-burst blackberry blossoms.
From Summer: My Music Man
The ripening of blackberries has always alerted me to the arrival of the heart of summer. This week they have, in their simple sweetness, led to moments of mindfulness. The berries seem to be everywhere I go, as if to remind me. Breathe. To believe in the beauty that still is here, in the midst of so much else.
First it was on my commute home, both on foot and bicycle: as I began to climb the hill, the hill that stands between me, a shower, dinner, sleep. Lining that hillside lane are blackberries. I eat a handful….push out a few more steps or wheel revolutions…and soon, it is simply time for more. Another day more berries have ripened to replace those already eaten. Two nights ago, carless, I rode the bus home from a community benefit fundraiser – my belly full from “farm to table” delights. Yet, my feet could not carry me forward until I sampled more berries. My sated appetite simply could not overrule what lay before my eyes. And then, to top it off, this morning dodging down to the Willamette for a quiet, early, solo kayak paddle – what might I find? After pulling over to a delightful private spot on an island I hadn’t yet beached at for a quick dip – blackberry brambles. And yes, full of ripe berries. Two handfuls of sweet berries satisfied my belly before I stripped to my suit for my morning swim.
Now, deep in my brain I do know that the Himalayan blackberry is considered to be Oregon’s most noxious week: both widespread and economically disruptive. It was first introduced in Marion County in 1922 for berry breeding, and now inches beyond our Western Oregon into Eastern Oregon river systems. Our Oregon Department of Agriculture recommends we manage and control them wherever they exist. For me, that means snipping them each year as they come up to strangle the tomatoes and cucumbers in my garden.
And yet. Ripe blackberries pop up everywhere I go. And although the world’s worries and troubles weigh down on us, reminding us of all we must do to move to better places…..in this moment. I eat blackberries.